Sunday, May 29, 2011

The bleak truth about entitlement programs

Thomas Sowell, who (in my opinion) is one of the most insightful commentators on US society today, hits a home run in his latest opinion column.

To listen to some of the defenders of entitlement programs, which are at the heart of the present financial crisis, you might think that anything the government fails to provide is something that people will be deprived of.

In other words, if you cut spending on school lunches, children will go hungry. If you fail to subsidize housing, people will be homeless. If you fail to subsidize prescription drugs, old people will have to eat dog food in order to be able to afford their meds.

This is the vision promoted by many politicians and much of the media. But, in the world of reality, it is not even true for most people who are living below the official poverty line.

Most Americans living below the official poverty line own a car or truck - and government entitlement programs seldom provide cars and trucks. Most people living below the official poverty line also have air conditioning, color television and a microwave oven - and these too are not usually handed out by government entitlement programs.

Cell phones and other electronic devices are by no means unheard of in low-income neighborhoods, where children would supposedly go hungry if there were no school lunch programs. In reality, low-income people are overweight even more often than other Americans.

. . .

What about the truly poor, in whatever age brackets? First of all, even in low-income and high-crime neighborhoods, people are not stealing bread to feed their children. The fraction of the people in such neighborhoods who commit most of the crimes are far more likely to steal luxury products that they can either use or sell to get money to support their parasitic lifestyle.

As for the rest of the poor, Professor Walter Williams of George Mason University long ago showed that you could give the poor enough money to lift them all above the official poverty line for a fraction of what it costs to support a massive welfare state bureaucracy.

. . .

We have all heard the old saying about how giving a man a fish feeds him for a day, while teaching him to fish feeds him for a lifetime. Independence makes for a healthier society, but dependency is what gets votes for politicians.

For politicians, giving a man a fish every day of his life is the way to keep getting his vote. "Entitlement" is just a fancy word for dependency.

There's more at the link. Bold print is my emphasis. Highly recommended reading.

Problem is . . . how do we get our damn politicians to listen to him? And, if we can get them to listen, how do we make them do the right thing about it?




trailbee said...

I watched his interview on Uncommon Knowledge this week. It was great. He does a mean column for Townhall.

Anonymous said...

The modern version of that old saying is, "Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime; give him a fish and you create 11 government jobs."

Dave H said...

"how do we get our damn politicians to listen to him?"

They already do! That's the problem. They already know that entitlements = votes, so they pass out the entitlements to keep their jobs.

Carol said...

O.K., I have to point something out here. For a while in my life I lived below the official poverty line. I worked as a teacher's aide. I had no car, (cell phones didn't exist yet), I had no television or microwave oven.Cheap starches will go a lot further towards filling you up than what I could have afforded of a balanced diet. I bought in bulk and ate what I could afford.

Lemon Stand said...

I have truly missed being able to read your commentary. You (almost) always make me think.... (the rest of the time I'm laughing) :)

trailbee said...

Carol, you said for a while, meaning you are now past it, and no longer in that position. How did you do it? How much money did you get, and kept taking and taking. That's what we're talking about-the feeling that Big Daddy will make it all better and you won't have to lift a finger anymore, ever again. Well, evidently, you did lift a finger and here you are, paying attention and reading.
I was a war-baby, louse-ridden, shoe-less, homeless and very hungry. That did not mean my parents didn't work to get us out of this position. They taught us values and instilled character.
My daughter and her family were unemployed for over two years and had to use the food bank!
This is not what we're talking about. We're talking about infinite freebies, that wonderful check that many are still awaiting now that the troll is in the WH! Those poor babies of downtrodden slaves, who will make your life miserable hanging on to the coat-tails of the past, asking for more and more, not caring who pays the freight. Got it? Doesn't sound like you!

Carol said...

trailbee, I was responding to a specific sentence "In reality, low-income people are overweight even more often than other Americans.". I was pointing out poverty may in fact be a reason someone is overweight and I was objecting to that sentence, not the rest of the post.