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Challenging Political Stereotypes – Let’s Actually Help Those in Need

There are certain things that we all assume to be true, but once we dig deeper, we find out that even with the best of intentions there can be unintended consequences.

Democrats care about the poor, the minorities, children, the elderly, and women, and Republicans just want to give tax breaks to the wealthy so they can get richer… or at least that’s what we’ve been told our entire lives. 

But what if this is just a picture that has been painted that we are all so familiar with, that we believe it whether it is true or not.  What if I told you that the Mona Lisa didn’t have eyebrows because it was the fashion at the time to shave them off?  You would probably think I’m crazy, but then you’d probably be curious and look it up.  You would find out that something was not the way you always assumed it was, and you’d never look at it the same way again.

What if I then told you that programs designed to help people with low incomes actually encourage them to keep their income low?  I challenge you to go beyond the political rhetoric and actually look into the numbers to see the unintended side effects of government assistance programs.  Do not think that this is a call to remove these programs.  It is our duty as Americans to help those in their time of need, but please realize that these programs need a serious overhaul.  Welfare, housing assistance and other benefit programs should not be a floor, under which no family should fall, but a trampoline that is there when people stumble that helps them bounce back up again and encourages personal success.  There’s plenty of room in the middle class for anyone who wants to be better off than they are now.  We need to remove the barriers that are keeping people from seeing the benefits of their hard work and create pro-growth policies that help those of us that are in the middle class continue to succeed and provide a constantly improving lifestyle for our families.

When we look at welfare, housing assistance, medical insurance, food stamps and other benefit programs, they are designed to give the biggest benefits to families at the bottom of the income scale and phase out as income goes up.  At first glance, this seems to make sense.  Give more help to families that make less money.  But when we start digging into the numbers a little more, what happens when one of those families make an extra $10,000 per year?  Do they see $10,000 more income?  With taxes and reduced benefits do they make $5,000 more?  $1,000 more?  Well, a family of 3 going from $20,000 to $30,000 or from $30,000 to $40,000 per year may have as much as $2,500 LESS money to spend per year.  It isn’t until almost $50,000 per year in household income where you start seeing a benefit to bringing in more money.

The typical response to this problem would be to provision more funding for these programs.  This seems like the right thing to do.  If we have the resources to help someone, we should make every effort to help them.  However, if we look at what the Federal and State governments are already spending on these programs, the math doesn’t add up.  The government is currently spending over a trillion dollars per year on these programs.  That is over $60,000 per family in poverty per year.  I’m not saying we should just give cash payouts to people, but if that money had gone directly to the families we would have completely wiped out poverty.  That would actually bring those families to more than double the poverty line.  Even if we were 50% efficient, that would be enough to bring almost every family in America out of poverty.  We have laws in place that require health insurance companies to spend at least 80% of the money they collect on benefits (the 80/20 rule), but clearly we are not even close to that level of efficiency in government distribution of benefits.

Whenever someone brings up the prospect of privatizing any of these programs, especially health care, they are immediately criticized by people claiming that it would create some sort of Wild West free for all instead of the nice, orderly government administered programs.  With a complete lack of regulation, that could be the case, but if there are certain standards implemented then we would have a base level of coverage for a base cost, but there would be options to have additional features for additional costs. 

The reason we should support this type of benefit distribution is that the private insurance companies are already required to have high levels of efficiency that are just not found in government.  Additionally, they are accountable to us, the consumers.  It is up to the consumer to put their own money toward the option that they feel will give them the greatest benefit for the cost.  There can still be government administered healthcare, but if there is an option to get more benefits for the same cost in the private sector, it can lead to direct competition and improvements in the public option.  We want to get more of the tax dollars and benefits to the people, not keep them tied up in bureaucracy and going to an ever expanding government.  If we increase the efficiency enough, we can actually get more benefits to people for a lower cost to taxpayers.  This means more assistance for the poor and more money in the pockets of the middle class.  This is not slashing benefits, it is slashing waste.

