The Insufficient Nanny State
Even the trillions spent by the government to eradicate poverty are not "enough."
Election cycles come and go, but one particular punching bag is sure to stay with us: The Rich. For leftists, there’s no juicier target than those with the money — and no more receptive audience than those living paycheck to paycheck. “Tax-the-rich to feed the poor” is the age-old refrain.
But we’ve been doing that for years, and it doesn’t work.
No one opposes helping those who desperately need a hand, but we’ve spent trillions on this enterprise since Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society,” and millions of our fellow Americans are still beset by hopelessness. None of these programs provides a pathway to a better life, and leftists couldn’t care less. In their minds, generational poverty spells political opportunity.
“When candidates for office promise more government help — from free health care to free college to a guaranteed annual income — they have in mind people like my neighbors in Allendale,” Sharpel Welch writes at City Journal. “Some of what’s being proposed might, in fact, make some difference. But I know from hard experience that a government program alone is not enough to ensure that people will avoid living another generation in poverty. In fact, in many cases, these programs may inflict more harm than good.”
What Democrats are doing is akin to feeding an addiction. On one side, leftist politicians trip over themselves to announce each new social program. On the other side, recipients of these benefits become conditioned to government assistance. The Democrats’ solution? More government programs.
All of this comes at a great cost. We’ve spent trillions of dollars on an array of programs and services over the years, including Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; a.k.a. food stamps), and others. Meanwhile, our nation is now $22 trillion in debt with no plan from either Democrats or Republicans to save future generations from footing the bill.
This isn’t Monopoly money. As Terrence Jeffrey noted this week, “Federal spending programs that are ‘designed to transfer income … to individuals or families’ are set to hit a record $3,223,943,000,000 in fiscal 2020, according to projections published by the Office of Management and Budget. These so-called ‘payments for individuals’ (as the OMB calls them) are projected to account for 67.9% of all federal spending this fiscal year and consume 14.4% of the nation’s gross domestic product.”
Remember: The Constitution does not grant Congress the power to redistribute a single dollar from one citizen to another. But Congress has done it anyway, $3.2 trillion times a year.
If you think these numbers are staggering, then you might want to brace yourself for a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren presidency. Both candidates are promising a range of feel-good programs including Medicare for All, a federal jobs guarantee, “free” public college, and student-loan forgiveness.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn’t running for president. Let’s be thankful for that because she’s touted a 60% to 70% wealth tax. A common theme among Democrat candidates seems to be that nothing is possible without government help. And their electoral survival depends on their ability to keep tens of millions of Americans thinking that way.
But none of these candidates has a plan to pay for all these government goodies — at least no plan beyond taxing the rich. The inconvenient truth, however, is that confiscating the entirety of wealth from the top 1% wouldn’t cover their redistribution schemes.
The Washington Examiner’s Tim Worstall writes, “Ask a Democrat and they’ll tell you America’s problems stem from increasing income inequality. By their telling, all the growth and all the increase in productivity is just being stolen by the plutocrats. And we’re going to do something about this: We’re going to tax those rich folks and send the money to the poor to restore some order around here. Nearly every Democratic plan for the coming election would in some form take these supposedly ill-gotten gains and righteously redistribute them.”
A bit of redistribution sounds reasonable on the surface, but its proponents only focus on the those on the receiving end of the benefits. They never mention where that money comes from. In the end, all that matters to these architects of our ruin is that they stay in power.
As Jeffrey Dorfman reminds us at Forbes, “Proposals for universal basic income, forgiving all college student loan debt, and reinstatement of a heavy estate tax starting at low levels of wealth are further examples of this type of approach to policy. These are purely redistributive policies, doing nothing to make the economic pie bigger, only to change the size of the piece each person enjoys.”
Of course, Americans who are struggling to pay their bills or put food on the table fall prey not to those wealthy Americans who build businesses, create job opportunities, and generate true wealth, but to predators like those in the entire 2020 Democrat field.
Wealth disparity is a feature within every free society — and, sadly, so are the demagogues who pit rich and against poor for purely political purposes.