Deep Cuts That Save Dollars Make No Sense

Cutting Social Welfare ProgramsCutting Social Welfare Programs

I hate my yard. Specifically, I detest the grass and weeds that grow even faster than this state’s stack of unpaid bills. Each spring, I am captured in an endless loop, like Tom Cruise in his new movie: Cut, weed, dispose, repeat, repeat and repeat.

Each year, I beg my wife, with some seriousness, to allow me to purchase a large flamethrower so I can incinerate the green growth and then hire a contractor to coat the scorched earth with a protective covering of asphalt. Paradise my yard is not; I want to pave it like a parking lot.

But it is cheaper in both time and discomfort simply to mow the lawn, trim the plants and pull the weeds.

So I sympathize with those citizens who believe the best way to solve complex problems like our federal and state debt is simply to cut spending. Cut, cut and cut. I really do.

I sympathize with those citizens who believe the best way to solve complex problems like our federal and state debt is simply to cut spending. Cut, cut and cut. I really do.

We have these pesky people called “concerned citizens”, though, who get annoyed and start paying attention again when political leaders try to cut all of the programs that help people (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, student aid), while bailing out Wall Street firms that deserved to fail (no matter what the cost to the rest of us; when you screw up that badly, you deserve to go down) and borrowing for unsustainable military spending.

Take food stamps, or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), as an example. Some amoral, ruthless opportunists in both parties, mostly millionaires themselves, managed to ram through cuts to the program.

As was reported in May, 14.8 percent of the U.S. population received this aid in 2011. That is 47 million people nationally, the majority of which are children.

Cutting this kind of program is unbelievably risky, yet a majority of our current leaders were willing to take this gamble.

Admit this premise and fact: Right now, there are not enough jobs to hire everyone who wants one, and many existing jobs pay low wages.

When you cut a program like SNAP, first, you damage somewhere around 23 million households. In particular, you damage the ability of parents to feed their children, and the ripple effect and scars of that injury will hurt communities in countless ways for decades.

When you cut a program like SNAP, first, you negatively impact approximately 23 million households. In particular, you damage the ability of parents to feed their children, and the ripple effect and scars of that injury will hurt communities in countless ways for decades.

Second, you reduce aggregate demand during a weak economy. According to this newspaper’s article, “In 2011, residents of Morgan County received a combined $8,154,171 in benefits. The USDA reports that each $5 in [SNAP] benefits generates $9.20 in spending.” A successful business needs customers who can afford to buy its products and services. What happens when customers cannot afford to spend?

Third, you send a clear message to young children, or those we once called the future of democracy. You tell them that their lives are a waste of resources, they are ruled by leaders who hold them in contempt, and they can starve for all you care.

Twice during my childhood, when my father’s union was on strike, my household received food stamps. There are reasons why my father, my uncles and my grandfather served in the Army or Navy. There are reasons why during one long, losing strike, I never heard my father badmouth the government — inept union leaders, yes; management, yes; bad luck, yes; but not the government that was allowing him to feed his children.

I was young, yet old enough to know that loyalty is earned.

A few years later, during my first year of university study, I met students from Germany, the U.K. and France, and I spent hours arguing with them that they were wrong about this country and its motivations. This is a great country, I would say; it cares about more than money and profit. I still believe this.

Reducing our spending on social-welfare programs will occur naturally when cities possess an ample supply of good-paying jobs. Ah, but there’s the rub.

So even if our citizens are tricked into allowing such abominable policies to pass, they eventually will discover their mistake and they will require their leaders to fix those policies. Or, as our revolutionary history and world history show, they will try a different set of leaders.

Today, for our government to do what is right, it will not always be able to make the cheap choice.

nick capoReducing our spending on social-welfare programs will occur naturally when cities like Jacksonville possess an ample supply of good-paying jobs. Ah, but there’s the rub: Governing to create broad-based economic growth is the big leagues, the Olympics of politics. You need intelligent, disciplined leaders willing to working with anyone and try any idea that can make prosperity happen.

We do not have enough such leaders right now. Instead, we have zombie leaders. They shuffle through the halls of the Capitol, mumbling their “Cut-Cut” mantra and legislating misery, and they are dead inside in all the ways that mark a person as human, humane or humble.

They are, you might conclude, the weeds in our body politic.

Nick Capo
Jacksonville Journal Courier

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