The Purpose of This Bl;og

By and large, liberals are very decent, kind, and compassionate people who genuinely want what is best. This should be kept in mind as we explore the Law of Unintended Negative Consequences near invariably resulting from Leftist big-hearted solutions to societal problems.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Government Welfare

One of the most noble facets of liberalism is their compassion for the poor and their vocal advocacy on behalf of those who are struggling and in need of assistance.

People on the Left are renown for their big hearts and helping hands.

And, given their love of and respect for secular governments, it is not surprising that the government would be the preferred medium through which their compassion would be predominately expressed.

However, without questioning their admittedly worthy motives, it is fair to ask whether liberal government welfare has accomplished what it was ultimately intended do, or whether the law of unintended negative consequences (LUNC) has once again raised its ugly head, making matters worse.

One may reasonably expect that were government welfare to have actually worked, then on average, and at best, there would have been a steady decline in entitlement spending from year to year (adjusted for inflation), or at worse it would have remained relatively constant or increased slightly in proportion to population growth and/or bad economic times. This, of course, presumes that recipients of government welfare would use the programs as intended--i.e. as temporary assistance until they get back on their feet and are able to support themselves and contribute once again to society.

According to the Heritage Foundation, in the U.S., "Entitlement spending more than doubled over the past 20 years, growing by 110 percent (after adjusting for inflation).". "Three major programs—Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—dominate in size and growth, soaking up about 44 percent of the budget...and—when joined with $1.7 trillion in new Obamacare spending—will drain about 18.5 percent of the nation’s total economic output by mid-century....Other entitlements continue growing as well. Anti-poverty programs have surged by 49 percent in just the past decade, even after adjusting for inflation. Spending for food stamps alone has more than tripled since 2002. Health programs, including Medicaid, have increased by 38 percent, and housing assistance by 48 percent." (ibid.)

This isn't just a recent phenomena fueled by current economic woes. Researchers indicate that "Entitlement Spending — considered as government pensions, healthcare and welfare — started out at the beginning of the 20th century at 0.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)....entitlement spending was negligible until the Great Depression of the 1930s.  In response to the Great Depression President Roosevelt and the New Deal cranked up welfare spending to 1.5 percent of GDP by the mid 1930s and over 2.0 percent on the eve of World War II in 1940. In 1950, entitlement spending had reached 3.3 percent of GDP, mostly welfare, but by 1960 entitlement spending had reached 5.1 percent of GDP as Social Security spending started to ramp up. In 1965 Congress passed Medicare, Medicaid and the Great Society programs, and entitlement spending exploded reaching 11 percent of GDP in 1975. By the early 1980s, entitlement spending reached 13 percent of GDP and pensions spending stabilized at a little over five percent of GDP, with welfare spending stabilized at three to four percent of GDP. But healthcare spending sustained a steady rise, from three percent of GDP in 1980 to five percent of GDP in 2000. Since 2000, entitlement spending has increased, reaching 19 percent of GDP in 2010. Pension spending has increased to six percent of GDP, and welfare spending has exploded to over five percent of GDP in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2007-09. Healthcare spending has continued steady growth, reaching over seven percent of GDP in 2009.".

In 1940, the U.S. population was 132.2 million, and total governmental welfare payouts (federal, state, local) was about $2.1 billion. or approximately $15.00 per person. In 2010, the population was 308.7 million and total government welfare was $786.7 billion, or $2,548.00 per person. (see HERE)  Even adjusting for inflation, the per person amount in 2010 was more than ten times as much as it was towards the end of the Great Depression. This is staggering considering that people were far worse off financially in 1940 than in 2010.

According to Wikipedia, "In November 2012 the U.S. Census Bureau said more than 16% of the population lived in poverty in the United States, including almost 20% of American children,[7] up from 14.3% (approximately 43.6 million) in 2009 and to its highest level since 1993. In 2008, 13.2% (39.8 million) Americans lived in poverty .[8]  In 2011 extreme poverty in the United States, meaning households living on less than $2 per day before government benefits, was double 1996 levels at 1.5 million households, including 2.8 million children.[9] This would be roughly 1.2% of the US population in 2011, presuming a mean household size of 2.55 people. In 2013, child poverty reached record high levels, with 16.7 million children living in food insecure households, about 35% more than 2007 levels.[10] In 2009 the number of people who were in poverty was approaching 1960s levels that led to the national War on Poverty.[11]"

Over the last decade welfare dependency has increased. (See HERE)  And, the number of people receiving welfare benefits has also escalated to the highest levels in U.S. history, with nearly a third of the population, or 107 million, getting government assistance.(See HERE), Nearly 50% of households in the U.S. receive some type of government help. (See HERE)

Clearly, government welfare and entitlement programs haven't worked to diminish poverty and/or encourage self-reliance. Quite the contrary.

During the 1990s, this became self-evident to most Americans and  prompted a popular movement towards welfare reform, which was realized in the bipartisan passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, signed into law by President Clinton in August of 1996. "Welfare and poverty rates both declined during the late-1990s, leading many commentators to declare that the legislation was a success. An editorial in The New Republic opined, "A broad consensus now holds that welfare reform was certainly not a disaster--and that it may, in fact, have worked much as its designers had hoped." (See HERE)

Granted, there was a slight rise in poverty from 2000 to 2002, and a slight decline from 2002 to 2007, and then a sharp increase from 2007 to 2010, when, with the resurgence of liberal welfare and entitlement legislation and economic policies, poverty levels hit a 50 year high. (See HERE)

[update 09/07/2015: By way of  contrast, the governor of Maine required some form of work, including volunteer, for 6 hours a week, to be eligible for food stamps, and thereby reduced the roles by 80%--see HERE]

For an explanation as to why these Leftist welfare LUNCs occur, please see: Gov: Wrong Tool for the Right Job - Strength in Number, Elitism and Specialization, and Cold Nanny as well as The Politics of Compassion, Emotions, Ignorance, Denial, Blame-Shifting, and Victimization


Costly, deleterious, and unsustainable expansion of government:
See links above. See also:

Fraud and waste of taxes:

May rob recipients of dignity, self-reliance, and survival skills

Fosters a culture or cycle of poverty and dependency:

Proliferation of those in need and looking for a handout:
See links above. See also: