We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Thursday, March 27. 2014
5 ways to use a card to repair bad credit
Japan's Booming Sex Niche: Elder Porn
Trolls and hiring practices: Women on fixing the games industry
Gravitational-wave finding causes 'spring cleaning' in physics - Big Bang findings would strengthen case for multiverse and all but rule out a 'cyclic Universe'.
A List Of 97 Taxes Americans Pay Every Year
Best retirement advice for many: Never retire
Job Creation Is Up To You
Wind power and its threat to wildlife
The Coming Paradigm Shift on Climate
Imperial trappings for an empty suit
What Happens If A US President Stops Speaking, And Nobody Claps
The Conservative Myth of a Social Safety Net Built on Charity - The right yearns for an era when churches and local
Infinity Journal: "The Strategy
Sailors leaving Navy over stress on social issues, Top Gun instructor says
China waging ‘Three Warfares’ against United States in Asia, Pentagon says
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Re: Conservative myth, don't have time to read the whole thing (as I am off to work to pay for the safety net) but it seems to start on a false premise about how the federal government saved everyone back in the Depression and Recession. But Amity Shales's The Forgotten Man explains how the feds made the 29 depression into the Great Depression.
"Why are infrastructure projects so slow these days?"
That's easy. Lawyers and Liberal Arts majors. The bane to human existence.
"Sailors leaving Navy over stress on social issues, Top Gun instructor says"
Why stay where you are not wanted?
"The Conservative Myth of a Social Safety Net Built on Charity"
To begin with, the writer paints a lurid picture of "conservatives" dreaming of a return to some utopian past. A past where private charity took care of everyone and everything was groovy. A past nobody believes ever existed. A magical land of wizards and hobbits maybe. Just a bit over the top, I would say.
Among his bolder claims is this, "Over the past 30 years the public role in social insurance has taken a backseat to the idea that private institutions will expand to cover these risks." Jeepers, that's news to me.
I have to laugh, since the federal programs at the present time and for the past 30+ years have sucked up so much money, there has been precious little left for private charities. In fact, the government has firmly placed the private charities, church charities and even the local food pantries under it's control via regulations and subsidies. Private charities are essentially gone, they are all on the dole.
So, we basically have another typical advocacy piece pitting the evil, stupid conservatives against the loving, caring, selfless and intelligent progressives. Who could have guessed it was the progressives who invented charity?
Propaganda like this leaves no room for an honest discussion about where and how charitable, social safety net responsibilities should be apportioned between the various social institutions. Local, state and federal governments each have roles to play. Not too many folks really believe we should return to colonial times. And, the business community and private(ish) charities can help. Churches are a traditional backstop but need to remove themselves from government control. That abomination called the faith based initiative must go.
Importantly, the focus should be local, local is where the people actually know one another. People who know one another are more likely to care. Local people know the needs of the community and can respond quickly and efficiently. And they would, if they didn't have to send all their money to Washington. Local control also means the people are less likely to vote themselves into a financial black hole of unlimited spending. They need to balance their budgets. Nope, conservatives don't believe in time travel, they just know what's practical in an imperfect world.
Agreed. There’s also a Keynesian assumption woven into that narrative about charity. All gov’t spending helps stabilize the economy.
More generally, gov’t activity is defined as beneficial. All other assumptions must follow. And in Progressiveland, government is a monolith. There is no subsidiarity, no competition between gov’t schemes.
Great comment! Basically you're advocating for an organizational form called subsidiarity which is a key Catholic concept. The US constitution and founding fathers called it Federalism. Moving far more responsibility to as local or necessary as possible would solve a whole lot of issues.
I agree with you WC. In addition, I would make a few comments.
Konczal claims that the fact that states and municipalities belies the "conservative"contention that all indigent support was through private charity. I might admit that that form of support is probably not emphasized as much as it might but I view that is largely irrelevant because one of the reasons for the failure of the national safety net is that it is unaccountable, bureaucratic, wasteful, and holds no one to account.
A local system of support would be much better at ensuring that support go to those who NEED it. It was surely much less lavish than the present system which disincentivizes work. Also, there is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits a local social welfare system but there is nothing in it to allow a national one.
A logical disconnect in his argument is that, as you say, those who support the federal welfare programs are the compassionate ones and those who don't have no heart. Poll after poll shows that those on the left are much less supportive of private charity. Remember the ridiculously minuscule charitable deductions on Al Gore and Joe Biden's tax returns. If the "progressive" left is so interested in supporting the poor, why don't thy support them themselves? Why do those cruel conservatives give more generously to charitable causes - including donating blood which costs nothing but time? One can be forgiven if he suggests that they are more interested in getting someone else to do (most of) it.
Of course, no one should characterize the solutions of the past as perfect. Conservatives tend to view things more in trade offs rather than the choice between the flawed and the ideal. We now have a system where:
1. people get government (taxpayer) money to use for food but can also be used at casinos, porn shops, hotels, and who knows where else.
2. As I alluded earlier, the total benefits are generous enough that it doesn't make sense to try and get an entry level job. The people who pay into the system are having a harder and harder time making their own ends meet that resentment for paying someone else not to work is building which is teaching people they are entitled to the product of some else's labor.
3. As you alluded, the fact that these programs exist dampens enthusiasm for actual charity which erodes civil society in that those who can help care for those who are in dire straights are encouraged to wash their hands of them - "I paid my taxes".
We used to have a system where people who were destitute were encouraged to work so they would not need future support. Nobody was able to gamble their support away since it was largely non monetary. Both systems are imperfect but the incentives of the old system make a lot more sense than those of the present system.
