You do not appreciate what you didn't earn

I would never say anything as politically incorrect as “the poor are lazy” but mostly because I believe if anything it would be the other way around… how about “the lazy tend to be poorer than the industrious”? Is that more acceptable?

Many scandals with food stamps being used illegally have been uncovered and yet the politically correct view is that these are exceptions and people on welfare are mostly honest people trying to get back on their feet. With food stamps the situation may be more dificult to judge but let us look at housing.

There were some apartment buildings near where I live. Built some 25 years ago as a housing project for the “economically disadvantaged” they had become all run down, full of crime and drugs. Finally they have been torn down and the occupants moved somewhere else (to start the cycle all over again I would think).

This seems to be the norm rather than the exception in most of these housing projects. As a whole they are utter failures, never achieving their stated goal of helping people get back on their feet. Rather, the places get worse and worse until they have to be destroyed.

It seems to me if you have to pay for your house you tend to take better care of it than if someone else paid for it. You see poor people who buy an old house and rebuild it with their own work. And yet, all these people on welfare, move into perfectly good and new buildings and a few years later the social conditions there are appalling and the buildings are ready for wrecking.

Now, it cannot be a tiny minority of those people who are the cause of all this. It seems to me if you had a large group of perfectly good families living in a building, one or two bad apples could not achieve this sort of destruction as they would be kept in check by the rest.

So, it seems what you have here is a situation where most of these people just cannot take basic care of their homes even though someone else paid for it and they cannot built a decent social environment which is not even a question of money.

There is a debate in another thread over whether people are entitled to welfare or not but, even assuming they are entitled to welfare, aren’t there any limits?

Suppose we agree as a society we should help those in need because we are decent people. But those who we are helping have no responsibility or obligation? They can waste the help they are getting without responsibility? They can commit crimes against the society that is helping them and continue to receive help? Does that make any sense? If they aren’t willing or able to do some useful work shouldn’t they at least be required to not be destructive or commit crimes?

In Washington DC they tried some laws to evict tenants from units in public housing where they were dealing drugs but it turned out not to be so easy. The grandmother would say “how could I know it was crack my grandson was dealing?” etc. and with due process and such they could not evict them. Never mind that if they had owned their home they would lose it faster than you could say “forfeiture”.

It seems like common sense to me that something is wrong when people who did not earn something have more right to it than people who did.

At minimum I would propose laws that say:

A- If you commit a serious crime, you forfeit any right to get help from society in the future (if not in perpetuity say for X decades depending on the severity of the crime)

B- If you commit a serious crime while receiving help from society that would be considered an aggravating circumstance which would increase the punishment.

C- If you live in public housing you are responsible (at least) for the cost of maintaining the buildings and common parts in good state of repair.

These laws would be pleasing to those of us who complain about the waste that the welfare system has become and should find no objection from those that defend that welfare is to help good people get back on their feet. Good people will not be affected by this.

You might find this interesting:
WASHINGTON, May 31 – A rigorous, large-scale evaluation of changes in welfare in Minnesota has found extremely positive effects: higher earnings and income for parents, less poverty, an increase in marriage rates and marital stability and improvements in children’s behavior and school performance – a combination never seen before.

Results of the study, issued today by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center, were hailed by conservatives and liberals alike.

They said the study provided the first firm evidence that changes in welfare policies could lead to increases in marriage and marital stability, a central goal of many people who rewrote federal and state welfare laws in the last decade.

Minnesota required welfare recipients to work, but allowed them to continue receiving modest amounts of cash assistance at the same time. Minnesota’s program was more generous than those of most other states, and more expensive, but it was also more effective in achieving the stated goals of the federal welfare law signed by President Clinton in 1996.

In Minnesota, welfare workers went out of their way to emphasize that if welfare recipients took jobs, even low-wage jobs, they would be financially better off than if they stayed on welfare. When a person took a job, the state would not count 38 percent of monthly earnings in calculating the amount of cash assistance. This policy was intended as an incentive for people to work.

The investigators said they were surprised by the size of the changes they found in the last few years:

• The proportion of welfare recipients with jobs rose by 35 percent, and many of the jobs provided stable full-time work. (Half of single parents worked under the new welfare program, compared with 37 percent under the old program.)

• Earnings increased by 23 percent, to an average of nearly $8,000 a year for each person working.

