Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

If you care about the poor, must you vote for bigger government?

Here’s an article on the Daily Signal that traces the history of big government “solutions” to poverty, and argues that big government has not been able to solve the poverty problem no matter how much money they’ve taken from taxpayers.

Excerpt:

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau will release its annual report on poverty. This report is noteworthy because this year marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s launch of the War on Poverty. Liberals claim that the War on Poverty has failed because we didn’t spend enough money. Their answer is just to spend more. But the facts show otherwise.

[...]Over 100 million people, about one third of the U.S. population, received aid from at least one welfare program at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient in 2013. If converted into cash, current means-tested spending is five times the amount needed to eliminate all poverty in the U.S.

But today the Census will almost certainly proclaim that around 14 percent of Americans are still poor. The present poverty rate is almost exactly the same as it was in 1967 a few years after the War on Poverty started. Census data actually shows that poverty has gotten worse over the last 40 years.

How is this possible? How can the taxpayers spend $22 trillion on welfare while poverty gets worse?

The answer is it isn’t possible.  Census counts a family as poor if its income falls below specified thresholds. But in counting family “income,” Census ignores nearly the entire $943 billion welfare state.

For most Americans, the word “poverty” means significant material deprivation, an inability to provide a family with adequate nutritious food, reasonable shelter and clothing. But only a small portion of the more than 40 million people labelled as poor by Census fit that description.

[...]According to government surveys, the typical family that Census identifies as poor has air conditioning, cable or satellite TV, and a computer in his home. Forty percent have a wide screen HDTV and another 40 percent have internet access. Three quarters of the poor own a car and roughly a third have two or more cars. (These numbers are not the result of the current bad economy pushing middle class families into poverty; instead, they reflect a steady improvement in living conditions among the poor for many decades.)

The intake of protein, vitamins and minerals by poor children is virtually identical with upper middle class kids. According to surveys by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the overwhelming majority of poor people report they were not hungry even for a single day during the prior year.

The article goes on t make the point that if the purpose of government social programs is to make people more independent so they can get off the welfare, then the government has failed to achieve that goal. In fact, they’ve made even more people dependent on government since they started to try to make them independent of government.

According to a Congressional Research Service study, we spend more on welfare per year (1.03 trillion) than we do on Social Security (725 billion) or Medicare (480 billion) or non-war defense (540 billion). And what do we get? More dependency on government, not less.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , ,

Democrats freed nearly 68,000 illegal aliens with criminal convictions in 2013

From Investors Business Daily.

Excerpt:

The federal government let nearly 68,000 illegal aliens with criminal records go free in 2013. When it’s law and order vs. future votes for Democrats, we all know which wins under this administration.

A new study from Washington’s Center For Immigration Studies (CIS) found that the Obama administration in 2013 released 67,879 illegal aliens who had been convicted of a criminal offense — 35% of the total number of the aliens with criminal convictions encountered by law enforcement.

The vast majority, the CIS report said, were due to “the Obama administration’s prosecutorial discretion policies, not because the aliens were not deportable.”

So much for President Obama’s claim last June that “today, deportation of criminals is at its highest level ever” because “we focused our enforcement efforts on criminals who are here illegally and who are endangering our communities.”

[...]How can our government let so many criminals go instead of deporting them, as the law demands?

“Eleven million people living in the shadows, I believe, are already American citizens,” Vice President Joseph Biden told the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

And the repeat crimes so many of these illegals with criminal records will commit against Americans is a perfectly acceptable price to pay, apparently, to win millions of new Democratic votes Obama’s aggressive, lawless open-door immigration policies in the years ahead.

Here’s an example of one of the people that Joe Biden believes is already an American citizen from National Review.

Excerpt:

Meet 27-year-old Julio Miguel Blanco-Garcia. An illegal alien from Guatemala, he has lived and worked in Fairfax County, Va., for at least eleven years. The region is a notorious “sanctuary” for immigration lawbreakers where elected officials and big business look the other way in exchange for cheap labor and cheap votes.

