Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Christians and social justice: is redistribution of wealth good for the poor?

Discovery Institute fellow Jonathan Witt pens this article in the American Spectator on the Gospel, business and social justice.

Excerpt:

The third term, social justice, is unlike the other two in its having a justifiable raison d’être. It stretches back to 19th century Catholic social thought and was used in the context of nuanced explorations of law, ethics, and justice. Unfortunately, this nuance and precision usually falls away in popular usage, and the term has been co-opted by the left to imply that ordinary justice is a mere tool of the ruling elite, with the real deal being “social justice.”

This impoverished meaning needs to be addressed. If a society extends justice to the rich and well-connected but allows the poor to be bullied and swindled by corrupt players inside and outside of the government, the problem isn’t unsocial justice but a lack of justice. If the poor in many developing nations can’t get access to credit or the courts because they can’t register their businesses, and they can’t register their businesses because they don’t have the bribe money and connections to navigate a byzantine regulatory maze, the problem is injustice, plain and simple. Such a society doesn’t need a social brand of justice any more than a poor neighborhood without stores needs a social grocery store. The neighborhood needs an ordinary grocery store, and the unjust society needs basic justice. Grocery stores and justice are already intrinsically social.

More than accurate semantics is at stake here. Often the popular call for “social justice” boils down to an ill-conceived call for coercive wealth transfers — for instance, getting rich countries to transfer more of their tax revenues to the governments of poor countries as foreign aid. It’d be nice if this approach actually helped the poor, since we’ve been using it for the past 60 years. Unfortunately, the statistical and narrative testimony on this strategy hovers between mixed and scandalous.

The reasons for this are complex but not so complex as to excuse the status quo. Much of the aid money gets quietly funneled into the pockets of corrupt politicians. In other cases the aid money reaches its intended target but, since the aid money is fungible, it still supports bad actors. It does so by freeing a regime of the political necessity of paying for the schools, road projects and emergency relief already covered by the foreign assistance. This, in turn, allows the regimes to spend more of their tax revenues for enhancing their own wealth and power.

Worse, the small fraction of aid money that actually reaches its intended destination often puts indigenous producers out of business, since it’s difficult to compete against free goods from abroad. Haiti’s rice farmers, for instance, once exported rice, but today their livelihoods have been all but wiped out by subsidized U.S. rice dumped on the country as foreign aid.

Add to all of this international “social justice” the devastating cultural effects of America’s welfare state. The neighborhoods flooded with 50 years of this domestic “social justice” now face far higher levels of criminal injustice and anti-social behavior than before the justice arrived.

Much of the problem stems from welfare’s effect on the institution of the family. The percentage of children being raised by both of their biological parents in America’s poorest neighborhoods used to be low and fairly comparable to what was found in middle and upper class neighborhoods, but the Great Society programs of the 1960s changed that.

As George Gilder put it in Wealth and Poverty, the underclass husband and father was “cuckolded by the compassionate state,” a violation which has incited “that very combination of resignation and rage, escapism and violence, short horizons and promiscuous sexuality that characterizes everywhere the life of the poor.”

Yale University sociologist Elijah Anderson put it almost as bluntly in a 1989 journal article: “It has become increasingly socially acceptable for a young woman to have children out of wedlock — significantly, with the help of a regular welfare check.”

The plain testimony of history is that the left’s strategy for saving the poor has been a tragic failure. It has stifled development in poor countries, bred a fatherless underclass in the United States, and all but bankrupted the European Union. Cloaking all of this in the guise of “social justice” serves only to perpetuate the tragedy.

It turns out that the very people who cry the loudest about wanting to help the poor – by redistributing wealth from those who produce to those who don’t – are the ones who incentivize people to make decisions that will make them poorer and expose them to more violence. Sure, there is a certain amount of uncertainty in life, but when you reward failure and punish success, you get more takers and fewer makers. The alternative to taxation and redistribution is to leave wealth in the hands of the individuals and businesses and trust them to make the decision about sharing. When businesses pay less in taxes, they expand – and more people start up new businesses, because they are attracted by the chance to make higher profits. Although letting individuals and business keep their own money is frowned on by the secular left, that’s because they themselves project their tendency not to give to charity and create jobs onto everyone else. They don’t understand charity and entrepreneurialism, that’s why they take money away from people who work and who create wealth.

