Monday, February 18, 2013

"Shared Prosperity" Another Name for Failed Policies

Michael P. Riccards, executive director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy-New Jersey, last August opened an op-ed with:

   Herbert Hoover promised to end poverty in 1928 with a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. In the 1960s, Lyndon Johnson promised to wage a successful war on poverty, but today, an estimated 15 million people remain desperately poor in America.
   That’s just the “desperately poor.” A 2011 Census study reported a total of 146.4 million Americans (nearly 1 in 2) are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income, perched perilously on the slippery rung just above desperately poor.

If you think that Riccards' intent is to question the government's policies over the past 80 years, and propose a new direction, you would be mistaken. His op-ed is titled "Sharing Prosperity can fend off poverty."

Riccards offers no specific policy proposals, only "an urgent need to elect politicians who see the poor not as a problem, but as an opportunity to build a stable 21st-century economy." Instead, he takes a cheap shot at "the aggressive New Right,"  and in particular Paul Ryan and his budget and his "unswerving fixation on breaking apart the federal government" (an overstatement if there ever was one). Ryan's budget, of course, would do no such thing: It wouldn't even cut spending, but merely slow its growth. 

I left these brief comments:

"The history lesson presented here is a clear indictment of the American welfare state. For nearly 100 years, we have had an unrelenting growth of government programs, culminating in the rampant Bush-Obama statism of the past decade. Today, the government is bigger than ever. Spending, regulating, and crony 'capitalism' are at unprecedented levels. It is no coincidence that this nation’s economic problems are multiplying just as the welfare state is at its historic peak. The regulatory welfare state, which is based on a watered down version of the principle that ability and productiveness must be sacrificed to need, is reaching its logical conclusion as the economy grinds down and threatens to roll over towards catastrophe. 
"Are we now to double down on failure? The intellectual bankruptcy of the Left is on display in this article. The future belongs to the champions of free market capitalism, the real progressives. Shared prosperity? It’s called voluntary trade, not legalized criminality called redistribution of wealth or government 'investment.'"

Riccards is not content to merely blast Ryan's policies. Sinking even lower, Riccards basically accuses Ryan of being a hypocrite, stating "Ironically, the government services and protections Ryan works so strenuously to weaken for others have been his springboard." He notes:

   Ryan attended a publicly funded university for his schooling and has drawn nearly every cent of his adult wages from government coffers.
   His father died when Ryan was a teen; the Ryan family received Social Security survivors benefit payments and a federal Pell grant, allowing his mother to attend college and learn new job skills to keep the family out of poverty.

In other words, if you receive government "benefits" of any kind, you have no moral right to speak out against welfare state policies--never mind that you funded those benefits through coercive taxes to support programs you were forced into with the promise of some benefit. 

Today, given the size and intrusive scope of government, it is virtually impossible to not be a beneficiary of some government program, be it Social Security, Roads, public parks, schools, or libraries--the list goes on and on. So by Riccards' logic, we may as well repeal the First Amendment, except that it's not necessary, because statists can use the taxpayers' own money as a weapon of moral censorship by means of the "benefits" those tax dollars pay for. The nature of the insidious game going on, and the evil genius of the welfare state, is obvious, as Riccards demonstrates here. One might call it, "The Welfare State Trap." 

If you want to know the true motives of anyone who advocates government "assistance," it's on display here. Get a man hooked on some form of government handout, and he is yours to control--and silence--for life. Get more than half the population hooked, and you've got a built-in support structure for welfare statism. Add in the means of guilt-tripping resistors into silence--altruism-- and you have a clear path to ever-bigger government.

Ending poverty is not the goal of welfare statists. Poverty itself is the goal. If ending poverty were the goal, it's obvious that welfare statism has failed miserably, as any socialist scheme must, by its nature. In fact, real poverty was virtually wiped out during capitalism's heyday from the late 18th Century to the dawn of the Welfare State in the early 20th, a time which saw the emergence of the American middle class. 

Of course, what we call "poverty" today is a relative term, but that's part of the game. As I wrote a few years ago, "according to the egalitarian doctrine of 'relative poverty', the 'poor' will always be with us because, no matter how wealthy [a society], there will always be a class of people who have less material wealth than others and will thus fall below some arbitrarily devised 'poverty level' of income."

The nation has an urgent need, writes Riccards, for "an economy anchored to a steadily rising growth curve that benefits the 1 percent by integrating the 99 percent as true partners in shared prosperity." On this I agree with Riccards, but not in the way he means it. We once had such an economy in almost pure form. We still have remnants of it managing to keep our economy afloat. It's the system of individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government. It is the system of personal productiveness and the greatest and only moral prosperity-sharing human interaction--voluntary, mutually beneficial, mutually self-interested trade.

It is the system of earned prosperity. It is called free market capitalism.

Related Reading:

The "Relative" Poverty Gimmick

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