I was wandering by a blog I enjoy reading, and in a comment thread about the deplorable cultural condition of America’s underclass, someone mentioned their preferred solution: “End welfare.” And of course others chimed in about the supposed benefits of global competition and said that blue-collar workers should just retrain for a different industry when their jobs are outsourced to the Third World.
Yeah, I used to think that was reasonable, before I had enough experience to recognize that conservative economic “plan” as utopian moonshine divorced from reality.
It is damned hard for intelligent, well-educated white-collar middle-aged workers to retrain for a new career. Add to the situation an older male breadwinner who has a wife and kids to support, and tell him he’s going to have to retrain for a new career – taking a very hefty pay cut because his decades of experience are in the wrong field and he has to start over from the bottom? While, by the way, removing the welfare benefits that are quite possibly the only way the family is making their rent/mortgage payments and putting food on the table?
No wonder conservatives lose. They think they just need to educate people about how good their policies are. No, those people have heard the message, and they’re saying “Take your crazy UMC theory and stuff it, you don’t understand anything.”
I have a different suggestion. Yes, government welfare is corrosive to the human spirit and we need to get rid of it. But there are several very important things that need to be done first.
- Halt all immigration for a generation. Legal, illegal, no more. Sparingly grant residence permits for foreign spouses. No path to citizenship through marriage or temporary visa anchor babies.
- Tax the heck out of all imports, except maybe food (we can’t grow everything after all). Put the rising import taxes on a gradual increase so people have time to adjust and make plans.
- Use the resulting revenue to get rid of all federal taxes on labor on a similar gradual decrease. Income tax, payroll tax, SS tax, everything that makes it less profitable to work or to hire must GO. Get the funding for whatever program from some other source.
- Start getting rid of non-tax impediments to labor. Make licensing voluntary rather than required, for example.
That’s just the start. End immigration. Stop allowing the third world to siphon jobs from your own citizens. And if it’s legal for someone to do a job, then there should be no government taxes and as few regs as possible getting in the way of that job. Government mandated licensing and certifications are essentially a racket whereby established, politically powerful entities prevent competition from arising, and in an Information Age of social media and ubiquitous cell phones all we need are stringent whistleblower and investigative reporting protections and the public will be quite capable of looking after their own safety, thanks so much.
Then after twenty years of getting rid of economic shackles (and hopefully much progress on the cultural side of things as the mass media/entertainment/schooling paradigm is swept away by technological advancements), then we can start looking at getting rid of government welfare.
Trying to get rid of welfare, in a situation where government agencies have harassed children’s lemonade stands into shutting down? You’re crazy. Get rid of the actual impediments to honest work first, before you start tackling the disincentives that people are relying on for their continued existence. Especially since that gives you time to work on the cultural front where socialism has been carrying the day for decades.
For too long, conservatives have been meeting people who would be naked and starving without the welfare state and telling them, “Go, be warm and well fed while we take away everything that you’re currently using to put clothes on your back and food on your table. Don’t worry, something good will happen afterwards, we promise!”
Which is about as convincing as when some limousine liberal with an armed security squad starts talking about how guns are bad and if only regular citizens weren’t allowed to have them, violent crime wouldn’t be such a problem.
Get rid of the things that are standing in the way of people working for a living. Then we can talk about whittling welfare down to the bare minimum, since everyone who can do anything valuable can just go do it without worrying that the government is gonna come harass them with reams of incomprehensible paperwork and take their income, or cut some deal with a foreign country that will render their efforts worthless, or import tons of other people to compete and drive the price of labor down to rock bottom.
For heaven’s sake, don’t cry “Cut welfare!” in the middle of a freaking recession when the labor force participation rate is lower than it’s been in decades!