Sunday, January 17, 2016

Master of the Obvious

Robert Doar, a Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former commissioner of Human Resources Administration of New York City, writes in the article, The Big but Hidden U.S. Jobs Problem, published in the Wall Street Journal on January 12, 2016 “I am not an economist, but one likely reason for the dismal labor force participation is that many U.S. assistance programs act more like work replacement than work supports.”  He cites work by Casey Mulligan, University of Chicago economist, which “concludes in response to the recession, several U.S. safety-net programs changed in ways that discouraged employment”.

It is with delight that Mr. Doar, now in private employment, realizes that government programs that he once administered create dependency as a choice of life style.  Poverty programs have far less to do as a safety net then as enabling clear minded and able bodied people to make rational calculations about the level of effort they wish to expend.  For example, we recount in our book, Vigilance The Price of Liberty, of a mother with two children who “was working part-time for $19,000 a year in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and receiving assistance benefits of nearly $82,000 a year from federal and state governments. Now compare this compensation to the taxpayers with a median household income of about $50,000 for a family of three in 2012.  In other words, more can be made on welfare and part-time work, in certain instances, than honest full-time work.”  This was a rational decision on her part and the woman candidly admitted that the “welfare system it sucks you in . . . and it is hard to get out of.”

The woman’s choice of welfare stems from a lack of pride to do for herself, and of virtue to be willing to take the earnings from those who do work, then blame the system for sucking her in.  Then there is the system itself that allows this to happen without regard to the immorality of it. As Benjamin Franklin commented:
I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.

After 50 years and $15 trillion of welfare replete with fraud, waste and abuse, the rate of “poverty” today is about where it was in 1965 when the war on poverty began.  It seems that one need not be the Master of the Obvious to recognize it is time for a change.  What do you think the change should be?

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