Entitlement and Welfare Spending Catch-all

NathanialG wrote:
jdzappa wrote:

I think a big problem in America is twofold:
1. The idea that you're owed a dream job.
2. That you can be financially independent on 20 hours, or even 40 hours a week. Just not true in the global economy anymore.

1. But you are CONSTANTLY being told that you can have a dream job.
2. Being unable to be financially at 40 hours a week isn't because of the global economy, it is because the people at the top are taking all the wealth. The current economy COULD support financial independence at 40 hours if the CEO wasn't being payed 1000 times more than the rest of the workers.

This is the thing: it's a matter of wealth distribution, not the amount of wealth. If we let those things be true, we need to stop calling America the greatest country on earth or the land of opportunity or any of those things we used to be so proud of. Living in a country as rich and productive as America is, if those things aren't true? then we are no longer a special place. We're just a great place to be a millionaire.

What used to make America special was the exact opposite: it wasn't that much better to be rich in America than anywhere else, while it was WAY better to be poor in America than anywhere else. If the problem with America is the American Dream...

jdzappa wrote:

Statistics show that as soon as unemployment benefits run out, people usually go out and find a job soon after. They just stop holding out for that perfect job in their field and take whatever pays the bills.

Actually, the research shows that people simply stop filling out the required unemployment insurance paperwork when their benefits run out and they are no longer officially counted as unemployed.

jdzappa wrote:

There are plenty of jobs that go unfilled every day, including a massive shortage of farm workers. Granted, many of these jobs are low paying and physically demanding, but when you gotta feed your family you do what you gotta do.

Think about how that's would happen in the real world, jdzappa. Am I just going to abandon the house that I'm underwater on and travel hundreds or thousands of miles to farm so I can work for a few weeks? Am I going to take my family with me and have us live in our car because I can't afford housing where there's work? What if my family only has one car? Do I take it so I can get to the farms and leave my family without transportation? How am I supposed to look for work in my field and where my house is if I'm in the fields for 10+ hours a day and half the country away? And, most importantly, what am I supposed to do when it's not harvest season?

It's simple to say things like "you gotta do what you gotta do," but the reality is typically far, far more complicated.

jdzappa wrote:

I'm not against reasonable unemployment insurance up to say a year. Anything over that and you're setting up a permanent underclass who are no longer competitive in the global market.

For the nth time I'm going to ask the question you've repeatedly dodged: where are all these jobs that you think the unemployed simply aren't going after? Our economy is barely generating enough new jobs to keep pace with population growth and certainly not enough to employ the tens of millions who lost their jobs when everything went to crap. Seriously, show me where there's 20+ million jobs out there that aren't being filled because all those unemployed folks are too busy living the life of Riley on the government's dime? And, yes, I'm being sarcastic. Unemployment benefits barely cover your rent or mortgage.

jdzappa wrote:

If the government really cared about workers, another idea would be to do the work sharing program that's been a great success in Germany. Instead of simply handing out cash to workers while their skills atrophy, the government pays companies to hire the unemployed.

Two things. One, do you understand just how hard and expensive it is for a company to fire a worker in Germany versus the US? German workers have massive protections in place compared to US workers, who can pretty much be fired at any point and for any reason. German companies will cut worker hours and go to great lengths to avoid firing people. It also means they'll hold off on hiring someone and that has lead to Germany having a higher structural unemployment rate than the US.

Two, the current political climate (read: the Republicans) won't support any program like that. The only law that made it through was the HIRE Act, which gave companies tax breaks to hire unemployed people instead of outright paying them. And the scope of that bill was cut from $150+ billion to $15 billion, which isn't going to do a whole hell of a lot in a $2+ trillion economy.

jdzappa wrote:

But in reality, a large and growing permanent underclass is good for the government. It means constant expansion of power and a loyal voting base. Those of you who think Christian charity is just a recruiting ploy should think long and hard about whether the government is really in the business of helping people or buying votes.

You're going to have to cough up some proof that there's a "large and growing permanent underclass" as well as it's direct connection to the existence of government aid programs. I think you'll find that the massive expansion in income inequality and the associated unfettered capitalism of recent decades is much more responsible than any welfare program.