When he wasn’t working illegally as a construction worker in the government-fueled Boomtown ’burb or getting himself high on drugs, Blanco-Garcia was building up a lengthy rap sheet. According to Fairfax County court records cited by the Fairfax City Patch.com, Blanco-Garcia has been arrested for:

  • Public swearing/intoxication in March 2010.
  • Petit larceny in September 2011.
  • Concealment/price alteration of merchandise in April 2012.

With the feds granting blanket amnesty waivers by administrative fiat and refusing to fix the deportation abyss, coupled with brazen “don’t ask, don’t tell” sanctuary policies by local officials, Blanco-Garcia managed to escape detention and deportation for more than a decade. In December 2012, the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force (which includes U.S. Marshals staff, Fairfax County police, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and D.C. fugitive-operations officers) finally caught up with Blanco-Garcia. They detained him after determining “that he was in violation of U.S. immigration law.”

But it was too late for 19-year-old college freshman Vanessa Pham. In July 2010, the bubbly art student’s decision to be a Good Samaritan to open-borders beneficiary Blanco-Garcia cost Pham her life. After getting her nails done at a Fairfax Plaza salon, she encountered the illegal alien and his infant daughter in the parking lot. Blanco-Garcia was strung out on $400 worth of PCP.

According to prosecutors, he asked Pham to take him to the hospital. She let the man and his baby into her car. When Pham took a wrong turn, Blanco-Garcia turned on her — stabbing her more than a dozen times with a knife he was carrying. She veered into a ditch; he coldly wiped her blood off of his hands with a baby wipe and clambered out of the sunroof with the child.

Cops found the blade of the murder weapon, with the killer’s DNA, under Pham’s seat. But for nearly three years, her friends and family agonized as the DNA remained unidentified and the case unsolved. The investigative break? Illegal-alien Blanco-Garcia continued his criminal havoc — surprise, surprise — and attempted to steal several bottles of champagne from a local grocery store. He was convicted of larceny in April 2012. By December, law enforcement had tied his fingerprints to Pham’s murder. Blanco-Garcia’s trial begins next week.

True to form, the whitewash media have ignored Blanco-Garcia’s immigration status and the public-policy implications of our government’s systemic, bipartisan refusal to enforce the laws already on the books. The Washington Post (which employed illegal-alien reporter turned amnesty activist Jose Antonio Vargas for years and glorified the amnesty mob marches in 2006 and 2007) conveniently failed to mention Blanco-Garcia’s illegal-alien status. Some crimes are more equal than others.

Here’s another case where an illegal alien murdered an 18-year-old after he was offered a ride home by the victim. Again, the mainstream media ignored the story.

Which political party is more interested in protecting taxpaying citizens from criminals? Well, it’s not the Democrats, that’s for sure. On the one hand, they want to disarm law-abiding citizens. On the other hand they want to be lenient with illegal aliens who commit crimes against law-abiding citizens. It seems to me that government should exist to prevent crimes – not to grant favors to groups that they know will vote for their agenda.

Just to be clear, I favor more skilled immigration and faster naturalization of skilled immigrants who come here legally, pay their own way for some long period of time (10 years, cumulative?) and do not break the law in that time. But that’s not what the Democrats are promoting here, they want the criminals to stay. Even if it means that innocent taxpayers have to die for their political plans.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , ,

Arthur Brooks: why is the American public shifting from optimism to envy?

Labor Force Participation down to 62.8%

Labor Force Participation down to 62.8%

An editorial by Arthur Brooks appeared today in the leftist New York Times. His topic is the shift from optimism to envy, why it is happening, and whether envy makes us happier than optimism.

Excerpt: (links removed)

The Irish singer Bono once described a difference between America and his native land. “In the United States,” he explained, “you look at the guy that lives in the mansion on the hill, and you think, you know, one day, if I work really hard, I could live in that mansion. In Ireland, people look up at the guy in the mansion on the hill and go, one day, I’m going to get that bastard.”

