Americans in general are confused about poverty–people and economists define it differently. People who call themselves “poor” desire socialism and are perennially voting for their favorite Marxist Democrat and complain endlessly how unjust and rigged the system is, how the Man keeps them down, and how there is no equality and social justice. Nobody brings up personal responsibility and work ethic into the mix of poverty.
To say that poverty induced by socialist dictatorships is hard to shake would be an understatement. Ask Cubans and Venezuelans what is like to live in the workers’ paradise that Fidel and Chavez forced upon their people while the two dictators stashed away stolen billions.
Lately, as the social justice, income disparity, income inequality, economic justice rhetoric intensifies, more global and Hollywood elites crawl out of the woodwork to confuse, agitate, and inflame the low information voters.
When almost 50 percent of the American public does not work and relies on some form of government welfare paid for by the other 50 percent of the working population, it is perplexing when former White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers states that:
The U.S. may well be on the way to becoming a ‘Downton Abbey’ economy.
Downton Abbey is a British television show that highlights a wealthy British family and their servants at the turn of the 20th century. It seems to me that the 50 percent of Americans that are already working have become unwilling servants to the other 50 percent on welfare whose main job is to vote for the same politicians who promise to deliver additional unearned income tax and “entitlements” by taxing the “rich” even more.
It is galling to hear people, who pay no taxes, work and get paid cash under the radar of the IRS, receive welfare and earned income tax credit, are paid by unions to show up, and protest people who work for a living, screech that the “rich are not paying their fair share.”
Who is victimizing these people who consider themselves poor and downtrodden? If you ask them and their political representatives who became rich in office, voting and implementing policies that keep their constituents poor, it is the rich who are at fault. Personal responsibility in their bad choices are never mentioned.The former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said,
I consider income inequality the most dangerous part of what’s going on in the United States.
It is interesting to evaluate such statements now when America is plagued by huge unemployment, trillions of dollars of new national debt, anemic GDP growth, weak job creation, disastrous economic policies, out of control spending, devaluation of the dollar through constant quantitative easings, heavy corporate taxation which causes Congress-enabled overseas exodus of capital, government rules and regulations that destroy jobs and prevent the creation of new ones, and Obamacare, encompassing a huge portion of the economy and wasting trillions of dollars in the process of destroying the world’s best healthcare system.
To promote class envy and discontent, Saul Alinsky recommended class warfare—the division of people into wealthy and poor in order to make it easier to tax the wealthy with the support of the poor. Increasing the debt to unsustainable levels allows the government to increase taxes on the middle class, thus producing more poor people who are easier to control.
As strident rhetoric of income inequality comes from the left, even Keynesian economists recognize that reasons other than the progressive talking points in the main streammedia are the culprits:
- Differences in ability, such as I.Q., poor health, and “entrepreneurial ability”
- Differences in intensity of work
- Risk taking
- Compensating wage differentials (some jobs are more dangerous, unpleasant, demanding)
- Schooling and other types of training
- Work experience
- Inherited wealth
Progressives view income inequality as a harbinger for poverty. This is not necessarily true because poverty is a relative term. A person who considers himself poor in one country can be rich in another. Consider some of the reasons for poverty:
- Perennial welfare
- Bad choices in life
- Lack of education
- Poor choices in degrees
- Absence of middle class
- No opportunity for success
- No resources, living in a barren area
- Suppression by rulers and government
- Not willing or afraid to put forth the effort and time to invest in oneself
- Comfortable in generational poverty status quo
- Mental and emotional handicap or addiction
- Mental illness (much homelessness is caused by mental illness)
- Cultural factors, i.e., generational poverty
- Social mobility or lack of mobility
- Religious oppression
Pope Francis called on governments to redistribute wealth to the poor in order to curb the “economy of exclusion,” hinting at the “injustices of capitalism.” (AP, “Pope Demands ‘Legitimate Redistribution’ of Wealth,” May 9, 2014)
Americans are already the most generous nation with their time, money, expertise, food, medicine, and education for those less fortunate. We don’t need the government to step in and confiscate in a Stalinist fashion our hard work in the name of the ill-conceived and unjust Marxist brand of “social justice.”
People should not want someone else’s wealth or welfare on a constant basis, they should look for the opportunity to work for a better life, not expect crumbs from a tyrannical communist government or from a government beholden to crony capitalist corporatist interests.
The generous “government” welfare to those 50 percent low information voters who are elated with the current global status quo does not come just from the rich who pay plenty of taxes, but also from people who often work long hours every week, two or three jobs to make ends meet, and sometimes cannot afford to buy the very things welfare recipients purchase with someone else’s hard work. Additionally, what the government gives so liberally with other people’s money, it can certainly take away.
