welfare

Dependency, Work Incentives, and the Growing Welfare State

    This was orginally posted at Mitchell’s blog International Liberty. It is particularly relevant as we watch the un- and underemployed vent their frustrations in Baltimore. ~ Ed.

     

    A nation’s prosperity is determined by the quantity and quality of labor and capital that are productively utilized.

    Which means that it doesn’t make sense to have policies that penalize either saving and investment or working.

    Yet that seems to be the favorite hobby of the political class.

    And there are real consequences. A new study by a pair of economists, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, has some interesting findings on the link between redistribution programs and labor supply.

    It’s a bit wonky, given the way academics write, but they produce some important data on the negative unintended consequences of government dependency.

Shock poll: Americans believe government anti-poverty programs cause more poverty, and they’re absolutely right

It isn’t news to conservatives that government programs do not reduce poverty levels. What is news is that 49% of Americans apparently believe that not only do government anti-poverty programs fail, but they also may increase the level of poverty.

A recent Rasmussen poll also pointed out that people that personally witness what happens when people receive government assistance are more likely than those that don’t to believe that anti-poverty programs actually increase the poverty level. While these findings are trending slightly lower than results from previous years, it is still a sign that the public may not believe that the government can resolve the issue of poverty through assistance programs.

A more profound indication of that belief is seen when people stated their thoughts about the number of people receiving government assistance - 67% believe that too many people are dependent on the government. Additionally, 62% believe that the government needs to be smaller, offering fewer programs. The same percentage of adults are keeping up with government program issues in the news.

These are excellent numbers for conservatives, if they can manage to deliver a message that the public wants to hear. Theoretically, the public is ready to see changes in anti-poverty programs. The problem isn’t selling the concept of welfare reform - it is with offering an alternative that isn’t perceived as harmful to the people that truly need assistance. This shouldn’t be extremely difficult, because 64% of Americans think that too many people that do not actually need assistance are receiving it.

Should Murderers and Rapists Get Food Stamps?

Written by Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato At Liberty.

Last week, the Senate accepted by unanimous consent an amendment to the pending farm bill that would ban convicted murderers, rapists, and pedophiles from receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (a.k.a. food stamps). Introduced by Louisiana Republican David Vitter, the amendment has received condemnation from the left and at least one round of applause on the right.

My initial reaction was “A few undesirables will lose a taxpayer-financed handout—so what?” But the more I thought about the amendment, the less I cared for it. For starters, the amendment appears to be politically motivated. Vote against it and a Senator can expect to see a negative campaign add from his or her next opponent. That’s probably why the amendment was agreed to by unanimous consent instead of being formally voted on in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Is drug testing welfare applicants a good idea?

A federal judge has recently blocked Florida’s new program to test welfare recipients for drugs:

Judge Mary Scriven’s ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of a 35-year-old Navy veteran and single father who sought the benefits while finishing his college degree, but refused to take the test.

The judge said there was a good chance plaintiff Luis Lebron would succeed in his challenge to the law based on the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches. The drug test can reveal a host of private medical facts about the individual, Scriven wrote, adding that she found it “troubling” that the drug tests are not kept confidential like medical records. The results can also be shared with law enforcement officers and a drug abuse hotline.

“This potential interception of positive drug tests by law enforcement implicates a `far more substantial’ invasion of privacy than in ordinary civil drug testing cases,” Scriven said.

While allowing extensive access to medical records is certainly questionable and poses a privacy risk to patients, I see no inherent constitutional issue with requiring a drug test for voluntary welfare benefits. The intent is certainly honorable; we want to ensure that taxpayer funded welfare checks are not being used for recreation. The practice is popular among conservatives and tea party folk alike, but it distracts from the much larger issues and instead seeks to implement a solution on a subordinate level.

Cut Europe

With all this talk of isolationism in the GOP, namely over our “kinetic military action” in Libya and the wearying, ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there’s an atmosphere that Republicans will be more willing to cut defense spending and reorganize our military to better fit in with the rest of the world. No more Dubya’s and silly foreign expeditions, more or less. But there’s one area that I see missing: Europe. I think it should be front and center.

When we Americans start arguing over welfare spending, it almost inevitably comes to be that those on the “left” say “Well, we’re spending billions and billions of dollars on bombing people in foreign countries, maybe we should cut that first, huh?” Naturally, conservatives balk at cutting military spending (while libertarians agree and then continue arguing to cut welfare anyways), but in terms of Europe, this is an area where they can make a great tactical manuever. I say this because, also almost inevitably, some liberal or progressive will then cite Europe as a great example of their welfare state ideal, saying “See, they can do it! Why can’t we, with the #1 economy in the world, do the same?” This was almost always brought up in the healthcare debate, focusing on the United Kingdom’s NHS, Germany’s social insurance policies, and infant mortality. And what else can conservatives and libertarians say? Europe sucks? Only in some limited aspects, and that’s simply not a respectable argument anyway.

Moderates and Other Creatures

Last week, I wrote a post about libertarian purity and how libertarians would be better served to accept some people as libertarian even if they aren’t “pure” enough.  Many people believe themselves to be libertarian but don’t toe the ideological line.  The purists rail that they’re not “real” libertarians.  I understand the sentiment, but it has marginalized libertarianism for some time.

After the post hit Instapundit, I had a lot of comments come across where many people argued that moderates are bad.  One argued that moderates take up space on a ballot and can actually hurt the cause of liberty.  Still others argued that being libertarian doesn’t mean much if people can just co-opt the term whenever they feel like.

I understand how they feel.  However, there’s a few things they need to understand.

First, the idea that moderates take up ballot space.  Keep in mind I’m talking about moderate libertarians.  These can be Democrats who aren’t fans of welfare or it could be pro-gay marriage Republicans.  I’m not talking about moderate Republicans who support regulations or gun control.  That’s an important difference.

As for co-opting the term, I certainly agree.  However, my point is that arguing someone isn’t a libertarian because of a few differences is silly.  Obviously, at some point the term certainly can be rendered meaningless if everyone can use the term however they want.  No one was saying that was OK in any way.

Report: Doctors Refusing Medicare Patients

USA Today reports this morning that doctors are starting to refuse to accept new Medicare patients due to cuts in payments:

WASHINGTON — The number of doctors refusing new Medicare patients because of low government payment rates is setting a new high, just six months before millions of Baby Boomers begin enrolling in the government health care program.

Recent surveys by national and state medical societies have found more doctors limiting Medicare patients, partly because Congress has failed to stop an automatic 21% cut in payments that doctors already regard as too low. The cut went into effect Friday, even as the Senate approved a six-month reprieve. The House has approved a different bill.

• The American Academy of Family Physicians says 13% of respondents didn’t participate in Medicare last year, up from 8% in 2008 and 6% in 2004.

• The American Osteopathic Association says 15% of its members don’t participate in Medicare and 19% don’t accept new Medicare patients. If the cut is not reversed, it says, the numbers will double.

• The American Medical Association says 17% of more than 9,000 doctors surveyed restrict the number of Medicare patients in their practice. Among primary care physicians, the rate is 31%.

The federal health insurance program for seniors paid doctors on average 78% of what private insurers paid in 2008.

“Physicians are saying, ‘I can’t afford to keep losing money,’ ” says Lori Heim, president of the family doctors’ group.

Social Security: The Biggest Ponzi Scheme

In 1920, Italian immigrant, Charles Ponzi, developed a scheme which promised high-yield returns on the arbitrage and trade of international postal reply coupons. It sounds like a fancy scheme even today and it fooled many investors at the time. Ponzi, however, was not actually making such investments. He was taking money from new investors, drawn by the promise of high returns, to pay off past investors. A brilliant little scheme except for the fact that it is essentially stealing and fraudulent. This basic framework is now called a Ponzi scheme, and former NASDAQ chairman, Bernard Madoff, has been implicated in what may be the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time.

Meet the Parents

Meet my new parents: the U.S. Government. The parallels are astonishing when you think about it. (Forgive my generalities… they are for illustration!)

1. Parents want their kids to be the best: Just like proud moms and dads show up at little league games and fight with other parents, help (or take over) fundraising activities so their kids will “win” by raising the most money, or argue with teachers about grades… we see the U.S. Government assert its authority all over the world - both economically and militarily - so that we can be the “greatest nation on earth”.

Libertarianism and the Center: The Appeal

I have previously argued that we as libertarians should target our appeal to centrists. Libertarians and centrists share many characteristics, mainly the common value of independence and the rejection of the Republican and Democratic ideological orthodoxies as presented. Furthermore, the center has quite clearly been the electoral kingmaker in recent history, so the political advancement of libertarians depends significantly on their success in winning centrist votes.


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