Welfare Wreckage

Poverty in the U.S. Was Plummeting—Until Lyndon Johnson Declared War On It

Yet again, government intervention hurts those it is intended to help.
Click on the headline above to see the article.

This excellent article from Fee.org fairly describes the quagmire that LBJ’s War On Poverty got America into. The quagmire is the result of America’s welfare system ensnaring poor people into an economic trap that hurts both the trapped and the trappers. This truth is well worth understanding. The article, however, sheds insufficient light on the human toll our welfare system imposes on the poor.

[Note: While the article’s headline is true, it captures only a relatively minor factoid out of the article’s outstanding content. The tagline, “Yet again, government intervention hurts those it is intended to help,” is also true, but it too is just factoid.]

While many Americans support much more welfare, Americans of every significant persuasion believe that, to some degree, the government should provide financial support to poor people with mental or physical disabilities that prevent them from providing for themselves. So, the question for Americans is not whether there should be welfare, but how much and how. More specifically, the political debate is largely about the dividing lines between 1) who should and shouldn’t be helped, 2) how much help should be provided, and 3) how to help. Except for talk about the decline of two-parent families among welfare recipients, far too little public debate is focused on the negative consequences of financially helping poor people. The destruction of two-parent poor black families is worthy of much attention, but it is only one of many significant problems the welfare system inflicts on its recipients.

The most depressing aspect of the article is that it makes clear that humans have not figured out how to help poor people who are able to provide for themselves without trapping them and much of their progeny in 1) neighborhoods with poor education, stifling subcultures that foster mediocrity and grievances, and are dangerous, and 2) an economic system that incentivizes its denizen not to thrive[i] and is likely to damage the denizen’s general well-being.[ii] The article also shows that over time the system has increased the number of people so trapped—the exact opposite of the war’s stated mission. (It has, however, created a large, growing, and solid block of reliable Democrat voters—which may have been one of LBJ’s objectives.)

As sad as all of that it is, even sadder is that people who are aggrieved are typically much less happy than people who are thankful. Even if the grievance is justified, aggrieved people are handicapped by their grievances. Because humans gravitate toward validations of their beliefs, aggrieved people not only gravitate toward facts and narratives that validate the ideas that hold them back, they are motivated not to do anything that would disprove their reasons for believing their grievances are justified. As President Obama might have put it, it’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to their dysfunctional culture or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them as a way to explain their frustrations.[iii]

Our welfare policies are yet another example of well-intended (at least on the part of empathetic voters—not so much on the part of politicians whose reelections are dependent on dependent voters) policies making matters worse for the poorest people among us, i.e., the people who are supposed to be helped by the policy.

[i] For a more detailed description of these problems and others, see “The War on Poverty Wasn’t A Failure — It Was A Catastrophe.”

[ii]  See “is work good for your health and well-being?

[iii] President Obama said, “It’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Not So Fast On Fingering Flake

I just read a Facebook post that said this about Senator Flake:
“What did the leftists promise the traitor Flake to hold up this vote. Doesn’t he understand this will just give more time to the leftists to bring more bogus allegations and diminish this nominee even more? Of course, he does. Again, I can’t imagine why this man is allowed to represent himself as a conservative. Shameful.”
Flake is certainly not my favorite Republican but I suspect this author’s take is precisely the opposite of what just happened.
The Democrats had a plan to stop the Judge Kavanaugh nomination after the hearings were completed. Call for another FBI investigation to delay the vote on Kavanaugh (giving the Democrats more time to denigrate Kavanaugh and creating time for a miracle to happen) and put the Republicans in a bad light, the Democrats said the Republicans were rushing the process and blocking an FBI investigation.
So, naturally, the Republican base wanted the Republicans to rush and have no further investigation. The Republicans surely knew that after so many FBI investigations of Kavanaugh, (1) a limited scope FBI investigation would not turn up anything negative on Kavanaugh, (2) Trump would limit the scope, and (3) not rushing and permitting the investigation would the take the sting out of the Democrats’ complaints (except for the crazies that would not vote for a Republican in any event) and make the Republicans appear to be more reasonable as the Democrats would continue their hysterics.
That being the case, the Republicans wanted another investigation but knew that their base would be opposed. No Republican, especially the ones who wanted to keep their Senate seats, wanted to be the one to call for an investigation. In a tough situation like this, who ya gonna call? Flake!

For more on the approval of the Kavanaugh nomination, see this Facebook post in which there were many comments dealing with the applicability of “innocence until proven guilty” to accusations against Kavanaugh.