[...]Unsurprisingly, psychologists have found that envy pushes down life satisfaction and depresses well-being. Envy is positively correlated with depression and neuroticism, and the hostility it breeds may actually make us sick. Recent work suggests that envy can help explain our complicated relationship with social media: it often leads to destructive “social comparison,” which decreases happiness. To understand this, just picture yourself scrolling through your ex’s wedding photos.

My own data analysis confirms a strong link between economic envy and unhappiness. In 2008, Gallup asked a large sample of Americans whether they were “angry that others have more than they deserve.” People who strongly disagreed with that statement — who were not envious, in other words — were almost five times more likely to say they were “very happy” about their lives than people who strongly agreed. Even after I controlled for income, education, age, family status, religion and politics, this pattern persisted.

It’s safe to conclude that a national shift toward envy would be toxic for American culture.

Unfortunately, in the wake of the Great Recession, such a shift may well be underway, given the increasing anxiety about income inequality and rising sympathy for income redistribution. According to data from the General Social Survey, the percentage of Americans who feel strongly that “government ought to reduce the income differences between the rich and the poor” is at its highest since the 1970s. In January, 43 percent of Americans told the Pew Research Center that government should do “a lot” to “reduce the gap between the rich and everyone else.”

Why the shift? The root cause of increasing envy is a belief that opportunity is in decline. According to a 2007 poll on inequality and civic engagement by the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, just 30 percent of people who believe that everyone has the opportunity to succeed describe income inequality as “a serious problem.” But among people who feel that “only some” Americans have a shot at success, fully 70 percent say inequality is a major concern.

People who believe that hard work brings success do not begrudge others their prosperity. But if the game looks rigged, envy and a desire for redistribution will follow.

This is the direction we’re heading. According to Pew, the percentage of Americans who feel that “most people who want to get ahead” can do so through hard work has dropped by 14 points since about 2000. As recently as 2007, Gallup found that 70 percent were satisfied with their opportunities to get ahead by working hard; only 29 percent were dissatisfied. Today, that gap has shrunk to 54 percent satisfied, and 45 percent dissatisfied. In just a few years, we have gone from seeing our economy as a real meritocracy to viewing it as something closer to a coin flip.

There is a good lesson in this for people who want what is best for the poor. Simply receiving money from others is not going to make poor people happy. What we need to focus on is providing the poorest people with opportunities. For example, we need to reduce barriers that employers face to hire them, and we need to make the school system focus more on skill-building and less on indoctrination in leftist ideology.

Democrats like to give lots of speeches on income inequality, stoking the fires of envy, while doing nothing to help people learn useful skills in school and to help employers hire people more easily, setting them on the path of lifelong independence. For example, Democrats oppose school choice, as when they killed the D.C. voucher program that helped poor black students. Less school choice helps public schools to be insulated from competition, so that they can focus on what they want (bigger government, so they get paid more) rather than what parents want (bad teachers fired, students to learn useful skills, more male teachers in the classroom, a focus on vocational skills rather than ideology). Just this past week, the ultra-leftist mayor of New York city kicked charter schools out of the city. Why? Because if children learn useful skills in better schools, then they will be less dependent on government, and less responsive to “envy rhetoric”.

Democrats also passed Obamacare, which punishes businesses with taxes if they allow part-time workers to work for more than 30 hours a week. Many jobs were lost because of this, and many people are now struggling to pay higher premiums for plans with higher deductibles and co-pays. Now the Democrats are talking about raising the minimum wage, which is going to put even more pressure on employers to lay off workers, because they can’t afford to pay them more for the same work. For Democrats, this is all to the good, though. Because if the poor don’t have jobs, or can’t work enough hours, they start to see the economic game as “rigged” and they are more responsive to “envy rhetoric”.

What we need to see is that it’s not the Democrats’ objective to help people find jobs. They gain when people become more envious, like in European countries, and start to vote to grow the size and power of government to redistribute wealth. Speeches about income inequality never have the goal of giving people jobs. None of Obama’s policies aim to do that. That’s why he won’t build the Keystone XL pipeline, or boost domestic energy development here at home. Instead, they want to extend unemployment benefits and pass the costs on to the next generation. Their goal is to get you unemployed or on disability or on welfare, so that you will vote for the government to continue to take your neighbor’s money. That manufactured envy is what keeps the Democrats in power.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

CBO report: Obama’s proposed minimum-wage increase could kill 500,000 jobs

Three stories from Investors Business Daily, and one of them is about the dreaded stagflation.

First one, on the CBO report.

Excerpt:

On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office made another blockbuster pronouncement, this one concluding that the White House minimum wage hike to $10.10 an hour really does kill jobs.

The $10.10 option, when fully implemented, “would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3%,” CBO says. Job losses could be as high as 1 million.

This followed last week’s CBO calculation that the impact of ObamaCare on the labor market will be about 2 million fewer workers over time, due to higher costs on employers and employees of mandated coverage and the availability of subsidized insurance to nonworkers.

 

Second article, about how the Democrats seem to be trying to create dependency in order to buy votes from people who cannot pay their own way.

Excerpt:

January’s labor report confirmed yet another month with over 100 million Americans not working. In fact, more than 100 million Americans have not been working in Obama’s workers’ paradise for all of 2012 and 2013, a unique achievement in American history.

[...]How has Obama managed to “liberate” so many workers from work? Through Social Security disability, which has increased by more than 21%, extending “unemployment” benefits to two years and by eliminating work requirements as a condition of receiving federal benefits.

The number of Americans on food stamps has soared by 50% under Obama to close to 50 million, largely because work requirements, asset checks and other restraints on abuse have been relaxed. Indeed, more than twice as many more Americans have gotten food stamps under Obama than have gotten jobs. Under ObamaCare, the same transformation is now under way for Medicaid.

Today, federal and state taxpayers pay a trillion dollars every year to the lowest 20% on the income ladder basically not to work. Under Obama total welfare spending has doubled since 2008. (Note that the administration is suing the state of Louisiana to turn over the names of everyone on welfare, precisely for Obama’s voter-turnout database.)

[...]CBO estimates that the slower economic growth from this reduced labor supply will mean $1.4 trillion less in federal tax revenue over the next 10 years. So ObamaCare will increase the deficit after all.

Third article, explaining that the failed policies of the Democrats have been tried before – by Carter.

Excerpt:

Since the Obama “recovery” started 4-1/2 years ago, inflation appears to have been relatively tame, with core prices climbing just 7% from June 2009 to December 2013.

But as CBS News discovered when it looked a little closer, the overall number is deceptive. In fact, it found food prices soaring.

The official inflation data confirm this. Overall, food prices are up 9% since June 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the cost of many staples is skyrocketing. Pork prices have climbed 14%; poultry is up 12%; eggs, 27%; milk, 20%.

Meanwhile, energy prices have climbed 18% during the recovery, and the price of gasoline is up a whopping 31.5%. Then there’s college tuition, up 23%.

At the same time, wages aren’t budging. In fact, measured in real terms, the median household income is 4% below where it was four-1/2 years ago. And while the official unemployment rate is down, that’s due to millions quitting the workforce altogether.

Yes, the economy has created 6.6 million jobs since June 2009. But the ranks of those not in the labor force climbed nearly 11 million, driving the labor force participation rate down from 65.7% to today’s 63% — a level not seen since 1978.

You might remember from the Carter era that stagflation was the name given to describe a period of slow or stagnant economic growth, low labor force participation and high prices (inflation). The only solution to this is to raise interest rates, which is very painful. But the longer we keep interest rates low, and keep government spending high, and keep taxing and regulating businesses into oblivion, the worst the medicine is going to be when we are forced to take it.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Democrat agenda – reducing self-sufficiency and increasing dependency

Two articles, both from Investors Business Daily.