• Average income, from earnings and welfare combined, rose 15 percent, to $10,800 a year.

• The proportion of welfare recipients with health insurance coverage rose to 69 percent, from 61 percent.

These changes led to remarkable changes in family life, the report said. Domestic abuse decreased by 18 percent, marriage rates increased by 50 percent, and parents said their children performed better in school and had fewer behavior problems.

The results were achieved in a robust economy, when unemployment is low.

Economists say the real test of the new programs could come in an economic downturn.

Minnesota not only required welfare recipients to take jobs quickly, as most other states have done, but spent additional money to encourage the formation of two-parent families, Ms. Golden said.

“Never before have we seen such clear evidence that more families became or stayed married,” she said. “Never before have we seen that the rates of women experiencing domestic violence decreased from a welfare program.”

Lisa A. Gennetian, a co-author of the report, said, “In Minnesota, we found the first strong evidence that changing the rules of the welfare system can actually increase the likelihood that single parents get married and that two-parent families stay together.”

Lissa, that’s very good news, if accurate. Do you have a link to provide? Do you know what the name of the study is? -I found a wealth of information on the 'net about MDRC, and about Minnesota’s welfare reform, but I couldn’t find any reference to this story. (May be too soon.)

If the study is correct, this gives much hope that we can return to the original “hand up” concept of welfare, instead of the “hand out” reality we frequently see, despite the intent and structure of welfare programs. I think it’s interesting to note that Minnesota’s reported successes with welfare reform have come, not by limiting welfare payments, but by actually expanding them to take away the “disincentive” to work.

sailor, I understand and totally share your frustration with criminals and/or career welfare recipients being able to stay on welfare rolls indefinitely. I wonder though if the results of excluding these people from welfare might be far worse than including them?

From a purely pragmatic standpoint, welfare reform to include both incentives for working and disincentives for abusing the system seems to have alot more going for it than exclusionary limits. (Proper administration of a welfare program could apply that “hand up” as a “boot in the ass” for the people who warrant it!)

The article can currently be found in AOL’s Family News section. I couldn’t find a URL to link directly to it. (Hate AOL.) But the article comes from the New York Times On The Web National Politics section.

And here’s an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Planet:

I fully agree that you can’t appreciate what you didn’t earn. And all the damn trust fund babies out there better sit up and take notice! Dubya, Gore Junior, that goes for you too!

Seriously sailor, I think that the rich tend to be lazier than the poor, assuming that laziness is quanitifiable–if only because they can relax in St. Martin as their money makes money, without having to worry about where their next meal is coming from.

I’d also be careful before you paint welfare recipients with too broad a brush. I completely applaud what Minnesota is doing, and I think it’s a giant step in the right direction–but in many parts of this country, a family could choose to stay on welfare because they can’t support themselves otherwise, even if working sixty hours a week at minimum wage. In that case, it’s not laziness–it’s making a rational decision.

“There are lots of poor in the world who work all the time, often with great skill, and remain poor. On the other hand, large deposit banks, although non-productive, have been among the most profitable institutions over the last half-century. Their executives continue to work relatively short hours.” - J.R. Saul, Doubter’s Companion (as usual)

Well, I see nobody has yet addressed the two main points I was trying to make… maybe I wasn’t clear (as is often the case).

A- Why is it that public housing usually ends up being a run down center for drugs and crime if most of the people there are solid honest people who just happen to be going through a bad moment?

B- If the reason society feels it should help the poor is that they are poor through no fault of their own (which I applaud), wouldn’t it make sense to deprive of that help to people who are criminals with antisocial conduct? (Of course, if we decide it is better to pay these people than to have them mugging us on the streets, then the motivation is very different… more like blackmail than solidarity.)

Anyway, while we wait for someone to address these points…
Matt, I am sure you are well-meaning and care for the wellbeing of others but you are quite off track when it comes to practical solutions. I’d rather have the country (or the company, or the airplane or my liver transplant) run by a mean guy who knows what he’s doing than by Mother Theresa if she doesn’t. Good intentions are only good for paving that road we all know. Your rhetoric seems to me to be quite negative, much more anti-rich than in favor of the poor.

