Working for what you get

In a December 4 Op-Ed Paul Krugman, Republicans are Coming for Your Benefits, takes a shot at comments by Orrin Hatch:

He (Hatch) then went on to say, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything.”

So who, exactly, was he talking about, and which programs are consuming these billions and billions and trillions?

Was he talking about food stamps, most of whose beneficiaries are children, elderly or disabled? (And many of the rest are working hard, just not earning enough to get by.)

Was he talking about the earned-income tax credit, which rewards only those who work?

Was he talking about Medicaid, which again mainly benefits children, the elderly and the disabled, plus people who work hard but whose jobs don’t provide health benefits?

Krugman then goes on to equate not working for benefits with not working for an inheritance; a true false equivalency. However, Krugman has a point. The vast majority of recipients of programs such as Medicaid are not able to work because they are elderly, disabled or children. Glib inaccurate remarks about welfare programs are inflammatory and counterproductive. Critics (in this case Republicans) should hold their tongues or speak all the facts.

Of those in the adult category most are in fact working or part of a working family.

The above does not mean there are no problems with Medicaid so Republican criticism cannot be dismissed. Medicaid enrollment has grown substantially along with its cost; both creating a growing burden on the states and federal taxpayers.

So, is merely doing nothing an option? Probably not.

The answer we seek, but seem to ignore, is to lower the need for these programs, not arbitrarily cut them. This must be a joint effort between government and individuals who must do more to help themselves, take more responsibility. For example, is it prudent that nearly 50% of all births in the US are under by Medicaid? Not that these women don’t deserve health care, but having children (including being single and and teenagers) while in poverty is not prudent. Over half of all poor children (56.2 percent) lived in families headed by women.

How can we make progress helping people when their behavior (and certainly not just the women) locks them and their children in poverty and public assistance? The problem is not as Republicans pose about working for benefits, and it’s not as Democrats suggest just about social compassion….. it is about being uneducated, poor and single and having considerably above average birth rates. That’s the trap!

Consider these statistics:

One comment

  1. I have been paying income and payroll taxes since 1966. I have not received Medicaid, unemployment compensation, welfare. I have not yet commenced Medicare or Social Security – even though I am eligible. So, I have been funding all of these entitlements all my adult life.

    We are now 50+ years into the “War on Poverty” – the rationale behind programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, welfare, food stamps, etc. Poverty rates among older Americans have declined substantially. Not so with respect to those under age 18 living in poverty, which was 70.2 MM in 1966, declined to a low of 62.3 MM in 1978, and is currently at 73.5 MM. What is the rationale for continuing to subsidize those who have children despite being financially incapable of providing support.

    I wasn’t a big Reagan fan but, with regard to government programs and entitlements, he said it well:

    “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”


    “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!”

    However, don’t expect any change. Even Reagan failed at controlling entitlement spending.


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