I do want to say one other thing. I find it troubling when Christians present themselves to me as being social conservative, and fiscally liberal. There is no such thing as a social conservative and a fiscal liberal. If a person demands that the state provide cheese sandwiches to the children of single mothers in public schools, then  it creates more of an incentive to become a single mother, and less of an incentive to marry. That redistribution lowers the cost of single motherhood and raises the cost of marriage. It has been shown that single motherhood is the leading cause of child poverty – so why would we put into place incentives that encourage people to not make good decisions about sex? Why subsidize people who refuse to exercise self-control in sexual matters? Why make it encourage people to inflict fatherlessness on their own innocent children? Marriage is correlated with increased safety for women and children. Lowering the moral standards and paying people to make mistakes isn’t good for them. And it’s not good for their children.

The more you tax those who produce, the fewer of them you get. And the more you subsidize those who collect, the more of them you get. When men see themselves as slaves of the state – working only to be plundered – they stop working and they stop marrying. Why would a man work to feed the children of someone who could not even bother to get married before having babies? Why would a man get married knowing that half of what he earns will go to the state? Let families keep more of their own money, so that families are empowered – and not government. Let families keep their own money so they decide how to spend it, instead of depending on government. Let single mothers have to face the cost of their decisions. Let them ask charities for help, not the government. When people have to ask their neighbors for help, they know that they have done wrong, and that the money they get came from someone who worked for it. That is not there when government taxes and writes them a no-guilt check. Then it’s an entitlement, and they don’t learn their lesson.

Instead, let individuals and businesses make the decision to help those who they think are truly willing to try to improve their lot in life. Those are the ones who need support. When you leave wealth distribution to the government, no one is there to make those moral judgments. And it’s worse than that. When government takes over industries like health care, they are often supported by naive pro-lifers who think that wealth redistribution is compassion. But a secular government has no interest in women who stay home to raise their children – they want women to get out into the work force and pay income taxes. A single-payer health care system is always going to be pro-abortion for that reason. And any pro-lifer who votes “with their heart” for single-payer health care is a fool. They are, in effect, pro-abortion. Think before you vote.

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

Atlanta abortion doctor charged with Medicare fraud

From the liberal Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Excerpt:

A metro Atlanta physician and his former office manager have been charged with Medicaid fraud after they billed the government nearly $400,000 for abortion services – which are barred from federal funding – and for ultrasounds not performed, authorities said.

Dr. Tyrone Cecil Malloy and CathyAnn Edwards Warner are charged in an indictment handed up Dec. 8 by a DeKalb County grand jury with two counts each of Medicaid fraud, according to a news release issued Monday by the Georgia Attorney General’s Office.

Malloy was arrested last week and has been released on bond to await trial, Channel 2 Action News reported. An arrest warrant was issued for Warner, and DeKalb and Clayton county authorities working together took her into custody Monday afternoon.

[...]The alleged fraud occurred at Malloy’s Old National Gynecology, a medical practice in the 6200 block of Old National Highway in College Park, whose website says it specializes in first-trimester abortions.

According to the indictment, between Dec. 9, 2007 and Aug. 9, 2010, the defendants billed the Georgia Medicaid program approximately $131,615 for new patient visits when, in reality, the visits were for elective abortions.

The Georgia Medicaid program is funded jointly by the state and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Under federal law known as the Hyde Amendment, federal funds cannot be used for elective abortion services; nor are abortions covered by Georgia Medicaid, the indictment states.

Malloy and Warner also are charged in the indictment with billing Georgia Medicaid about $255,024 for detailed ultrasounds that actually were never performed during the same period from 2007 through 2010.

What happens when the government gets involved with paying medical bills? We get fraud. Government will never be as careful about how taxpayer money is spent as a private company will be about spending their own money.