Progressives have worked hard to cause permanent physical poverty and mental penury in America, while discrediting and blaming capitalism for “income inequality:”
- Killing job opportunities for the poor (enacting higher pay for minimum wage jobs, creating Obamacare, pushing solar and wind energy against fossil fuels)
- Keeping poor Americans out of good schools (forcing them out of successful charter schools, like the one in D.C., into public schools to appease the teachers’ union)
- Giving generous welfare that dis-incentivizes work and creating a Democrat plantation mentality (a destroyer of the human spirit and of the work ethic)
- Supporting and funding abortion and single mother households with government as the daddy in order to destroy the family nucleus
- Championing illegal immigrants instead of American workers
- Fighting for criminals, not the victims
- Indoctrinating our children into the enslaving tenets of Marxism and the religion of environmentalism
- Erasing any symbol of Christianity in our public life and promoting Islam to our young and impressionable children
- Destroying any symbols of patriotism that unite us
- Deconstructing historical truth to suit the progressive agenda
This administration is creating two Americas, one that works and one that does not work but votes for entitlements they have not earned. The plan is to reduce income inequality by debasing and punishing the successful through the forced redistribution of their wealth and income.
That is not to say that there are no Americans who do not genuinely need temporary or permanent help but have fallen through the cracks of welfare. It is people who know how to milk the system who benefit the most from the welfare largesse.
Being on welfare is not just the result of lack of a good education, bad choices in life, unwillingness to work, of a culture of entitlement (it is free and the government owes it to us), it is also a function of bad luck, personal injury, illness, and hard times during cyclical economic downturns.
The federal government uses personal income tax receipts to provide two-thirds of welfare funds, while state and local governments provide one-third from state tax receipts. Economically speaking, welfare is categorized as transfer payments.The largest transfer of payments (welfare) goes to Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), housing vouchers, State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
Keynesian economists thought that tackling poverty by giving the poor EITC income would not destroy their incentives to work. The federal government gave them a supplemental “grant,” proportional to earned wages. EITC began in 1975 but became more generous after 1993. (Baumol and Blinder, Economics, 2007, p. 458)
We do know how well EITC works since illegal aliens, using an IRS issued number to encourage them to file income taxes, have taken advantage of this IRS loophole, raking in $6.3 billion a year in tax refunds, claiming children who are not even residents or citizens of this country.
Cato’s Michael Tanner suggests that making people more comfortable in poverty (more food, housing, health care, free day care) and government dependence is a bad idea. The quickest solutions to get out and stay out of poverty are simple–finish school, do not get pregnant outside marriage, get a job, any job, and stick with it.
Having spent more than $25 trillion on welfare since Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty program, “many Americans are less capable of self-sufficiency today than when the War on Poverty began.” The Heritage Foundation describes the pathway to self-sufficiency as work and marriage.
According to Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield,
the welfare state should be reformed to promote self-sufficiency and require recipients of welfare to work or prepare for work as a condition of getting aid.
In their article, “15 Facts about U.S. Poverty the Government Hides,” they explain that U.S. Census statistics about poverty “exclude nearly all welfare benefits,” taking into account only the poverty threshold for a family of four which in 2015 was $24,036.
The writers debunk leftist activist groups who talk about hunger when in reality “most of the poor do not experience hunger or food shortages.” Acknowledging that “poverty and homelessness” are often confused, Rector explains that:
only 9.5 percent of the poor live in mobile homes or trailers; the rest live in apartments or houses. Forty percent of the poor own their own homes.
In 2014, the U.S. government spent over $1 trillion on welfare for the poor and low-income families. This figure did not include Social Security and Medicare, Rector said. Welfare in the form of cash, food, and housing was $342 billion.
Rector makes the case that “the Census counts poverty in the U.S. by ignoring almost the entire welfare state” which is generous by most measures.
The cash, food, and housing spending alone was 150 percent of the amount needed to eliminate all poverty in the U.S.
And even families in alleged “extreme poverty,” spend “$25 for every $1 of income the left claims they have.”
Eradicating poverty should be more than just streamlining welfare—it should be about fighting the real causes of welfare dependency: the breakdown of families, rejection of faith, truancy, dropping out of school, having babies outside of marriage, drug use, crime, and lack of personal pride, responsibility, and accountability for one’s actions. Spreading the wealth, the socialist goal, is a dystopia that will further enslave people into perennial poverty.