Your assertion that “large deposit banks produce nothing” and others of that nature just show you have no idea… I mean, it’s not like you are the first person to think like that. Look, Chairman Mao had a similar idea a couple of generations ago. He decided capital was worthless, managers were worthless, only the “real” work of the “real” people really counted. Since he had the power he implemented his solution in China and sent everyone packing to the countryside to do some “real” work and called it the Cultural Revolution. The results are in the history books. Millions died from starvation… other millions had to be killed when they did not show enough enthusiasm for the idea. (While all this was going on, elderly Chairman Mao was spending his time in bed with teenage girls, just to show you how much he cared.) When Mao died the country was crippled. Since China has been implementing capitalist reforms the economy is booming and it seems the Chinese are very eager to adopt the system you so much despise.

Another well-known proponent of your ideas is Fidel Castro. He also believes, like you, that capital produces nothing, that the state should take care of everyone etc. Just look at Cuba… would you want to live there? I didn’t think so.

Instead of adopting capitalist reform, Castro has decided to stick it out… well, we shall see how it ends but I am quite confident it will not be, as he says, with the triumph of socialism over capitalism.
I do not deny capitalism is full of problems but it is the best system yet invented. Socialism was based on the idea that people were good and the system was bad but it failed. I propose we keep capitalism (tweaking it as necessary) and make the biggest effort in improving ourselves as people. No system will survive with a culture of selfishness.

Capitalism is a condition necessary (but not sufficient by itself) for a prosperous society. Look at any prosperous country and you will see a system with a strong rule of law, where property rights are strongly guaranteed against everybody, including the government. This is what China is trying to learn now.

Let’s face it, poor or rich there’s no better place to be than in the developed, capitalist countries. You would have to be a fool to deny that. Poor people come to the developed countries and through hard work many succeed. They are the ones who deserve our admiration.

For the poor people who work hard in poor countries and remain poor I suggest that, rather than sending them money, we need to teach them how to be more productive. Of course they are good people who work hard but that does not mean being productive. The Philippines come to mind. I mean these people have a culture of poverty and as long as they remain in that culture they will remain poor. I just saw in the news that 50% of the population there is under the age of 15. That is frightening. We need to teach them a better way of doing things or they will forever be stuck in that misery.
Regarding “trust-fund babies”, I still think you do not appreciate what you do not earn and many of these people soon part with their money which ends up in the pockets of those who are more knowledgeable. I certainly do not think it is a good education for a child to give him everything without effort. I find it admirable when people who could live comfortably without working make an effort to make a difference. The Kennedy family comes to mind. These guys have no need to do anything and yet, for the most part, they are making an effort to make things better (when they are not getting drunk or laid). I may not agree with their views but I cannot deny their merits.

But there is a difference between the two species: If the parents want to give their money to their children (or anybody else for that matter) I have nothing to say because it is their money. But if the government wants to take their money to give it to somebody else’s children… I think there is something wrong with that. I do not think it is fair and I think it discourages people from trying to make money. I might think I want to give something to my girlfriend just because I think she’s kind of cute. Does the government also have to find her cute for the gift to be allowed? How far does the examination go? Is Bill Clinton any part of this?

You find it easy to preach higher taxes for the rich because you see them affecting someone else, not you. But we are all rich, we are extremely rich compared to most of the population of the world. Now think of what you have and imagine it was taken from you and given to someone who had much less than you. Do you think it would have any positive effect on either of you? I don’t think so. You would think it was not worth your effort to obtain things if they would be taken from you and the person who got it is still unable to produce anything so once the life of the item is over he’s back to where he was… except now you do not have a second item to take away from you because you have decided to let someone else work while you ponder the unfairness of it all. Believe me, it has all been tried… if you have not been to Cuba I would recommend you go there and talk to the people who are supposedly the beneficiaries of a very equitable system… they will tell you how they feel about it and will gladly trade places with you.

sailor, I was unable to read all of that anti-capitalism into matt_mcl’s quotation of J. R. Saul, but I guess I’ll let him tell us if that was his intent. (I’ve already waded hip-deep into a similar discussion in matt’s “You have no right etc.” thread.)