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

25% of UK women under 16 admit they’ve engaged in premarital sex

From the UK Daily Mail.

Excerpt:

More than a quarter of young women today lost their virginity when they were below the legal age of consent, NHS figures reveal.

Some 27 per cent of 16 to 24 year-olds admit they were 15 or under when they had sex for the first time.

One in eight of this age group have already had sex with at least ten different partners.

[...][J]ust 4 per cent of women now aged 55 to 64 first had sex when they were under-age. This rises to 10 per cent of 45 to 54 year-olds, and 14 per cent of 35 to 44 year-olds.

[...]Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust said: ‘Over recent years we have witnessed the systematic removal of every restraint which in previous generations served as a disincentive to underage sexual activity.

‘Sex education in many schools has had the effect of breaking down the natural inhibitions of children with regard to sexual conduct, and the age of consent is rarely enforced, so young people no longer have any fear of legal proceedings.

‘On top of that, the ready availability of contraception means that a girl’s fear of pregnancy is no longer considered a good enough reason for rejecting her boyfriend’s advances, and confidentiality policies mean that a girl need not worry about what her parents would think about her being sexually active, obtaining contraception, being treated for a sexually transmitted infection or even having an abortion, because they don’t have to be told.’

The figures have come from a survey of the sexual behaviours of 8,420 men and women aged 16 to 69, carried out by the NHS this year for the first time.

They also reveal that one in seven women aged 16 to 24 who had lost their virginity had caught a sexually transmitted infection at least once. Only four in ten said they always used contraception when having sex.

The UK Daily Mail reports on a new study that shows that women who lose their virginity as teenagers are more likely to divorce. (H/T Dina, Mysterious C)

Excerpt:

Women who lost their virginity as young teenagers are more likely to divorce – especially if it was unwanted, according to new research.

The University of Iowa study shows that 31 per cent of women who had sex for the first time as teens divorced within five years, and 47 per cent within 10 years.

Among women who delayed sex until adulthood, 15 per cent divorced at five years, compared to 27 per cent at 10 years.

The findings were published in the April issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.

Author Anthony Paik, associate professor of sociology in the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, examined the responses of 3,793 married and divorced women to the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth.

The study showed, however, that if a young woman made the choice to lose her virginity as a teenager, there was no direct link to a marital split later in life.

If the sexual act took place before the age of 16 women were shown more likely to divorce, even if it was wanted.

So what caused this explosion of premarital sex?

Excerpt:

Planned Parenthood’s anointed sex missionaries received their first federal funding in the Lyndon Johnson administration. The sort of “sex education” now pushed in Santa Fe and elsewhere started in 1968 when the National Education Association Journal called for “sex education as an integral part of school curriculum beginning in early grades.”[3] Planned Parenthood, the NEA, and herds of shrill progressives were following a behavioral pattern characteristic of the 1960s left.

An early example of the pattern emerged in the reactions to Rachel Carson’s 1962 Silent Spring scare-book, which got DDT banned and still enables the malaria deaths of about 3,000 children a day. Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 Population Bomb — turned dud — warned of mass starvations unless humanity curbs its reproductive enthusiasm. Then also in 1968, the NEA Journal demanded solutions to imagined problems.

Imagined, because calls for sex education were based on “problems” that lived only in the minds of anointed ones seeking to spread agendas. “Contraception education” would allegedly reduce unwanted pregnancies and illegitimate births.[4] A “crash educational program”[5] would arrest out-of-control venereal disease, while general sex education would address “the emotionally disastrous results of irresponsible sexual behavior.”[6] The claims shared a common thread: fictitious bases.

Not only were there no disease and illegitimacy crises, but indicators were solidly improving at the time of the alarmists’ claims. As Sowell documents in The Vision of the Anointed,[7] teenage pregnancies and venereal disease declined during the 1950s and 1960s. Yet over skeptics’ protests that sex education would increase sexual behavior, Planned Parenthood and public schools forged ahead to curtail behaviors that were already fading. Sex-ed was off and running.

And results followed.

