A Welfare Debate

A liberal and a conservative discuss welfare in 1995, before the Bush histeria muddied the waters (and before Katrina proved whithout a doubt WHOSE policies would kill more people) -- law

Let me ask you some questions: is compassion an important value? If so, given that the Democrat's approach has not worked, how would you help the poor? Finally, do you believe Mr. Gingrich is a compassionate man?

Dear Jonathan:

Thank you for your consideration of my input to your forum. You asked me two questions to which I am happy to respond. First, you asked if compassion is a positive trait. My answer is, of course it is. Unfortunately, to a person of the "Liberal" persuasion, "compassion" includes the concept that there is an "obligation" on the part of the government to "right a percieved injustice" to a class of people who are perceived (by the Liberal in question) to have been wronged. The real problem with that is two fold: #1. There usually are quite justifiable arguments to refute that the perceived "wrong" done to a particular group is anybody's responsibility other than their own. and, #2. The particular fix inevitably involves the transfer of wealth, from others who have, through honest effort and intellect, acquired it, to those who have and will not. This wasteful process constitutes a disincentive to work and an incentive to mediocrity on the part of those who are potentially most productive, and who create CAPITAL in this country.

When the propensity to create capitol is diminished, jobs become more scarce. You see, government does not create CAPITAL, and thus, does not create JOBS. When that happens, the very group that liberals want subsidized becomes larger. Thus, the ranks of the "oppressed," and the cycle of poverty becomes widened. But, in the eyes of the "compassionate" liberal, at least things are more equal. The misery has been spread more equitably. Without an understanding of basic economics, and with a large amount of what you term "compassion," you assail the "greedy capitalists." This wacky "left wing" mind set, albeit well intentioned at the lowest level (don't think for a minute that the left wing politicians like Ted Kennedy or Jesse Jackson believe it...their entire power base depends upon the existence of a class of dependent victims) usually disappears as you grow through your thirties and realize that in this country, at least for the moment, hard, intelligent work will usually pay off. Then when you notice that about half of your pay is "taken at the point of a gun" by the government for "programs" which cause more problems than they fix, you begin to understand. The liberal difinition of compassion assumes the worst in those who have achieved. Somehow, those who "have" have somehow taken it from those who don't. That, of course fuels the class warfare argument upon which liberals survive.

To answer your second question--Is Newt a compassionate person..Yes he is. He understands that bigger government is not the answer to most of the problems of our society. He knows that if you treat people fairly and offer opportunities, not handouts, more people will prosper than otherwise...

I don't believe either political party practices an abstract concept like "compassion". Political parties only attempt to acquire power. It is up to the leaders who are actually driven by an ideology and a sense of direction to create laws that are truly "compassionate." Again, remember, if you don't understand capitalism and the economic laws by which it operates, you may believe that handing out dollars (taken at the point of a gun from producing people) to "poor people" is "compassion." The whole point of my previous letter was that such policies only create more poor, dependent people. That is like the good hearted soul who feeds wild animals from her back porch in the winter. They become dependant on the handouts, and lose their innate capacity to survive otherwise. Honestly, you, and other "good hearted" liberals need to know that creating dependency is the opposite of compassion. What I would do to help the poor is rooted in the above answer...

A 'poor' person who accepts the status of living on handouts, will forever remain a poor person. Please review my second letter if you want to understand why ever increasing handouts only increases the number of people who will depend upon them, and if they are content to exist at that level, never willing to improve themselves, (and not one program since 1963 has demonstrated a successful ability to cause that in any statistically significant degree, in spite of $trillions spent)...

