Posts Tagged ‘Social Welfare’

Spending Cuts and Monsters

Posted on February 14, 2013 at 1.00 pm

Q. Let’s face it: the notion that anyone can be successful in this country is absolutely false. There are millions of Americans who are on food stamps/ other entitlements, and are barely staying afloat. If you want to cut these entitlements, what do you say to these people? I know that their entitlements are being taken from someone else, but that person does not need them as much. The fact that they ‘earned’ their own money doesn’t prove that they don’t deserve to be poor, but the poor people do. — musicalvegan, from tumblr.

Q. I don’t want poor people to be poor, and cutting programs, like food stamps, for the poorest of the poor is nowhere near the top of my list of priority spending cuts.

The way I see it, the government spends a lot of other people’s money which I think it has no business spending on a lot of projects which I don’t think should exist/exist in their current state. And, yes, I want to significantly reduce that spending.

But in the grand scheme of all the spending to be cut, not all spending is equal, and not all spending should be cut with equal speed. That would be impractical, unwise, and — where poverty is concerned — inhumane.

As I’ve quoted in response to similar questions in the past, I like what Ron Paul has said on this question:

While our goal is to reduce the size of the state as quickly as possible, we should always make sure our immediate proposals minimize social disruption and human suffering. Thus, we should not seek to abolish the social safety net overnight because that would harm those who have grown dependent on government-provided welfare. Instead, we would want to give individuals who have come to rely on the state time to prepare for the day when responsibility for providing aide is returned to those organizations best able to administer compassionate and effective help —churches and private charities.

Now, this need for a transition period does not apply to all types of welfare. For example, I would have no problem defunding corporate welfare programs, such as the Export-Import Bank or the TARP bank bailouts, right away. I find it difficult to muster much sympathy for the CEO’s of Lockheed Martin and Goldman Sachs.

When it comes to corporate welfare, I’m all for overnight cuts. Ditto foreign military aid and war spending. Ditto…well, ditto a lot of things.

But when it comes to social programs and entitlements, I’d say that some cuts can be made very quickly, while others must go more slowly and on a clear and strict schedule.

For example, older people who are wealthy on their own do not need to get a cut of my salary in the form of Social Security payments. Those checks can stop immediately. But elderly people who have very little money and rely on a program which they paid into their whole lives on the basis of a promise that it would take care of them? I have no desire to snatch away their income.

In short, there’s a difference between wanting serious spending cuts as quickly as possible and being a monster. I don’t want a bloated government, true — but I also don’t want to throw the neediest people in our country onto the street overnight when there are plenty of other cuts we can make first.

Ayn Rand on the Dole…no,literally.

Posted on February 3, 2011 at 1.05 pm

Q. What are your thoughts on this?    I never much agreed with her philosophy myself but she’s a good writer and interesting character. — Erik, from the internet.

A. Ayn Rand is certainly interesting, and I’ve enjoyed several of her books (though she really should have hired a good editor to uh..tighten things up a bit).  I have mixed feelings on her philosophy, but generally agree with her the way she would limit government — albeit perhaps not for exactly the same reasons.

At any rate, if this is true, I can’t quite decide if I’m surprised or not.  It’s not uncommon, of course, to hear of hypocrisy from people as well-known as Rand, but…I don’t know.  It’s hard for me to imagine how someone so virulently obsessed with egoism and supreme individuality could stand to accept government assistance.  Were she true to the philosophy she espoused, Rand would have let herself die before having tax dollars pay her medical bills.

UPDATE:  It seems Reason Magazine posted a response…and used basically the same title I’d planned.  Oh well.

The response notes that Rand “actually defended the collecting of benefits as a way to get your own money back from The Man.”  That’s tapping into a larger libertarian debate:  If you can’t avoid paying taxes without the threat of fines, jail, or worse, should you take advantage of government services (in addition, that is, to the “unavoidable” ones like public roads) so you at least get some of your money’s worth?

It’s a complicated question and I frankly don’t have an answer at this point.  Assuming you don’t take more services than you paid for in taxes, I see good arguments on both sides of the issue.