As for your other point, get real. A simple look at voter turnout shows that it has declined since 1964, which kinda puts a massive hole in your assertion that more government programs equals a larger and more loyal voting base. Not to mention people don't vote for "the government."

And I never said that Christian charities were a recruiting ploy. I said that a core tenant of Christianity was that suffering in this life was a good thing as it would mean you had a better chance at eternal salvation (the whole eye of the needle and rich man thing). Christianity is a very popular religion where there's massive inequality in large part because of that message. It's a big reason Christianity went from a cult to the official religion of Rome in just a few hundred years. Nothing is more attractive to the quarter of the population that were slaves than the message that things might be sh*tty today, but they'll get into heaven while the rich and powerful won't.

jdzappa wrote:

Ok, I'll easily accept that it's less laziness than demoralization. This still goes back to my point of the current govt programs creating learned helplessness.

The two points are not related. Demoralization is not "learned helplessness", nor have you demonstrated your case. In fact, what's happened is that we've seen data that shows us that a third of the poor at most are even *eligible* for consideration as to whether they are on the dole as a way of life.

That further reduces the argument that unemployment insurance is a waste of money, because as you've seen, the problems are usually not related to laziness or learned helplessness, they are related to brutal social and family and economic conditions instead. And dealing with that is certainly a good focus for spending to help people advance out of those situations, whether it's government spending or private.

And as you've seen, private charities are an order of magnitude or more smaller than government in their carrying capacity, and they are less efficient, and in many cases they even are *funded* by government. Cutting government spending on social policies won't clear some imaginary roadblock from people's paths to success; it will instead simply allow the road itself to fall into disrepair, and the blame will be put on the people who needed it most, for not fixing it themselves. That will be the excuse for no longer having programs to help them - that they should be able to fix it all themselves.

Seems like that's always the complaint, that people in poverty don't pull themselves out "just like grandpa did back in the 20's"...

I just want to make clear that I was never against a certain level of temporary social welfare, or protections for the most vulnerable. The question is whether or not we can afford the constant expansion of government, and I'd be the first to also say that military/home defense/corporate welfare needs to be drastically cut.

I should also say that I don't think the Republicans necessarily have any good answers. I didn't know about the HIRE program but that really sucks that they killed a promising program. I just don't think the Democratic answer of running trillion dollar deficits for the foreseeable future. The Heritage Foundation has an interesting graphic showing how entitlement spending (and I recognize that includes more than just welfare) will equal 40 percent of GDP by 2050. That means America's economy is essentially crippled, and not only are the most vulnerable goners but most of the middle class. So the question remains about whether we continue to throw money at the problem or try to develop other solutions.

http://www.heritage.org/federalbudge...

At any rate, I enjoy GWJ because I feel it's a tight-knit open community. Things have gotten pretty hostile in this thread and that was not my intent.

jdzappa wrote:

The Heritage Foundation has an interesting graphic showing how entitlement spending (and I recognize that includes more than just welfare) will equal 40 percent of GDP by 2050. That means America's economy is essentially crippled, and not only are the most vulnerable goners but most of the middle class. So the question remains about whether we continue to throw money at the problem or try to develop other solutions.

Okay, but what does this have to do with government welfare vs private charities? Whether the government collects taxes and throws it at the problem or charities collect donations and throw them at the problem, that economic activity will still count as part of GDP, won't it?

Robear wrote:

Seems like that's always the complaint, that people in poverty don't pull themselves out "just like grandpa did back in the 20's"...

Are you saying that that never happened, or can't happen in the America of today?

Clearly some folks just don't work hard enough.

You know what might help fund our "wellfare?" How about we do what other nations do and tax religious institutions?

Dave Ramsey is a hypocrite and some of his teachings are downright dangerous. one cannot simply pray a Jaguar xks into existence.

MacBrave wrote:
Robear wrote:

Seems like that's always the complaint, that people in poverty don't pull themselves out "just like grandpa did back in the 20's"...