<<short hijack>>
Hey matt, see you in the other thread. I’ll be the one with the Hitler mustache. (Don’t worry, I’ll recognize you by your Fidel fatigues and Mao red star cap.)
<<hijack over>>

I’m not so sure that it’s all public housing that tends to be run down and centers for drugs and crime. I live in NYC and for years I worked in a part of Brooklyn that had a lot of projects. The public areas (hallways, elevators and stairwells) were terrible in some, but not in others.There was a difference. The projects that were run down, dirty etc were the giant ones - twenty floors with 10-30 apts per floor. The ones that were okay were much smaller - two stories with four apartments per building. Since the inside of the apartments were just fine, I tend to think the difference was in the chance of someone holding people responsible.If I live on a floor with twenty apartments, and there’s garbage in the hall, I have no idea who did it. On the other hand , if there are only two apartments, and I didn’t do it , I know who did. Same thing with the drugs and crime. If there are two hundred or more apartments in the building , who can know if those guys hanging out in the lobby belong there ? They’d be much more obvious in a building with only four apartments, so they don’t hang out there.

In what way? The only thing that large deposit banks produce is money, which is not a product. You are correct that money is not worthless, in the same sense that kilometers are long. Money is a means of measurement of value, not a thing that can have value itself. Any attempt to sell money for a profit - usury, stock speculation, currency speculation - divorces money from its value by divorcing it from the goods and services it represents.

In other words, an increase in the money supply without corresponding production of real, valuable goods and services means that a greater number of dollars are chasing an unchanged amount of purchasables. This causes the value that a dollar represents to shrink, resulting in inflation unconnected to growth.

Money is a method of measurement of value, not a thing (a good or service) which is valuable itself.

Attempting to refute this by telling me that despots like Mao and Castro agree with me is like telling a vegetarian that they shouldn’t be vegetarian because Hitler was a vegetarian. It’s an argument ad hominem and it represents an unwillingness to deal with content.

See, I knew you agreed with me :slight_smile:

My beef is not with capitalism as such. When I went to Washington on the bus with the Marxist-Leninist contingent, it wasn’t because I am a communist. I am not. I am a social democrat. What that means is that I believe that capitalism is an excellent system for creating prosperity, but a lousy system for ensuring that the benefits of a prosperous society are well-distributed.

I thank my lucky stars that I was born in Canada, rather than the Phillipines. But I also thank my lucky stars that I was born in Canada, rather than the United States. And if the Americanization of Canada continues apace, I will spend more and more time considering a move to the Netherlands. There are right and wrong ways to conduct a capitalist state.

The philosophy of capitalism is focused on the self.
However, capitalism is an economic system, not a political one. The political system that is focused on the self and on one’s own group is known as corporatism. The last time it was tried and acknowledged as such was in Fascist Italy. “Capitalism was reasonably content under Hitler, happy under Mussolini, very happy under Franco, and delirious under General Pinochet.” -ibid.

This is not an argument for guilt by association as above. It merely goes to show that capitalism and democracy are not the natural friends that they’ve been claimed to be. It doesn’t mean that they can’t coexist. But the purpose of democracy is to focus on everybody; the common good; society at large. If democracy and capitalism are to coexist, democracy must control capitalism in order to harness it for the public good. If capitalism is permitted to prevail over democracy and democratic states, the result will be, and has been, social fragmentation.

They are producing a stunning amount of our electronics, clothing, toys, and other manufactured goods. Did you have another definition in mind?

If a portion of what I have is taken and distributed to a disadvantaged segment of the population, that benefits me in two ways.

As a social democrat, I have the pleasure of living in a society in which human beings who are no longer economically viable are not left to starve in the streets or die for lack of medical help.

As a capitalist, I am aware that “elites are capable of consuming only limited amounts of production before ceasing to function effectively. It is as if a single person can only control, own and wear so much property, so many objects and clothes. Beyond a certain quantity these inert elements no longer play a useful role in that person’s life. They become a burden” (JRS, TDC)

If wealth is distributed amongst more individuals, more individuals will have purchasing power. The demand for goods and services will go up. It may even go up sufficiently to revive an economy whose only growth sectors are, and have been for some 30 years now, non-productive.

