Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Don't Hate Welfare Just Because It's Federal

As far as I can tell, there are four arguments against the federal government providing any kind of welfare to its citizens. Well, actually three arguments and one reason. Let's dispense with the reason - resentment. People just seem to resent anyone else getting anything that they don't get or wouldn't want. Thus, when someone receives a government check, someone else is going to resent it - reasons, needs, economic benefit notwithstanding. Many people even resent Social Security. So let's just dispense with resentment. It's nothing but an emotion.

The three arguments against government-provided social welfare are cost, addiction, and vote buying. People opposed to government welfare are convinced that the government cannot afford it. People opposed to government welfare are also convinced that welfare robs people of the initiative to work, makes them lazy and dependent, and addicts them to government support. People opposed to government welfare are convinced that politicians bribe voters with promises of free stuff. I have a few thoughts on each of these arguments.

First - costs. Welfare paid for by the states does typically cost state taxpayers money. That's because the states must collect revenue in order to spend and revenue collected by most states takes the form of state income, property, and sales taxes. Except for federally provided money, states spend money collected from their residents. So yes, state-run welfare costs the taxpayers money. But this is not so at the federal level. Federal spending is not dependent on, or even related to, federal taxation. Because the federal government creates dollars by spending, welfare funded by federal spending does not cost taxpayers a dime. In fact, federal welfare adds dollars to the economy providing a degree of stimulus which promotes increased private sector spending which promotes greater private sector production which promotes private sector job creation which lessens the need for many welfare payments. So rather than argue that welfare costs the government money, I would argue conversely that federal welfare adds to the country's economic growth. I would further think that all government welfare should be paid for by the federal government, not the states, even if the states were to continue to administer the programs.

Second - addiction. Face it, there will always be some relatively few cases in which welfare recipients grow dependent on the government dole for an extended period of time or even a lifetime. In fact, Social Security is a form of federal welfare that lasts a lifetime and sometimes longer and I am certain that few, if any, Social Security recipients have ever chosen to quit receiving their payments because they already make enough money to get by. Make no mistake, Social Security is every bit as much welfare as food stamps and section 8 housing. We think we paid for Social Security with our payroll taxes, but as we've already discussed, federal payroll taxes are just federal taxes and as such, they just remove dollars from circulation and destroy them. Federal spending is not funded by federal taxes - remember? But I digress. If federal welfare promotes laziness and dependency, then do not all sources of welfare promote laziness and dependency? Welfare is welfare is it not? You can grow as dependent on the largesse of your parents or siblings as you can the federal government. Is it any less moral for the federal government to provide someone money for food than for the Red Cross, Salvation Army, or local soup kitchen or homeless shelter to provide food or money for food. Does it really make sense that welfare provided by the federal government causes more welfare dependency than welfare provided by private means? If I am hungry and broke what difference does it make to me where the welfare comes from? If I am prone to dependency, I can grow just as dependent on the Salvation Army as I can the federal government. To argue that federal welfare breeds dependency is to argue that all welfare breeds dependency.

Finally - vote buying. People vote in their own best interests whether those interests are promises of tax breaks, new roads, federal spending on pet projects, or the promise of welfare. Pick your poison. 'Nuff said.

You may choose to oppose federal welfare, that's your right. But just don't be so quick to convince yourself that because the welfare is provided by the federal government that it is inherently bad.