The first explains how Obamacare encourages people to stop working or reduce their work hours in order to get more benefits from the government.

Charles Krauthammer explains:

First, the Congressional Budget Office triples its estimate of the drop in the workforce resulting from the disincentive introduced by ObamaCare’s insurance subsidies: 2 million by 2017, 2.3 million by 2021.

Democratic talking points gamely defend this as a good thing because these jobs are being given up voluntarily. Nancy Pelosi spoke lyrically about how ObamaCare subsidies will allow people to leave unfulfilling jobs to pursue their passions:

“Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance.”

[...]Pelosi’s vision is equally idyllic except for one thing: The taxes of the American factory worker — grinding away dutifully at his repetitive mind-numbing job — will be subsidizing the voluntary unemployment of the artiste in search of his muse. A rather paradoxical position for the party that poses as tribune of the working man.

[...]In the reductio ad absurdum of entitlement liberalism, Jay Carney was similarly enthusiastic about this ObamaCare-induced job loss. Why, ObamaCare creates the “opportunity” that “allows families in America to make a decision about how they will work, and if they will work.”

If they will work? Pre-Obama, people always had the right to quit work to tend full time to the study of butterflies. It’s a free country. The twist in the new liberal dispensation is that the butterfly guy is to be subsidized by the taxes of people who actually work.

In the traditional opportunity society, government provides the tools — education, training and various incentives — to achieve the dignity of work and its promise of self-improvement and social mobility.

In the new opportunity society, you are given the opportunity for idleness while living parasitically off everyone else. Why those everyone elses should remain at their jobs — hey! I wanna dance, too! — is a puzzle Carney has yet to explain.

So, if you are working, you are going to be taxed more to pay for the leisure (or laziness) of your fellow citizens. And why must the Democrats do this? In order to continue to win elections by getting the votes of people who want you to work harder and longer so that they don’t have to work.

So how much are we paying people to not work or to work less? 

Major welfare programs as of 2012

Major welfare programs as of 2012

Again, Investors Business Daily explains.

Excerpt:

In 2011, the latest year for which we have complete spending data, federal outlays on all means-tested welfare programs targeted for the poor hit $746 billion, according to an analysis by the Congressional Research Service.

But this doesn’t include two of the fastest-growing taxpayer-funded cash subsidies: unemployment insurance and disability, which are not based on one’s income level, so are not considered anti-poverty programs. That’s another $250 billion a year. All told, federal income transfer programs (not including Social Security and Medicare) have hit $1 trillion.

Adding state spending, the Senate Budget Committee found another $257 billion spent each year. The welfare state is now larger than the GDP of 175 of the 190 wealthiest countries.

Astoundingly, if all this spending were simply sent in the form of a check to every household in America living below the poverty level, we could raise each of these family’s incomes not just above the poverty line, but double that level, according to Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation. Every poor family of four could have a cash income of $44,000 a year — which in most countries would be princely.

Most Americans probably have no idea how expansive the welfare state is. That’s because the cost is disguised by more than 80 separate means-tested programs counted by the CRS, including cash benefits, health care, social services, food, child care, training, and housing and utility subsidies. They often have overlapping and uncoordinated missions. This explains the vast duplication of effort, with at least 12 programs offering food and nutrition, 18 offering housing assistance, nine offering vocational training, and so on.

In all, just over 100 million Americans now get some form of welfare-based government benefit. This does not include Medicare or Social Security. Obama’s economics team thinks the more the better, because these are programs that “stimulate” the economy.

Oh, and by the way: These numbers do not include the ObamaCare expansion of Medicaid, which could add 20 million to the rolls over time. Obama boasts of 5 million more Americans now being eligible for Medicaid under ObamaCare, as if that’s an applause line.

That only leaves the question of who is paying for all this vote-buying today. Well, the money is being borrowed and added to the national debt. And who is going to pay for that? Your children. Especially if you bothered to get married before having children, because those are the children most likely to get the high-paying jobs that our slavemasters in government love to redistribute.

 

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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