During the 1970s, pregnancies among fifteen- to nineteen-year-olds jumped 41 percent.[8] Between 1970 and 1984, abortions among unwed fifteen- to seventeen-year-olds more than doubled and birth rates jumped 29 percent.[9] By 1976, five years of data showed unmarried girls fifteen to nineteen having sex at increasing rates.[10] And not only did venereal disease not subside, but teen gonorrhea rates tripled between 1956 and 1975.[11]

In the 1950s, 13 percent of teen girls had been sexually active. By the late 90s, the figure had tripled. Premarital intercourse, approved by less than a third of women in the 1950s, was acceptable to 91 percent by the late 80s. By 2005, over two-thirds of Blacks and half of Latino high-schoolers were having intercourse, while over half of all teens fifteen to nineteen were performing oral sex. By 2006, babies born to unmarried women accounted for 37 percent of all births, [12] 70 percent among Blacks. The Black illegitimacy rate reflected a 218 percent explosion over forty-five years.

Such realities have drawn dismissive responses from sex-ed advocates. Incredibly, the horrific trends of the 1970s and 1980s were offered as reason for more sex education.[13] Yet amid cover-ups and excuses, the sex-ed crowd’s true motives were exposed in 1978, in of all places, Congress. One committee report noted that despite sex education’s stated objective of reducing teen pregnancies and sexually-transmitted disease, the real goal “of most sex educators appears to be encouragement of healthy attitudes about sex and sexuality.”

When I hear about things like this I think about the statistics that how that relationship stability is directly correlated to the number of pre-marital sexual partners. The more pre-marital sexual partners you have, the less like that your marriage will last. Those are the facts. And my concern is for the children who are being born from these women who will not have a stable development to grow up in, with a mother when they’re young, and a father as they grow older.

Why does the left push premarital sex even when we know that it undermines marriage? Two reasons. First, they oppose marriage because it traditionally implies different sex roles – men work, women stay home. Feminists on the left want women to work like men work. They don’t want women to aspire to marriage and family. Second, the left thinks that the best way to stop people from having feelings of shame and guilt when they have premarital sex is to encourage everyone to do it. They want to normalize it.

The way that the left deals with the skyrocketing numbers of teen pregnancies and sexually-transmitted infections that result from this policy is to double down with more sex education, free abortions and more government spending on social programs, followed by tax hikes to pay for all the lifestyle-outcome-equalizing. And then, of course, fewer working men can afford to marry because of those tax rates, and fewer women can afford to stay home and raise their young children.

After all, the left things that there’s no social problem in the world that can’t be fixed by a little more government intervention and public school indoctrination. If worse comes to worse and the health care costs costs increase, we can just make health care “free” by nationalizing it to completely separate behaviors from consequences. That should get rid of the problem, because if you make getting sick free, people will stop getting sick. And if all of these broken homes create children who commit criminal acts, we can always ban guns. That should get rid of the crime problem, because if you make it impossible for law abiding people to defend themselves, then criminals will stop committing crimes. That’s how the left thinks. Or rather – that’s how the left feels.

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

Should Christians support social justice? Is wealth redistribution good for the poor?

Discovery Institute fellow Jonathan Witt pens this article in the American Spectator on the Gospel, business and social justice.

Excerpt:

The third term, social justice, is unlike the other two in its having a justifiable raison d’être. It stretches back to 19th century Catholic social thought and was used in the context of nuanced explorations of law, ethics, and justice. Unfortunately, this nuance and precision usually falls away in popular usage, and the term has been co-opted by the left to imply that ordinary justice is a mere tool of the ruling elite, with the real deal being “social justice.”

This impoverished meaning needs to be addressed. If a society extends justice to the rich and well-connected but allows the poor to be bullied and swindled by corrupt players inside and outside of the government, the problem isn’t unsocial justice but a lack of justice. If the poor in many developing nations can’t get access to credit or the courts because they can’t register their businesses, and they can’t register their businesses because they don’t have the bribe money and connections to navigate a byzantine regulatory maze, the problem is injustice, plain and simple. Such a society doesn’t need a social brand of justice any more than a poor neighborhood without stores needs a social grocery store. The neighborhood needs an ordinary grocery store, and the unjust society needs basic justice. Grocery stores and justice are already intrinsically social.

More than accurate semantics is at stake here. Often the popular call for “social justice” boils down to an ill-conceived call for coercive wealth transfers — for instance, getting rich countries to transfer more of their tax revenues to the governments of poor countries as foreign aid. It’d be nice if this approach actually helped the poor, since we’ve been using it for the past 60 years. Unfortunately, the statistical and narrative testimony on this strategy hovers between mixed and scandalous.

The reasons for this are complex but not so complex as to excuse the status quo. Much of the aid money gets quietly funneled into the pockets of corrupt politicians. In other cases the aid money reaches its intended target but, since the aid money is fungible, it still supports bad actors. It does so by freeing a regime of the political necessity of paying for the schools, road projects and emergency relief already covered by the foreign assistance. This, in turn, allows the regimes to spend more of their tax revenues for enhancing their own wealth and power.

Worse, the small fraction of aid money that actually reaches its intended destination often puts indigenous producers out of business, since it’s difficult to compete against free goods from abroad. Haiti’s rice farmers, for instance, once exported rice, but today their livelihoods have been all but wiped out by subsidized U.S. rice dumped on the country as foreign aid.

Add to all of this international “social justice” the devastating cultural effects of America’s welfare state. The neighborhoods flooded with 50 years of this domestic “social justice” now face far higher levels of criminal injustice and anti-social behavior than before the justice arrived.

Much of the problem stems from welfare’s effect on the institution of the family. The percentage of children being raised by both of their biological parents in America’s poorest neighborhoods used to be low and fairly comparable to what was found in middle and upper class neighborhoods, but the Great Society programs of the 1960s changed that.

As George Gilder put it in Wealth and Poverty, the underclass husband and father was “cuckolded by the compassionate state,” a violation which has incited “that very combination of resignation and rage, escapism and violence, short horizons and promiscuous sexuality that characterizes everywhere the life of the poor.”

Yale University sociologist Elijah Anderson put it almost as bluntly in a 1989 journal article: “It has become increasingly socially acceptable for a young woman to have children out of wedlock — significantly, with the help of a regular welfare check.”

The plain testimony of history is that the left’s strategy for saving the poor has been a tragic failure. It has stifled development in poor countries, bred a fatherless underclass in the United States, and all but bankrupted the European Union. Cloaking all of this in the guise of “social justice” serves only to perpetuate the tragedy.

It turns out that the very people who cry the loudest about wanting to help the poor – by redistributing wealth from those who produce to those who don’t – are the ones who incentivize people to make decisions that will make them poorer and expose them to more violence. Sure, there is a certain amount of uncertainty in life, but when you reward failure and punish success, you get more takers and fewer makers. The alternative to taxation and redistribution is to leave wealth in the hands of the individuals and businesses and trust them to make the decision about sharing. When businesses pay less in taxes, they expand – and more people start up new businesses, because they are attracted by the chance to make higher profits. Although letting individuals and business keep their own money is frowned on by the secular left, that’s because they themselves project their tendency not to give to charity and create jobs onto everyone else. They don’t understand charity and entrepreneurialism, that’s why they take money away from people who work and who create wealth.

I do want to say one other thing. I find it troubling when Christians present themselves to me as being social conservative, and fiscally liberal. There is no such thing as a social conservative and a fiscal liberal. If a person demands that the state provide cheese sandwiches to the children of single mothers in public schools, then  it creates more of an incentive to become a single mother, and less of an incentive to marry. That redistribution lowers the cost of single motherhood and raises the cost of marriage. It has been shown that single motherhood is the leading cause of child poverty – so why would we put into place incentives that encourage people to not make good decisions about sex? Why subsidize people who refuse to exercise self-control in sexual matters? Why make it encourage people to inflict fatherlessness on their own innocent children? Marriage is correlated with increased safety for women and children. Lowering the moral standards and paying people to make mistakes isn’t good for them. And it’s not good for their children.