Just to make sure you are all well and truly sick of my favourite author…

"What these experiences indicate is that democracy and capitalism are not natural friends. That doesn’t mean they must be enemies. But if allowed free run of the social system, capitalism will attempt to corrupt and undermine democracy, which after all is not a natural state. Democracy was a gradual and difficult creation against the stated desires of the natural sectors of power (authoritarian, military, class). It requires constant participation and can only be maintained by the toughness of its citizenry.
“A functioning democracy nevertheless needs to create wealth. It therefore needs some balance of capitalism. By carefully defining the limits permitted to that phenomenon, responsible government can allow the process of wealth creation to succeed…Democracy can…lay out rules of procedure which are based in ethics. Capitalism is then surprised to learn that it can produce wealth within the rules of the democratic game, providing they are perfectly clear and designed with the creation of wealth in mind.”
-J.R. Saul, The Doubter’s Companion

Matt, you say banks produce nothing useful. My suggestion to you then is: don’t use them! (I do not care for baseball and I do not go to the games but it is OK with me if other people choose to spend their money that way)

But you feel lending money for interest, speculating in stocks etc is a bad thing for society at large? I am assuming you are implying the government should prohibit or restrict these practices? So what I am pointing out to you is that this has already been tried before and the results were not good. I am not attacking you when I say this, I am telling you that this was tried before by those guys you do not like being compared to. If it didn’t work for them, what makes you think it will work for you? Even China which is, nominally at least, a socialist country, has banks that lend and charge interest and has corporations owned by stockholders etc. It so happens that those corporations are way more productive than the government owned companies. China wants more of that, not less. Do you think they are mistaken?

If you think you can have a successful economy and country without banks or corporations owned by stockholders you are dreaming. (And by the way, that Doubter’s Companion is crap.)

Regarding your argument that people can only spend so much, I see that as an argument in my favor. What they cannot spend they will invest thus creating jobs now and wealth for the future. Take that money away from them and give it to the poor and what do you have? A loaf of bread today and hunger tomorrow.

Anyway, it was an interesting exchange but we’ll have to agree to disagree.

Let’s focus on lending money for interest. I am obviously not against lending money; it’s how a capitalist society produces money to pay for growth. The point is that when interest rates are too high, inflation without growth (i.e. paper inflation) takes place. This is not a good thing.

When I say that bankers who make money through interest on loans, stock speculators, and whatnot are not productive, I mean exactly what I say. They buy and sell money for a profit; this process divorces money from its actual job as a representation of the value of goods and services. This leads to inflation without real industrial or economic growth.

My point in all this, lost all this time ago, was that since these kinds of speculators are becoming rich through buying and selling money (which is paper-inflationary, not growth-inflationary), the fact that they are richer than people who actually produce goods and services means that the poor are not necessarily lazy.

And you base this on what? Your cover-to-cover reading thereof?

Just want to make sure that the non-Canadians out there appreciate the source of so many of Matt’s quotes.

John Ralston Saul is an effete Canadian intellectual, a socialist mind you, who happens to be married to the Governor General of Canada (the person who represents the Monarch in Canada). You might think that a more oxymoronic couple could not exist. (And, by the way, even his wife refers to him as “John Ralston Saul”. Not John, or John Saul, or just JP. No, even his soul mate is compelled to refer to him in this silly, triplicate way)

Saul and the missus live in near opulence (they recently redid their kitchen for a mere 100K) and make a point of making appearances and pronouncements. Meanwhile, young pups like Matt wait for a ‘sound bite’ bone to drop from John Ralston Saul’s mouth, while the infirm monarchists and reactionarys delight in having his Governor General wife present a tour of their (officially subsidized) mansion.

And, generally, please note that Matt does not represent the views of most Canadians. The closest thing we have to Social Democrats, the so-called “New Democrats”, were virtually annilhilated at the last federal election. Not a helluva lot of supporters it seems.

I’m always amused when people attack Saul on the basis of his wife’s job. What was he supposed to say? “No, Adrienne, I forbid you to take that job.”

Be that as it may, an ad hominem attack generally indicates an unwillingness to deal with content.

No, he shouldn’t have forbade her. Au contraire. She, should have refused it. How can anyone jusitfy using tax dollars to support such a role, especially when there aren’t enough such dollars for all the needy people.

And you’re blaming her husband for this?

At any rate, I repeat: ad hominem attacks indicate an unwillingness or inability to deal with content. Is this how I should interpret your remarks?

Maybe ad hominem attacks are OK when the problem is the hominis, himself.

You’re are a good sport, Matt. So, I am becoming more receptive to your ideas. Let me ponder a bit and try to demonstrate both my willingness and ability in the next while.

I really don’t think you can argue that the homo ipsus is the problem in any debate, least of all this one, considering that if I had just raised those points in my own words rather than citing them as quotations, you would have had nothing to argue on.

At any rate, I thank you for abandoning irrelevant personalities, and await the continuation of the debate.