Are you saying that that never happened, or can't happen in the America of today?

It used to happen, but social mobility in America has declined as the wealthy have taken more and more. Increasingly the Horatio Alger story is just that, a story that's mostly kept alive by conservative think tanks to justify their policy positions.

The Economist[/url]]
But more and more evidence from social scientists suggests that American society is much “stickier” than most Americans assume. Some researchers claim that social mobility is actually declining. A classic social survey in 1978 found that 23% of adult men who had been born in the bottom fifth of the population (as ranked by social and economic status) had made it into the top fifth. Earl Wysong of Indiana University and two colleagues recently decided to update the study. They compared the incomes of 2,749 father-and-son pairs from 1979 to 1998 and found that few sons had moved up the class ladder. Nearly 70% of the sons in 1998 had remained either at the same level or were doing worse than their fathers in 1979. The biggest increase in mobility had been at the top of society, with affluent sons moving upwards more often than their fathers had. They found that only 10% of the adult men born in the bottom quarter had made it to the top quarter.

The Economic Policy Institute also argues that social mobility has declined since the 1970s. In the 1990s 36% of those who started in the second-poorest 20% stayed put, compared with 28% in the 1970s and 32% in the 1980s. In the 1970s 12% of the population moved from the bottom fifth to either the fourth or the top fifth. In the 1980s and 1990s the figures shrank to below 11% for both decades. The figure for those who stayed in the top fifth increased slightly but steadily over the three decades, reinforcing the sense of diminished social mobility.

I wonder what those studies would find today...

OG_slinger wrote:
MacBrave wrote:
Robear wrote:

Seems like that's always the complaint, that people in poverty don't pull themselves out "just like grandpa did back in the 20's"...

Are you saying that that never happened, or can't happen in the America of today?

It used to happen, but social mobility in America has declined as the wealthy have taken more and more. Increasingly the Horatio Alger story is just that, a story that's mostly kept alive by conservative think tanks to justify their policy positions.

The Economist[/url]]
But more and more evidence from social scientists suggests that American society is much “stickier” than most Americans assume. Some researchers claim that social mobility is actually declining. A classic social survey in 1978 found that 23% of adult men who had been born in the bottom fifth of the population (as ranked by social and economic status) had made it into the top fifth. Earl Wysong of Indiana University and two colleagues recently decided to update the study. They compared the incomes of 2,749 father-and-son pairs from 1979 to 1998 and found that few sons had moved up the class ladder. Nearly 70% of the sons in 1998 had remained either at the same level or were doing worse than their fathers in 1979. The biggest increase in mobility had been at the top of society, with affluent sons moving upwards more often than their fathers had. They found that only 10% of the adult men born in the bottom quarter had made it to the top quarter.

The Economic Policy Institute also argues that social mobility has declined since the 1970s. In the 1990s 36% of those who started in the second-poorest 20% stayed put, compared with 28% in the 1970s and 32% in the 1980s. In the 1970s 12% of the population moved from the bottom fifth to either the fourth or the top fifth. In the 1980s and 1990s the figures shrank to below 11% for both decades. The figure for those who stayed in the top fifth increased slightly but steadily over the three decades, reinforcing the sense of diminished social mobility.

I wonder what those studies would find today...

Heck, it's not even something conservatives dispute (thought they'd probably give different reasons that liberals, but how valid those reasons are when "socialist" Europe offers greater social mobility, I cannot say.)

NYTimes wrote:

Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a Republican candidate for president, warned this fall that movement “up into the middle income is actually greater, the mobility in Europe, than it is in America.” National Review, a conservative thought leader, wrote that “most Western European and English-speaking nations have higher rates of mobility.” Even Representative Paul D. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who argues that overall mobility remains high, recently wrote that “mobility from the very bottom up” is “where the United States lags behind.”

I don't follow the math. We still have poor and sick people in this country, which leads me to believe that our current system (with welfare AND charities) is insufficient. I don't see how getting rid of the welfare portion leads to more money going to the poor, unless there are philanthropists out there who are so angry at being taxed they withhold voluntary donations out of spite.

