Some poor schmuck on Reddit left a comment in a discussion about Basic Income and this story about the the Pew Research political findings a few weeks ago, which highlighted the finding that 'More than three quarters of conservatives say the poor “have it easy”'.
I thought he was actually saying "standard anti-welfare conservative talking points" as his own opinion, rather than just sarcastically quoting those points. I have apologised to him for the lightning bolts I unleashed. But it actually led to what I think is a pretty darn good rant by my standards. So, despite its sketchy origins, here is my rant about UNcompassionate conservatives. Yes, it's all stuff everyone here has heard before and know about. But it's kinda nice to have it all in one place.
So. Some conservative in your hearing says:
Welfare is theft, it makes people lazy, and drains our resources.And you boil over, and you respond thusly:
Welfare is theftThere are about 86 reasons why that statement is complete and utter bullshit, but I'll just get into two.
1. The current way in which the profits from the productivity of American workers are split between the workers and the owners (shareholders, CEOs, et al.) is theft. After WWII for about a quarter of a century, as US productivity grew, the average wage of working Americans grew at about the same rate. As well, the average earnings of the top 1% ("the owners", basically) also grew at about the same rate. But starting around 1980, while US productivity continued to grow at about the same rate, the average wage of working Americans flattened out, while the average earnings of the top 1% started growing at about double the rate of productivity growth. That is "theft". When the world's largest and richest corporation thinks it's OK to a) give their front-line workers only "part-time" hours (20-24 h/wk) vs. "full-time" hours (35-40) so that they don't have to provide as many benefits as they would have to provide full-time workers, b) pay those workers the lowest wage they can possibly get away with, c) get away with paying those workers so little because each of their locations probably killed many local businesses who were potential competitors for both customers and employees, d) make rules for their employees that make it impossible for them to look for other ways to boost their income (e.g. "You have to be available any time for us to call you in, and if you ever miss even one such call, you're fired, so don't even think about getting a second job so you can better provide for your family"), and e) not only recognize that many of your employees now qualify for food stamps and Medicaid, but actually encourage them to apply for such, meaning that wages and benefits that this corporation certainly could afford to pay are instead "made up for" by my tax dollars and your tax dollars, that is theft by the corporation. Theft from the counties and municipalities they browbeat into giving them big-ass property tax breaks that make it harder for those counties and municipalities to provide basic services to their residents, and/or force everyone else's property taxes to go up. Theft from you and me. Theft from local businesses who can't compete with these unfair practices. Theft from suppliers they browbeat into giving them deals that make it harder for those suppliers to keep having a diversified customer base. Theft. Look behind the curtains and see who the real thieves are.
2. Jesus said "For ye have the poor with you always." And we probably always will have poor people, even if we somehow stumble into a utopia. So: What kind of society do you want to live in? Do you want to live in a society as in centuries past, where very often the poor and needy were left to starve? And those who didn't want to starve turned to theft, brigandage, and murder to get what they needed? And where people were hanged for stealing a loaf of bread? And where the crowd around that public hanging was thronged with pickpockets? Where sometimes the poor even resorted to rebellion ("Party like it's 1789!")? Or you could have a society like today's America, where there are more empty homes than homeless people, where more food is wasted than is needed by the hungry, where a horribly racist legal system condemns many many men of colour to perpetual poverty and unemployment by jailing them when they try to provide in a way that's deemed "unacceptable" by people like you, and then refusing to let them work after their release? If that's the kind of society you want, well, bloody go somewhere else and have it, 'cause I've actually got something resembling a heart thumping away inside my ribcage. Me, I'd prefer a society where we all chose the higher road, to provide the poor and needy with whatever they need, on the grounds that we can damn well afford it, where the poor and needy don't feel "outcast", but feel like (and really are) part of the community, where we no longer treat people of colour as "other", but as fellow children of God. Not only do I think such a society will be better for everyone, there's a damn good chance it'd be cheaper in the long run, too.
it makes people lazyMore bullshit. Yes, when social welfare programs or a Basic Income or whatever are available to people without having to "work for a living", some people will just take advantage of it and coast. But first, even if this was a more general truth (rather than only being true for a small minority), a well-implemented Basic Income system would alleviate "laziness" in two ways. First, it would be set at a "bare minimum"; a single adult with no income other than the BI should be able to have safe shelter, adequate food, and adequate washroom facilities, and not bloody much else. Combine this with getting rid of the awful practice of "clawing back" employment income from people on assistance, and there will be a big incentive to work.