The more you tax those who produce, the fewer of them you get. And the more you subsidize those who collect, the more of them you get. When men see themselves as slaves of the state – working only to be plundered – they stop working and they stop marrying. Why would a man work to feed the children of someone who could not even bother to get married before having babies? Why would a man get married knowing that half of what he earns will go to the state? Let families keep more of their own money, so that families are empowered – and not government. Let families keep their own money so they decide how to spend it, instead of depending on government. Let single mothers have to face the cost of their decisions. Let them ask charities for help, not the government. When people have to ask their neighbors for help, they know that they have done wrong, and that the money they get came from someone who worked for it. That is not there when government taxes and writes them a no-guilt check. Then it’s an entitlement, and they don’t learn their lesson.

Instead, let individuals and businesses make the decision to help those who they think are truly willing to try to improve their lot in life. Those are the ones who need support. When you leave wealth distribution to the government, no one is there to make those moral judgments. And it’s worse than that. When government takes over industries like health care, they are often supported by naive pro-lifers who think that wealth redistribution is compassion. But a secular government has no interest in women who stay home to raise their children – they want women to get out into the work force and pay income taxes. A single-payer health care system is always going to be pro-abortion for that reason. And any pro-lifer who votes “with their heart” for single-payer health care is a fool. They are, in effect, pro-abortion. Think before you vote.

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

New study finds that immigration costs Canada up to $23 billion a year

Map of Canada

Map of Canada

Story in the National Post. (H/T Andrew)

Excerpt:

Newcomers to the country generally make less money and chip in less in taxes than the national average.And allowing 250,000 immigrants into the country annually is costing us all billions of dollars each and every year, according to a study by the Fraser Institute.

The study, dubbed Immigration and the Canadian Welfare State, sharply criticizes Canada’s current immigration system, using earnings and other figures from the 2005-06 fiscal year reported by 844,476 people in the 2006 Census.

It claims the group as a whole earned on average about $10,000 more and paid about $2,500 more in income taxes annually than those within the sampling who had settled in Canada in the previous 18 years.

The study also found immigrants typically pay a little over $6,000 less in property and sales taxes than the national average.

That means the approximately 3.9 million immigrants who settled in Canada between 1987 and 2004 are shortchanging federal government coffers by between $16.3 billion and $23.6 billion annually, depending on how many of those newcomers have moved back home, emigrated elsewhere or died, the study said.

[...]The study also takes on the notion that immigrants are helping the country by taking menial jobs that most Canadians don’t want.”Immigrants do fill jobs that Canadians don’t want and thus benefit the economy but, in the absence of immigration, these jobs would pay higher wages and would be filled by Canadians or eliminated by the application of labour-saving technology,” the study states.

“Under these conditions, poverty in Canada would be reduced substantially.”

As for changes, the study suggests annual immigration numbers should be increased or decreased, depending largely on “market forces.”

The study also recommends Canada be more selective, allowing only newcomers who have employment lined up, offering them citizenship only if they hang onto their job for a set number of years and deporting those who lose their jobs.

Canada has a welfare state with single-payer health care, public housing, welfare payment and free public schools. So, people who cannot pull their own weight can rely on all of these goodies provided by the working Canadians. Because of these generous benefits, Canada has a lot of people who would like to move there from poor countries. And they can’t possibly take them all in because it is costing the working Canadians billions of dollars. But there is a way for them to allow more immigration – they just have to stop all of their government handouts. If there were no handouts then everyone could come to Canada freely, because they would go home again unless they held on to their job and pulled their own weight. They could even bring their families once they had worked hard enough to support them – but those family members would not be eligible to get money from the government.

So what do we as Americans learn from this? Well, we need to make sure that the people who come here are selected on the basis of their skills, their education, their ability to pay their own way. We need to have a big fence to keep illegal immigrants out, and we need to have a huge gate to allow skilled legal immigrants in. And they can even bring their families with them – as long as they don’t get a dime of taxpayer money in cash or through social programs – they should have to pay for everything they use, including schools and health care. And they should not be eligible for a dime of government money until they get their green cards after years of demonstrated hard work and clean living.

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

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