This week, John comments on “Real Social Security: A Just Distribution of Wealth” by Charles Hayes:
Elizabeth Warren is right. People who become wealthy in this country do so because the middle class creates and pays for the stability that allows and facilitates wealth accumulation. But that doesn’t mean we should take some people’s earned income and give it to others who can’t or won’t work. Setting aside the problem of wealth creating wealth (rich people get richer without having to work), we have to be aware of the opposite dynamic, which is that a welfare society provides incentive to not be productive.
It’s perfectly reasonable to tax investors and the super rich in order to pay for the orderly society that makes possible their increase in wealth. But those funds should pay for the kinds of things that keep society functioning: roads, infrastructure, governmental functions that protect the populace and enhance communities, such as the EPA, National Parks, FDA, national security, etc.
The problem is that liberals and our Democrats always want to force everyone who works for a living to pay for our massive welfare society. (Both the repubs and the dems force us to pay for corporate welfare, but that’s another problem.) The resulting intergenerational welfare cycle is that millions of working people look around at their neighbors who are deliberately refusing to work and choosing to suck off the public teat, and they go vote for Republicans in a desperate attempt to limit the cost and force accountability. Neither solution works, because our Republican elected leaders cheat us as well.
What we need to do is to alleviate the burden on the working and middle classes by taxing the rich more. But we also need to decimate our current welfare system. Why are we paying people’s rent for decades? We don’t want people to die, but do we have to make them so comfortable on welfare that they deliberately choose to remain (or appear to remain) poor? HEAP was supposedly created to prevent the elderly and poor from freezing, but now we’re paying for air conditioning for young people who could certainly work for a living (or declare the money they’re making under the table). Look around you! How many people on welfare refuse to get married so they can appear to be poor, single parents? How many welfare recipients can somehow still afford cable TV, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs? This is what is maddening to Americans who are willing to work for a living – seeing their neighbors cheat the system. We don’t have to make it quite so comfortable to be poor in America. I’d rather fund college educations for everyone than pay for rent and utilities so the “poor” can spend their own money on drugs, cigarettes and nice cars.
We’re a rich nation; our citizens shouldn’t be at risk for death on the streets. But we can help people without getting ripped off, which is something working stiffs would actually support. Section 8 should be eliminated, and people should be offered small dormitory rooms with survivable temperatures and access to food, but with a requirement that they stay drug and alcohol free and do their share of work maintaining communal living facilities, and as well. Building these facilities will provide government funded employment across the country. Give everyone free education in public universities, but require that all students work to support those institutions, including the rich if they attend. If the rich don’t want to take their turn cooking and cleaning, they can attend a private college instead. Like the kibbutz model, people create a more stable society when they’re engaged and participating in its ongoing development.
This is just one way to reverse the massive dependency on welfare that drives half our electorate to vote for right wing candidates. I’m sure if we reign in the left wing’s naïve welfare mentality, we can come up with solutions that support most of our population without “giving away the house” with welfare programs.
Charles D. Hayes replies:
I’m not unsympathetic with your point of view. But things are a bit more complicated than what you portray. I think what most progressive want is an equitable society, period. You write about the middle class, but mention nothing about the working poor. In my view any job that needs doing requires a living wage or it is a task better left undone. I’m old enough to remember fifty years ago when a job at the corner gas station paid enough to support a family. Had that equity not been siphoned away by special interests we would not be having this conversation.
Equitable means that if you don’t work, or choose work that is not valued by anyone (like producing bad art), and instead simply consume, then you should “fall behind”…. when compared to those that choose to consume less, and work more productivly.
Equitable means that to those that take risks, and put their savings on the line to create something… the rewards are greater than to those that play it safe, and simply trade their labor for a steady income so that they can become consumers.
Equality of outcomes is only possible when people have nothing. The equal sharing of misery.
Since the wealthiest Americans pay the vast bulk of taxes…. The wealthy have built the infrastructure in America where it has been funded by taxes… And constructed it outright in the case of things like the cell phone infrastructure, optical data infrastructure… air travel and freight, alternative energy, trucking, package delivery, radio and television communications and on and on.
The users of said infrastructure often pay for its expansion and maintenance directly…. Fees to operate trucking on public roads… radio and tv licensing, etc.
Charles D. Hayes says:
I know this is something you can’t comprehend, but equitable means living wages, period.
How can you give a wage to people that don’t work? Or people that work for themselves. Did Steve Jobs make wages?
Equitable infers equation…. One side balanced with another… When you say it is just the wage side, ignoring the other side of the equation…. Then you are already operating outside the bounds of equity….
In othe words, your position makes no semantical or reasoned sense.
To make matters worse, “living wage” has no working definition. If I were to throw out several different numbers to you and people that believe as you do, you would not agree which “wages” are “living” and which are not.
$5 an hour? $10? $11.75 $15?
You don’t know, and neither does anybody else….
But probably, a “living wage” is always a little more than what they are getting now.
When you always want more, isn’t that the definition of greed?
And you can stop with the insults any time.
Charles D. Hayes says:
Coming up with a living wage is not rocket science, although I suspect getting past conservative talking points is. You haven’t refuted the gist of my essay you just keep changing the subject with the usual talking points. We have a huge imbalance of power in this country and throughout the world. Moreover, there is no such thing as a free market, never has been and never will be. Fifty years ago we had enough equity built into the system that most jobs paid a living wage. Today they don’t and it’s not because of the free market, it’s because of greed.
Charles D. Hayes says more:
I apologize if my comments have offended you. No doubt my age is showing. I have great difficulty in keeping my temper when I’m reminded of what has occurred during my lifetime. Like the frog in a pot of water slow to boil we have become a society that has become used to the notion that big companies losing money routinely reward their executives with hundreds of millions of dollars while we have people complaining that people working at below poverty wages would likely never be satisfied with what they are paid. The word earn is used very deceptively today and it’s no wonder the frog is cooked before he has a chance to jump out of the pot.