Second, look at the kinds of "welfare cliffs" that our current mish-mash of social welfare programs leads to. In that famous example from the chart of a single woman with two children earning $29,000/yr., she has no incentive to angle for a raise or a promotion, because if she goes up to even $30,000/yr., her situation in terms of net benefits would be a *huge* step down. She'd have to get a raise to $69,000/yr. to stay level. But when BI replaces that hodgepodge, if she gets a raise to $30,000, her situation will improve, not regress. Sure, she'll pay some taxes on that extra $1,000, but she'll still be farther ahead of where she was before that raise. So I'll grant you that our current social welfare "systems" can have perverse incentives for "laziness" for some people, but one of the biggest reasons why I and many others advocate for BI is because, properly-implemented, it would eliminate those perverse incentives.
drains our resources.I'm going to tell you a story.
A number of years ago in Vancouver, British Columbia, a young woman from Korea, in Vancouver to study English, was walking in Stanley Park, one of the biggest and most beautiful urban parks in the world. A man jumped her, ISTR he sexually assaulted her, and strangled her and left her for dead. On the one hand, she survived; on the other hand, the strangling starved her brain of oxygen for long enough to render her immobilized and mute. She will now need very expensive medical care for the rest of her life. Humanitarian concerns brought her mother to Canada from Korea to be with her daughter and care for her. The cost of caring for her will be in the tens of millions. And, on top of that, you have the cost of police finding and arresting the perp, the courts and prosecutors and public defenders trying the perp, and the prison system for jailing the perp. (And do note that even in the US, it can be cheaper to send someone to Harvard for four years than it is to jail someone for four years.)
I remember hearing the news reports on the radio, and I especially remember one bit from the sentencing hearing. The perp's mother was on the stand. Through racking sobs and bitter tears, she told of how she knew something was "off" with her son from his very early childhood. She took him to doctors, talked to school officials when he entered kindergarten, sought aid from the province's Ministry of Families and Children, all begging them for some kind of help or assistance. She didn't know what was "wrong" with her boy, but he was violent and angry and difficult to control, and she sought help everywhere she could, yet couldn't find any. Now, I ask you: What if that kid had gotten a few thousand dollars' worth of psychological help, say, through the school district, when he was 5? Would he have then committed a crime at age 22 that would cost our society tens of millions of dollars?
NOT taking care of people who need help, be they poor, mentally ill, learning-disabled, abused/traumatised/neglected, costs more money than actually doing something to fix it. Every Single Time. By standing against decent reasonable social welfare programs like BI, or perhaps universal healthcare, you and people like you are costing our system more money than if we just damn well did it right.
But no, too many damn people have a sick combination of the "just world" fallacy and the perverse Calvinism that gave rise to the "Protestant work ethic" and the racism that makes it So Much Easier to dismiss the sufferings and problems of those of our poor and needy who are people of colour. And the plutocrats, the owners, take advantage of these people, stoking their fears, telling them that the poor and needy "don't deserve help", "would only spend it on drugs", "are a bunch of lazy bums", all so that these plutocrats can get away with paying their employees shit wages, with dodging taxes, with ignoring the crumbling of the nation's infrastructure because as long as their gated communities have enough ex-cops as security staff and well-paved roads and water mains that won't break and private schools for their kids, they Do Not Give A Single Fuck about anyone who's not One Of Them.
So. Which are you? Do you make more than $250,000/yr., or do you have a net worth of more than, say, $5 million? Or are you one of The Rest Of Us, the 99%, at whom this bullshit plutocratic propaganda is aimed, who has allowed himself to be fooled into thinking that your "real enemy" is the "welfare queen", the homeless drug addict, the black teenagers walking towards you on the sidewalk, or maybe Planned Parenthood, or maybe gay/lesbian couples who want to get married, any other enemy, just to distract you from realizing who is really causing the most fucked-up-ed-ness in your life, i.e. The Owners, the ones who just keep raping and raping us, like they did in the 1920s, like they did in 2008, who make money during the good times and often even make more money during the bad times that completely fubar everything for the rest of us, while they laugh all the way to their Scrooge-McDuck-like vaults?
Wake up. Look around. Turn off Fox News. Go meet some real poor people. Go make friends with someone whose skin doesn't look like yours. Go walk a mile in their shoes. Get out of the bubble that Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes and Lee Atwater and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity and Charles and David Koch and the John Birch Society and the Tea Party and Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Mitt Romney and Sheldon Adelson and all of the other filthy rich greedheads have constructed for you. Pop that damn bubble and Get A Clue.