December 2010 - Posts

Even though this is more than just my tech blog I don't often post content of a political nature, but my train of thought has been so surprisingly close to this quote that I could hardly believe it when I saw it. 

I just read this in a comment on an article about parts of the health care law being found unconstitutional. I think it's awesome and sums up what I try to tell people when they ask why I am a republican:

"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."

-- Dr. Adrian Rogers 

I believe myself to be a very middle of the road person when it comes to welfare policy.  I believe that some welfare is absolutely necessary. After all, if you see government as a community organization that has interests in making investments for the future benefit of the community, then keeping people from falling through to rock bottom is in our best interest.  At some point in our lives almost anyone could be found in a free-fall situation and keeping us from falling all of the way to the bottom before we can begin to rebound would be a very smart investment. The problem is that the governing philosophy does not reflect the proper values. Let me explain.

Every person needs a safety net.  A safety net is defined as people and resources that can be used to come to your rescue.  The first and built-in safety net is our family.  If you needed to move back home because of unemployment, for example, it is very likely that your parents are willing to share their resources and assets to help you out in this situation.  What if you don't have any family or your family is in the same situation?  The community should, in my opinion, be your next safety barrier.  Depending on where you live you may know your neighbors really well or you may not know them at all.  I think we should know our neighbors very well and should be the kind of community where we can help neighbors out when they go through a tough time.  After all, having a neighbor check in on you when your sick is the next best thing to a family member. We should also seek to become this kind of neighbor. 

Lastly, if a person has no family safety net, and no community safety net, then there should be a government safety net.  The trick is to not think of the government as an independently wealthy entity that owes goods and services to you; but rather the collective resources of your community pooled together for things that are essential and needful. It should also be your last line of support. I think it can be easy to forget that what you demand of your government you are really demanding of your neighbors. With this philosophy in mind perhaps the welfare system is not quite in line with what really is best for all.  

For example, if someone relies on the welfare to pay unemployment benefits then perhaps this philosophy could help.  First, the benefits that are paid should probably be closer to what that person was making when they were working.  For the short term that will save the person from huge financial problems and help them transition easily onto a new job. Once at the new job they can begin paying back the system they relied on using fair no-gain payment arrangements that could be adjusted to be repaid easily over a long period of time. This would also remedy the stigma of employing the unemployed -- that somehow they have baggage that the management prefers to not get involved in.

Obviously this strategy only works well for those who are unemployed short-term.  For long term unemployed we would probably need to take a much different strategy.  First we would need to assess if the person has aptitude for something better than what they were doing.  If they are long term unemployed then it's quite likely that there will not be any new jobs that want to hire that person with their existing qualifications.  Offer them a grant or loan to attend training to receive qualifications that should not only help them find a job but help them find a better job. At the same time get them working -- at least part time.  This part could be tricky but important.  Finding work for someone who can't find work may seem like an impossible idea, but consider that there are just some jobs that almost anyone can do, even if they have to work for the government filing papers. There is always this kind of work that needs to be done.  

Perhaps you were a programmer and can't find work programming.  No problem! Take some tech support calls for this company while you go to school to upgrade your Fortran 77 skills at the local community college.  No, you probably can't make a living doing the tech support calls, but if your unemployment benefits helped out a little during this transitional phase then you would be fine! When you're done you would be in a much better place to be able to contribute back to the community. 

In some cases a person will need to draw much more from the support network then they could possibly repay.  In these cases they should not be subject to crushing financial obligations -- although some should be repaid when possible.  Just like anything else, not every investment will yield a return and steps will have to be taken to minimize the number of losses but I think that thoughtful implementation of a program along these lines could go a long way.  It would allow people to reach their full potential and not reward those who are content to live off of hand-outs.

Then, once we have figured out that the government is in the business of investing in it's people and people realize that the government is really a group of their neighbors / community, then I think we can figure out better solutions to a whole host of problems.  The term "entitlement programs" would evaporate and be replaced with "community support programs" or "perpetual support programs" being perpetual in the sense that once you have been a benefactor you can replenish the resources you used so another can also benefit.

Imagine a world where our payroll taxes were a hundredth of what they are now. You may be paying more taxes from time to time, but overall there would be very few instances of people using the government like they would their rich uncle. If you look at where the money is going right now you would realize that this is absolutely possible, and in order for our country to survive as a democratic republic long-term, absolutely necessary!

Not to make too fine a point, but pretty much everyone who lives in the U.S. will admit that it's the greatest country in the world and there isn't anywhere else quite like it. At the same time they argue for more and more social programs (the health care legislation being one of those) at the expense of "the rich". They probably don't realize that even if we taxed the rich for 100% of everything they earn it would be woefully short of what would be needed to sustain these programs. The way we lose democracy starts out like this: a well-meaning program to help the "have not's" takes from the "haves" and starts a class war. Being more poor than rich, we vote into government those who are willing to wage this war.  When the money is gone, and it will go fast, society will start to collapse.  I may not have all of the specifics of how exactly this will happen but the eventuality is that we'll either have the government stop promising people things it just can't deliver or we will slowly move from democracy to socialism and then to communism.  

What's so bad about that socialism and communism? It seems to work for billions of people, right? WRONG! There is nothing to envy! While a certain country may or may not become the new economic power -- it does not help the majority of its citizens. It doesn't suppress freedoms because it's so powerful it needs something to do, it does so because it must.  People are not a potential investment, they are a liability.

I learned long ago while studying Computer Science that if the underlying architecture of something is flawed then anything built on that architecture will be brittle, burdensome, and end up costing a lot more then switching to the appropriate architecture in the long run.  Just like in Computer Science, if we build social policy on some bad underlying philosophy then we can expect the same kind of results.


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