As you state, there is a financial component too. Our debt has ballooned and at some point in the not too distant future the cost of servicing that debt will crowd out other spending. We are already telling our soldiers that there isn't enough money to fund their pensions and their health care. Next, we will be telling retirees that there won't be enough money to pay Social Security promises to them. At what point will we say that we no longer have the money to support those who do not work?
We outlawed slavery after the Civil War. That was a system where a few people lived at the expense of other people's labor, but we now have a segment of our population who live at the expense of taxpayer's labor. Can somebody explain the difference?
Thanks, W.C., for articulating much of what I thought about this miserably concocted piece. The author offers nothing more than political hearsay as he fantasizes over what conservatives really think and believe.
I don't mind reading contrarian writers, but they should at least reach the threshold of forthright and knowledgeable. There are some decent pieces posted at The Atlantic, but not by the Mike Konczals of the world.
Well said. The writer does make a series of excellent points that government, loosely defined, has always been a part of the social safety net. This is true back to New England Puritan times. Perhaps some conservatives have denied this or not known it, but I haven't run into any. That is the first of many men who are mostly straw.
The complaint that there wasn't much old-age assistance from the fraternal organisations leaves out the information that there were fewer old people. It sorta matters, dunnit?
The issue is not either-or, but what works, what's fair. Charles Murray and Greg Clark suggest that not much does work brilliantly. We have to do the best we can and accept that there will still be unhappiness, whatever system we have.
RE: Trolls and hiring practices: Women on fixing the games industry.
I think I understand now why it always seems to be that some form of "ism" is to blame. If enough blacks aren't hired it must be racism and if enough women aren't in the industry it must be sexism, etc. I think it is the obvious and easiest answer for the aggrieved party and somuch better then to think that they simply cannot do the job. A few years back a family member asked my advice she wanted to go to school to learn to become a computer systems network administrator. This private school assured her that for a mere $25,000 they would train her in the highly demanded field of network administrators. She was presently and had been for entire life a clerk with little to no interest in computers. My answer was that it was a waste of money and in spite of the schools claims they could not make her capable enough in this very technical field to be able to work in it. "Why"? she asked. In brief I explained that the people who generally did this kind of work have typically spent half or more of their waking hours working on computers, building computers, writing and hacking programs and they "ate, slept and dreamed computers" while what she really wanted out of life was a jb that payed enough so she could enjoy her grandchildren and read novels. She really didn't understand. She was sure she was as smart and capable as the geeks and goofy looking dweebs she saw at work doing this and didn't the school promise to get her a job? Most people do not understand. I myself love basketball and in my 20 years in the military would often go to the gym on base and get into pickup games with other GI's. Most of the good players were black and younger then me. Usually the only way I could play was if there weren't ten black men ready to play ball. I was never as good as some black guy off the street and I tried. I practiced, I took risks, I played harder (or at least thought I did) i read books on strategy, I watched basketball and replayed good plays trying to develop skills. And yet some wise ass 18 year old black kid could play rings around me and could do it while laughing at my feeble attemps. I was no physical slouch, I ran in marathons, lifted weights everyday, heavy weights, play baseball, hockey and football in high school. I played team fast pitch softball, basketball and baseball for my entire 20 years in the military. But I was never good enough to play good pickup basketball at the gym against kids who flunked out of school and who themselves were never good enough to play professionally. I worked my entire life in the computer field and I was also never good enough to be successful in the computer gaming industry. Sadly I had to accept the fact it was because I wasn't good enough and I could not chalk it up to discriminatory hiring practices. I would never think to demand that the industry develop a quota for old white men who can't jump. But that seems to be what some people want to do. If they can't make it n the rough and tumble game of life then somene must stand aside and let them take free throws until they sink one.
I started my serious studies with economics--I loved and admired Keynes and JKG (John Kenneth Galbraith). I believed then and in many ways agree with what this author is saying. HOWEVER, I have witnessed (as we all have) over the past 45 + years that anything given by the donor (private, or governmental) must require something in return from the recipient. We can design those "giving back" programs with good strategies, or poorly conceived political programs (union design). The giving back portion of the last 45 years has sadly fallen by the wayside. I have seen enough now to know that without the individual being required to do something good and positive in return--there is no benefit other than circulating cash through the system. It is simply human nature: if you are not going to improve the quality of your life by doing something positive you will do nothing and therein lies the problem.
A return of something was always the premise of church based charity which was an obligation that the recipient reorder their life and soul to become a contributing citizen and prepare their souls for salvation.
"Ted Cruz: The Russians are 'openly laughing' at Obama"
Laughing and cheering him on. Obama promised $1 billion to Ukraine and today the IMF announced a loan of $18 billion. This money will go to help the Ukraine pay its heating bill. In other words the money goes straight into Putin's back pocket. Economic geniuses at work.
Great point. I was wondering what Obama could do besides not much and you hit on it. Give the money to Ukraine on the condition that they DON'T give it to Russia. Hold the money hostage for the Crimea and back it up with security guarantees. Time to call Putin's bluff. It's spring time, we wouldn't need to transport that much gas to Europe if the Russians turned it off. Berlin airlift only different. I'm not married to the idea, but I think I like it.
Infrastructure: First the plan (where it is, where it goes, how big it is, what it's supposed to do) that 90% shoot at and likely down it. The the subsequent plans, one of which gets approved, and then must be checked for environmental sensitivity (oh, the wailing and teeth-gnashing). Then the contracting, to insure female, minority, Amerind, and what/whomever are not discriminated against. And the construction, where all that has gone before comes back again, and again, and again.
Climate Change: Can do anything (except improve) and can be blamed on BUSH!!!!1111!!!1!~!!1111!1!! Perhaps Mr. Singer is correct on the NIPCC, but oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth and rear-guard actions and accusations!
Ah, The Atlantic! Near-sighted, near-deaf, and near-stupid, an excellent example of tunnel vision.