Please understand that when someone says they care about people in one breath and that they want to cut spending in the next that those concepts do not necessarily contradict each other.  It’s just easier to explain “dump more money into the system” in a 30 second commercial than it is to describe a detailed plan to increase efficiency in administration and distribution of benefits.  We’re all working toward the same goal, regardless of party affiliation, but some of us are looking for a path that doesn’t bankrupt the nation with good intentions.  Once we begin to question the political clichés of the last several decades we can seek out the changes that need to be made and work together to fix them, not just argue the positions of parties.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Harry November 04, 2012 at 01:18 PM
GoRomney!
AWD November 04, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Heard today, only 41% of our wokforce is producing for the economy, the balance is either working for the Government or living off Government entitlements. A big part of that is because of the last four years of terrible Obama policies. In the roaring '20's? Taxes were cut by President Harding by 50% and government spending was reduced by 60%. A decade later, FDR implementing massive government spending called the New Deal, which resulted in the depression lasting from 1929 until 1946. We need to cut government by 80% and lower taxes by 50%. I hope Romney/Ryan go bold with their change plans.
Randy1949 November 04, 2012 at 04:21 PM
@AWD -- Someone didn't pay attention in history class. The New Deal caused the Great Depression? Really? Wasn't there a big market crash in 1929 first? You know, former millionaires jumping out of windows and stuff? That was three and a half years before FDR took office. Drastic cuts in the tax rate and market deregulation gets you 1929 and 2008.
Michael McClusky November 04, 2012 at 04:29 PM
The best way to help the poor is to raise interest rates at the Federal Reserve. This would increase the value of the money that the poor already have. This would make life better for them. Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve Chairman, has promised to keep interest rates at 0% until atleast 2015. He needs to be fired.
David Tatarowicz November 04, 2012 at 06:55 PM
@AWD If you believe that FDR caused the Great Depression --- then you probably think that Obama caused the Great Recession ..... do you think a history test should be mandatory for people who want to vote ? It would save you from needing a voter ID --- but maybe the Republicans want voters like you !! We pay money for goods and services --- Economics 101 --- whether they come from the private sector or the public sector is not relevant to their intrinsic value --- public sector jobs, can be just as good or bad for the overall economy as private sector --- it is not who provides the services, if needed, that determines a job's worth to the overall economy.
Luke November 04, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Government jobs programs have been proven to be detrimental to males and only marginally beneficial to females. Males who participate in government jobs programs are one standard deviation worse off than if they had not participated at all. Also, a recent government study shows that only 22k of 61k spent on poverty programs actually reaches those in need. Obviously we need to change things. Improving the economy and preschool for the poor are the only two things that have ever been shown to be able to permanently move the poor to a higher class, not to mention improving their IQ scores.
Luke November 04, 2012 at 08:48 PM
David, While you are teaching us about Econ 101, please do tell us exactly why and how public sector jobs are "just as good or bad for the overall economy." And while you are at it, please tell us were the taxes to pay for the public sector come from. Finally, finish off by telling us why we shouldn't move all the unemployed to the public sector. Please, David, tell us these things before the chirping crickets overtake the Patch.
Luke November 04, 2012 at 10:48 PM
David?
oak creek resident November 04, 2012 at 11:09 PM
David shows his total ignorance regarding econ 101 in his statements regarding public vs private jobs. What a complete and utter moron. Secondly, FDR prolonged the Depression by a good 3-4 years (most economists agree on this), and he was nothing more than a weak pettty liberal tyrant.
DICK STEINBERG November 05, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Where exactly are these high level of efficiency by insurance companies. We pay for what we get if and when we get it.
Luke November 05, 2012 at 01:52 AM
Where exactly are these high level of efficiency by insurance companies .................. Everywhere. Contact your favorite one for a quarterly report.
Patrick Ruffino November 05, 2012 at 01:57 PM
According to the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rule, also known as the "80/20" rule, insurance companies are legally required to spend 80% of premiums collected on patient benefits. This is 85% for larger insurance companies. I don't necessarily agree with this law, because it encourages insurance companies to increase premiums to make the rule easier to follow, but it demonstrates a typical efficiency of a private insurance company.
Sharpie November 05, 2012 at 03:41 PM
"Support for Kill List and NDAA make Obama and Romney Unfit for Office" Read more: http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/reawakening-liberty/2012/nov/2/support-kill-list-and-ndaa-make-obama-and-romney-u/ See if there is a clear winner to our Presidential Election 2012. Make a special note to watch the Free and Equal Election Debate between third party Presidential candidates, Gov. Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and Dr. Jill Stein (Green), to be aired tonight on Monday evening, Nov. 5th from 9:00 - 10:30 pm Eastern Time. Perform a worthwhile civic duty, and be certain to listen in on this historic debate so that you can make an informed decision on voting day. Third party candidates who will be on the ballot in most states deserve to be heard. http://freeandequal.org/?v=1
Taoist Crocodile November 05, 2012 at 05:18 PM
If the GOP can't win the presidency this year, then they should do some serious soul searching. Maybe extreme conservatism isn't what the county wants, hmmm?
tea party express November 05, 2012 at 08:12 PM
You learn a lot about a man's character during adversity.......... When freshmen assembly member Paul Farrow had a question on why protective services were exempt from collect bargaining Farrow went to the Republican Party leaders for his answers. What did freshmen assembly member Chris Kapenga do? Kapenga was the star of the gossip columnist Daniel Bice's articles and Jeff Flemming's loser of the week on the Charlie Sykes show. Kapenga openly ran his mouth calling key members in his own party and the governor a sell out. I believe this is why every Republican has turned their back on Kapenga and not endorsed him. We need a mature senator that can handle conflict without starring in the gossip column. That's why I am supporting Paul Farrow for senate and you should also.
Lyle Ruble November 05, 2012 at 08:23 PM
@tea party express...What do you mean when you say "protective services"? Can you please clarify?
Greg Burmeister November 07, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Amen to that!

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