When discussing taxes with people I try to point out that about 80-90% of tax money goes right back to them anyway in the form of social security, medicare, scientific research, law enforcement, education, a military, etc. so it isn’t like the money is being flushed down the toilet. However what about programs that do not directly benefit the middle class like AFDC, food stamps and medicaid. Do the middle class get any benefits from these programs that don’t give them money directly?
I suppose that I, a middle class person, benefit from not having sick, starving or dead people on the streets. At least not as often as they would be if there were no such programs.
My MIL gets Medicaid just because she is very old, and I’m sure that both she and the rest of our middle-class family benefit.
In another sense, don’t all members of society benefit if dependent children have a chance at health and education even if their parents are poor?
There’s also the argument that anti-poverty programs provide a better labor pool for employers, better public health, more efficient use of human capital, etc. Face it, in a modern post-industrial society, there is simply no practical benefit in keeping around large hordes of illiterate, malnourished, disease-ridden homeless rabble.
Now, you can argue about the effectiveness of governmental anti-poverty programs, and whether the same goals could be better met purely by private charity, etc. But that’s a different debate. If the question is simply “Does it benefit the non-poor members of a society to provide resources, in some way or other, to alleviate poverty?” then I don’t see how you can make the answer come out anything but “yes”.
Oh, and there’s also the issue of “catastrophe insurance”. Most middle-class people believe that poverty isn’t something that could realistically affect them directly, but economists find that more and more of the middle class are “one paycheck away” from serious financial crisis. We tend to have more debt than assets, more difficulty getting affordable health insurance, and so forth. If you hit a run of bad luck and lose your middle-class job and your middle-class house, etc., you could find yourself within a fairly short time being personally, directly grateful for the existence of Medicaid and food stamps.
For the majority of the middle class, this will never happen. But the odds of its happening are sufficiently non-negligible that IMO the value of anti-poverty programs as “catastrophe insurance” should be counted as a benefit to the non-poor.
I forgot that ADFC, medicare and food stamps largely go to families and not single individuals. That is a good argument, that we shouldn’t punish kids because their parents are poor.