my answer to helping the poor is to 'leave them alone', Bravo! That is a start! The first step is to stop doing what the government is doing--namely, creating dependence. These handout programs have precisely the opposite effect overall that you believe they have. Until you really understand that, you will never "get it." Once it is clear that people cannot make a career out of being a "victim" they will seek other ways to survive. Getting a job is a really good way. If the opportunity for employment exists, which is enhanced by a reduction in the burden on capital (taxes for 'programs' that are intended to produce ever more dependent people) more opportunities to work are created. Again, if you refuse to accept capitalistic principles, you will miss this point, and your come back will be, "but how much more are you willing to pay to help the poor?" The answer is again illustrated by taking a long look at this country's development and how modern capitalism has catapulted the world into the highest standard of living in its history. Capitalism creates such wealth for the vast majority of people who engage in it that the very definition of "poverty" in America is affected. By world standards, a poor person here is incredibly fortunate. No! I am not saying that poverty doesn't exist, but the liberal approach to "fixing" it does just the opposite. Can government help the poor? Yes. And significant resources devoted to that end are not unjustified. What I have seen happen however, is that politicians engaging in the distribution of resources to "help the poor" do so only to increase their power base. Creating dependency insures re-election. This has been a hallmark of the vast majority of Liberal Democrat politicians since FDR.

REAL assistance to people who claim that they need help to survive in this country demands that those accepting help improve their ability to make their way and that there be an end or limit to that assistance. There must be an obligation to repay. There must be some demonstrated effort on the part of the recepient to learn a skill to become a producing, marketable citizen.. The government can structure assistance programs to that end. (The GI bill is a good example of a program that worked.) That has not been the concept for the overwhelming bulk of "The Great Society." Unconditional and unlimited handouts do not help poor people become self sufficient. ..

Dear Bob:

There are many specific points in your letter that I disagree with, but let me give you a general answer and then follow up with detail.

You seem very sure about the psychology of welfare recipients. How many do you know personally? How many have you hired in your business? Perhaps you are the exception, but the majority of people I have spoken to who share your beliefs have never met a welfare recipient.

I think a large percentage of welfare recipients are women in hardscrabble situations, dumped by a man or otherwise trying to raise children on their own, who would work if they received the training and a job offer. I don't think in most states anyone makes enough on welfare to want to be on it.

Personally, I know only one former welfare recipient, a man who lost a job, spent three years on it, then found a job as a night watchman, then came to work for me looking after our facility daytimes. He is a hard worker and I do not hold it against him that he spent some time on the dole. I believe that as soon as he found something he went back to work.

I do not agree with a social theory of "benevolence" that says that we will dump all these people, and let the good go under (and possibly die) so that we do not support the bad. I am in agreement with welfare reform that involves better sorting, more job training, and which does not incent larger families. The job training under any Republican proposal I have seen is either nonexistent or a joke.

I am not at all certain why you think it is "goofy" to say that paying taxes saves lives. It is an infamous debater's trick--a reductio ad absurdum--to say that in that case, why not pay 100% of your income as taxes. There is a middle ground to everything. If someone is drowning in front of me in a two inch puddle, I will lift them up. If they are drowning in fifteen feet of somewhat wavy water but I am still quite confident that I can save them without undue risk to myself, I hope I will still do it. If I have to dive off a ship into a raging storm and my chances are 1 in 100 of survival and 1 in 1000 that I will effect a successful rescue, I will almost certainly not do it. The Contract Republican's rhetoric often seems to be: save no drowners; it is their own fault they are in the water anyway.

Dear Jonathan:

.. You seem to keep saying that I would allow people to die in order to weed out a few welfare cheaters...That is .. insulting to me.. Your perceptions about conservatives being such cold, ruthless, privileged people is curious to me. Each of your letters contain such assumptions which you seem eager to lay on us "Contract Republicans"...yet, I believe that if nothing else, perhaps you and I both should understand that we could profit from a better understanding of each others philosophical position by holding a few less rigid opinions. As a matter of fact, my friend, I would not allow people to "die" as you suggest, but as I hold that a Liberal philosophy (in general) causes more misery and death (if you will) than an otherwise Conservative one, we will never agree on paper...I suspect, however, that we are not so different at heart. Your general perspective (if you will allow me a candid, non-threatening observation) seems to be one which says--"I, being a Liberal, CARE more about my fellow man than you--(Conservative person)"... That, sir, is where we disagree the most...While you may indeed care..the solutions you might propose to the betterment of man as a Liberal.. are without merit, and have resulted in a worsing of our society.. I am not against helping poor people get out of poverty...Again, however, I will say that setting up a system that simply sends people a check because they are poor will never help them out of poverty. You and I probably agree on that. It is what to do instead of that which divides us.

Anchors or Life Preservers: A Welfare Debate


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