July 2013

The “War on Poverty” is a “War on the Poor”

By Liberal Anthropologist

In a previous comment I hypothesized a sudden end to welfare and what the effect would be on family structures.  In response, one of the commentators said that such a thing had been done before (in the 1800’s) and that it was Dickensian and there would be a return of the “poor house”.  In the video above you can see a complete Q&A with the economist Milton Friedman on the affects and side effects of the welfare state.  I recommend watching the debate between him and the idealistic 70’s students and others.  It is too bad that his lessons are being learned the hard way.

The “War on Poverty”  – started with great idealistic goals – has failed.  Don’t get me wrong.  It has had positive and negative effects.  Look at the graph below of the poverty rate in the US:

The data was only tracked starting from 1959.  The initial decline is out of a recession and was the norm prior to that.   It would cycle between 5 and 25% along with the economy. First of all, let’s look at the positive.  The War on Poverty and Welfare has kept the poverty rate stable.  It has specifically helped the temporary poor during economic crises.  Those who are not caught up in long term poverty stay out of it and are helped back out through these programs.  What this gets rid of is the historic peaks of poverty in the 20 – 25% range seen during economic crises of the past.  But this is mitigated by the extremely negative effects of such a manipulation of the natural economic cycle.  What has been created is something that did not exist before the War on Poverty.  A permanent underclass of 15% that are stuck forever in poverty.  It has decreased social mobility.  It has kept the number from falling below 10% as it did in previous decades and centuries.  It has increased the gaps between rich and poor.

And it has destroyed the family of this 15% by providing an alternative social structure to the family.  If welfare ended tomorrow, we would see an increase in the number of poor for years at a time during recessions.  But we would see greater declines below 15%, greater mobility, and fewer social issues such as the breakup of the family.  In my mind, the negatives of the welfare state far outweigh the positives.  The bottom line is it doesn’t work.

Poor houses are not some horrid thing.  The welfare state is a poor house.  Public housing plus food stamps is the government equivalent.  We should decry the end of the poor house because we took away the private and much more effective way of dealing with the poor.  There is zero chance of a return to the industrial era world of Dickens in the UK.  We live in a different place and a different time.  We would have more positive benefits from a return to private charity over government programs. We would put families back together and end the permanent underclass.

The most important thing we can do to help the poor is NOT welfare. It is economic growth.  Growing economies are the largest single factor to help the poor.  And if you don’t believe me, just go ask India.  Economic Freedom and less government interference is the key to helping the poor.  Stop making people get licenses for cutting hair or doing nails or other economic enterprises.  Stop interfering with small businesses with incredible burdens like Obamacare.  Stop creating minimum wages that drive businesses towards automation and greater efficiencies and let people work.   Stop “helping” so much and get out of the way.  That is the best way you can help.


What We Need a Real National Conversation On

By Liberal Anthropologist

For reasons, not particularly relevant, I was forced yesterday to watch 6 hours straight of CNN coverage of the news. It was almost exclusively about the Zimmerman trial. As I continued to listen, I continued to get more annoyed. How could a story – as tragic as it was – dominate the news when so many real news stories are happening. It is similar to all of the many stories we see followed about local crime that become national news going back to at least the Lindbergh baby and perhaps the sensationalized stories of Old West violence between idiots shooting each other over nothing.

This is local news or at best regional news. Nationally we have a continuing failing economy with an unprecedented unemployment rate this far into a recovery. We have national debt issues. We have a spying scandal. We have issues with the IRS. We have decisions to make about foreign policy.

What is worse is that the coverage is simply weird. Conversations about Stand Your Ground laws when that law was never part of the case. No analysis that shows that Stand Your Ground exonerates black defendants disproportionately.  Expressions by many that Zimmerman was guilty of following the kid when following someone is not a crime. This odd logic was never even questioned. Or that he was guilty of “profiling” when he is not law enforcement and profiling is not illegal or even illogical given the recent circumstances in his neighborhood and the experience of his neighbor and wife in recent weeks beforehand.  Or that gun control is an issue.  Well maybe it is.  But he is not guilty for legally carrying a weapon.

Not to mention that the case was clearly not proven beyond a reasonable doubt and it should never have been brought in the first place. There was no evidence this was not self defense and at least some evidence it was. The original actions by the police were correct.

Then the media throws in the race factor with gusto. Why? Well remember it was just names at the beginning and an assumption that Zimmerman was simply white. The narrative started then. As the nuances came there was no change in the narrative. Zimmerman became “White Hispanic”. There is zero evidence that Zimmerman is a racist in any form and yet there are endless discussions about it. Worst of all is that the Justice department opened an investigation when there is no evidence that has ever come forth to warrant opening one. This is the same justice department that has not been investigating things that are politically problematic for the President. They somehow have time to chase a guy who exhibited no racist tendencies at any point.  If this was black on black, the media would never have noticed.

Facts don’t matter to most people. This simple case has been politicized and changed into something it never was. That is a shame.  The conversation we need to be having is on how much we value journalistic honesty, balance, and integrity.  Simply put, it would be nice to see some intelligence in journalism, but I guess we are back in the dark days of Yellow Journalism again.