I'm think I'm going to stick with my default position on welfare: I'd rather spend $80,000 on a home for an undeserving American family than $80,000 on a bomb to level the home of an undeserving Afghan family.

LobsterMobster wrote:

I don't follow the math. We still have poor and sick people in this country, which leads me to believe that our current system (with welfare AND charities) is insufficient. I don't see how getting rid of the welfare portion leads to more money going to the poor, unless there are philanthropists out there who are so angry at being taxed they withhold voluntary donations out of spite.

It doesn't add up. It's a complete fantasy that private charities would provide anything near the level of what the government does. Americans donated $291 billion to charity in 2010. That's for everything from religion to Haiti to dog shelters to the arts.

Religion sucked down $100 billion of that and, according to The Center of Philanthropy's analysis, barely 20% of that actually went towards helping people in need. The rest went to fund "operations."

That means the total charitable giving focused on actually helping people in need--providing education, healthcare, human services, etc.--was at most $140 billion. (That number is likely high because it includes Haiti relief efforts.) To put that in perspective, the US government spent $65 billion just a single program--SNAP, aka food stamps--in 2010.

Charitable giving has historically hovered around 2.0% of GDP since 1956. That kind of kills the idea that changes in tax rates will trigger a flood of new charitable giving. The only real connection between the economy and charity is that people give more when the economy is booming and declines when the economy isn't doing so hot.

I just don't think the Democratic answer of running trillion dollar deficits for the foreseeable future.

Before Bush, I'd have kneejerked that yeah, the Dems were the party of big spenders. After Bush, it's clear that that was just an illusion; the Republicans, when they got their chance, actually spent more than the Dems did, with no eye towards fiscal responsibility. They just tended to spend it on different things.

Heck, they haven't even given up on the whole "less taxes, more economic activity" thing yet, despite it's abject failure since the mid-80's. These guys are not the fiscally responsible pre-Reagan Republicans, they are the "spend it all on MY stuff" Republicans.

When Barney Frank is a more fiscally responsible Congressman than any of the modern Republicans, that's a sign of the times. Social policy AND fiscal responsibility - who'd have thought it?

OG_slinger wrote:
MacBrave wrote:
Robear wrote:

Seems like that's always the complaint, that people in poverty don't pull themselves out "just like grandpa did back in the 20's"...

Are you saying that that never happened, or can't happen in the America of today?

It used to happen, but social mobility in America has declined as the wealthy have taken more and more. Increasingly the Horatio Alger story is just that, a story that's mostly kept alive by conservative think tanks to justify their policy positions.

The Economist[/url]]
But more and more evidence from social scientists suggests that American society is much “stickier” than most Americans assume. Some researchers claim that social mobility is actually declining. A classic social survey in 1978 found that 23% of adult men who had been born in the bottom fifth of the population (as ranked by social and economic status) had made it into the top fifth. Earl Wysong of Indiana University and two colleagues recently decided to update the study. They compared the incomes of 2,749 father-and-son pairs from 1979 to 1998 and found that few sons had moved up the class ladder. Nearly 70% of the sons in 1998 had remained either at the same level or were doing worse than their fathers in 1979. The biggest increase in mobility had been at the top of society, with affluent sons moving upwards more often than their fathers had. They found that only 10% of the adult men born in the bottom quarter had made it to the top quarter.

The Economic Policy Institute also argues that social mobility has declined since the 1970s. In the 1990s 36% of those who started in the second-poorest 20% stayed put, compared with 28% in the 1970s and 32% in the 1980s. In the 1970s 12% of the population moved from the bottom fifth to either the fourth or the top fifth. In the 1980s and 1990s the figures shrank to below 11% for both decades. The figure for those who stayed in the top fifth increased slightly but steadily over the three decades, reinforcing the sense of diminished social mobility.

I wonder what those studies would find today...

So if enormous government entitlements plus private charity isn't doing the job of getting these individuals out of poverty, what will? More taxpayer money?

MacBrave wrote:

So if enormous government entitlements plus private charity isn't doing the job of getting these individuals out of poverty, what will? More taxpayer money?

Perhaps revisiting the economic and tax policies that have accelerated the concentration of wealth in this country, giving the US a worse level of income inequality than (for example):

* Guinea
* Benin
* Cameroon
* Malawi
* Mauritania
* Mali
* Senegal
* Chad
* Burkina Faso
* Djibouti

MacBrave wrote:

So if enormous government entitlements plus private charity isn't doing the job of getting these individuals out of poverty, what will? More taxpayer money?

Yes. Increasing taxes on the wealthy.

NathanialG wrote:
MacBrave wrote:

So if enormous government entitlements plus private charity isn't doing the job of getting these individuals out of poverty, what will? More taxpayer money?

Yes. Increasing taxes on the wealthy.

Since when has the federal government been able to actually solve a large scale problem by simply throwing more taxpayer money at it? It sure as hell hasn't worked with public education.

MacBrave wrote:
NathanialG wrote:
MacBrave wrote:

So if enormous government entitlements plus private charity isn't doing the job of getting these individuals out of poverty, what will? More taxpayer money?

Yes. Increasing taxes on the wealthy.

Since when has the federal government been able to actually solve a large scale problem by simply throwing more taxpayer money at it?

Well, we did mention the G.I. Bill earlier in the thread.

It sure as hell hasn't worked with public education.

I would consider the the land grant universities a success.

CheezePavilion wrote:

Well, we did mention the G.I. Bill earlier in the thread.

So why did that succeed where the War of Poverty has failed?

CheezePavilion wrote:

I would consider the the land grant universities a success.

Sorry, I should have clarified my statement by saying public primary education.

The current public university system has it's own share of problems. Tried to pay for one lately?

Since when has the federal government been able to actually solve a large scale problem by simply throwing more taxpayer money at it?

Since before Republicans actively tried to prevent any government solutions from ever working?

MacBrave wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

Well, we did mention the G.I. Bill earlier in the thread.

So why did that succeed where the War of Poverty has failed?

CheezePavilion wrote:

I would consider the the land grant universities a success.

Sorry, I should have clarified my statement by saying public primary education.

The current public university system has it's own share of problems. Tried to pay for one lately?

Let's not move the goalposts: you asked "Since when has the federal government been able to actually solve a large scale problem by simply throwing more taxpayer money at it?" Maybe problems like Poverty and public primary education can't be solved that way. Maybe they can. However, the debate is going to look a lot different if we don't start off with what you're trying to argue here, that there is no precedent for success.

jdzappa wrote:

At any rate, I enjoy GWJ because I feel it's a tight-knit open community. Things have gotten pretty hostile in this thread and that was not my intent.

Yeah, politics typically seems to be a good way to stir up disagreements between any group of people. This thread really did not even discuss the title (Government welfare vs private charities) and quickly turned into an argument over who, if anyone, is deserving of our tax dollars. There are certainly people who game the system and are in fact being lazy, but there are a significant number of people, especially those who are disabled, that are barely scraping by even with the government's help.

I have a co-worker who I can turn beet red and rabidly angry by simply bringing up food stamps. He is so mad that his taxes are so high because of "lazy people who don't work". I hate to even mention the polarizing Bill Maher, but this is where your federal taxes are going:

IMAGE(http://media.whosay.com/21182/1/21182_la.jpg)

See the little garnish? That's what we're arguing about (assuming we are talking about federal programs).

Malor wrote:
Since when has the federal government been able to actually solve a large scale problem by simply throwing more taxpayer money at it?

Since before Republicans actively tried to prevent any government solutions from ever working?

Good point. You can expect something like the G.I. Bill to have overwhelming bipartisan support. The mantra "It's for the Troops!" has almost the same emotional charge as "It's for the Children!"

And wasn't the huge prescription drug entitlement, a government solution to a supposed problem, signed by a Republican president?

Anyway I think you can find proposed government solutions that either major party has actively tried to block throughout the years.

Government has only run this way since the early 90's, MacBrave, it's not normal. Starting in the 80's, the Republicans shifted their agenda to a more activist social one, from their traditional interest in economic issues. Starting in the 90's, they adopted a "my way or nothing" approach, which has culminated in using filibusters and other parliamentary tools previously reserved for once every few years giant political issues to block *anything* that might make Democrats look good, even if it was originally a Republican proposal.

Republicans yesterday filibustered a bill in the Senate that would have kept student loan interest rates from doubling in July. That's how far this has gone. It was Republicans who drastically cut student loan programs in the 80's, handing them over to private banks because that would make more money available at lower rates, due to competition. Instead, it's created far more expensive loans, as well as fueled an explosion of for-profit colleges, which of course can't offer the same rates as a non-profit university with the same programs.

Government is not the problem here. *Policy* and it's progenitor, ideology, are the problems.

CheezePavilion wrote:
MacBrave wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

Well, we did mention the G.I. Bill earlier in the thread.

So why did that succeed where the War of Poverty has failed?

CheezePavilion wrote:

I would consider the the land grant universities a success.

Sorry, I should have clarified my statement by saying public primary education.

The current public university system has it's own share of problems. Tried to pay for one lately?

Let's not move the goalposts: you asked "Since when has the federal government been able to actually solve a large scale problem by simply throwing more taxpayer money at it?" Maybe problems like Poverty and public primary education can't be solved that way. Maybe they can. However, the debate is going to look a lot different if we don't start off with what you're trying to argue here, that there is no precedent for success.

Ok Cheeze you are right and I am wrong. Based on the G.I. Bill and land grand universities government does have a small precedent for success. So did those successes simply throw money at a problem or did they have a highly focused and well thought out approach to solving that particular issue?

And on a tangent does every societal problem/issue like drugs, poverty, education, etc. have to have a solution predicated on the growth of government spending, influence and control?

I wouldn't say that all problems need a "big government" solution, but when you need big government you really, really need big government. And oftentimes, those times you need it are not problems anticipated by the 18th century writers of the constitution.

Building a rocket that put a man on the moon was a big government project that would never get funded today, but the net effect it had on American industry, innovation, education, and prestige was well worth the investment. The building of the interstate highway system could never get passed in this congress. Heck, we probably wouldn't be able to establish the CDC today even with the constant threat of pandemic.

I agree that a hammer won't work on all jobs, but when you need a hammer, you really need one.

@MacBrave:

National Parks, NASA, Food and Water Inspection, Polio vaccination, public libraries, interstate travel, national defense, and that's just off the top of my head.

MacBrave wrote:

And on a tangent does every societal problem/issue like drugs, poverty, education, etc. have to have a solution predicated on the growth of government spending, influence and control?

The real question isn't about government spending, influence, and control. It's about whether you want to live in country where we collectively try and do something to help our fellow citizens or a country where we just say "f*ck it, everyone's on their own."

Also, I'd carve out the issue of drugs from the others. I doubt you'd find many people here supporting the current War on Drugs. But all the things we don't like about it flows from the fact that we've criminalized drugs. That means the government has to go out a do a lot of things to try to stop drugs from coming into the country, catch the people to sell it, catch the people who use it, and punish everyone. We do all that and yet we don't bother to really treat the serious addicts.

But at the end of the day it's not a faceless government that has decided to do this. It's been us. We're the ones who voted for politicians who campaigned on a "get tough on crime" platform and our drug laws are the direct consequence of our votes. It's starting to change with marijuana, but campaigns to legalize it have failed much more often than they've succeeded.

It's not even that they are criminalized, it's that the penalties and therefore the level of attention paid to them have been blown all out of proportion. Yes, drugs are a huge social and economic and health problem, but so is the legal over-reaction to them. We could improve a lot of this simply by beefing up the mental health supports available to the poor (done in by policy and bad management back in the 80's, leading to among other things worsening problems with the homeless) and by turning back to the idea of reform over punishment for incarceration for possession and similar crimes. Even with the laws we have today, those two things would help tremendously. And I have not seen private industry step in to handle either one on any kind of useful scale; that argument is dead on arrival.

Of course, this just means I'm a big government dupe who wants to waste money and hurt America, right? ;-/