EppsNet Archive: Social Security

The War on Poverty is 50 Years Old

6 May 2014 /
(Old) War Police Department & Jail

The New York Times has an update from McDowell County, West Virginia, on how the War on Poverty is going after 50 years . . .

Of West Virginia’s 55 counties, McDowell has the lowest median household income, $22,000; the worst childhood obesity rate; and the highest teenage birthrate.

It is also reeling from prescription drug abuse. The death rate from overdoses is more than eight times the national average. Of the 115 babies born in 2011 at Welch Community Hospital, over 40 had been exposed to drugs. . . .

Many in McDowell County acknowledge that depending on government benefits has become a way of life, passed from generation to generation. Nearly 47 percent of personal income in the county is from Social Security, disability insurance, food stamps and other federal programs. . . .

The poverty rate, 50 percent in 1960, declined – partly as a result of federal benefits – to 36 percent in 1970 and to 23.5 percent in 1980. But it soared to nearly 38 percent in 1990. For families with children, it now nears 41 percent.

“Worst childhood obesity rate.” Poverty is different in America. In most countries, poor people aren’t fat.

According to the United States Census Bureau, there are 9,176 households in McDowell County and the mean (not median) household income is $33,506. Multiply the two together and we get a total annual income for the county of $206 million.

If 47 percent of that income, as the Times article states, comes from federal programs, that’s almost $100 million per year. Since the War on Poverty has been waged for 50 years now, a crude approximation of the total amount of taxpayer money sent to McDowell County would be 50 times $100 million = $5 billion.

Possibly the annual federal contribution was less 50 years ago, even adjusted to 2014 dollars, but we’d also need to account for the fact that the county population at that time was five times higher than it is today. Taking even a small fraction — say, 20 percent — of $5 billion as our approximation, we can say that the War on Poverty has cost at least a billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) just for one small county in West Virginia.

Oh, and the people are still living in poverty. Evidently you can’t eliminate poverty just by giving people money.

As David Mamet pointed out in The Secret Knowledge:

There’s a cost for everything. And the ultimate payer of every cost imposed by government is not only the individual member of the mass of taxpayers who does not benefit from the scheme; but likely, also, its intended beneficiaries.

In the case of McDowell County, the intended beneficiaries are being paid to continue making bad decisions with their lives, most notably to continue living in a place where there’s no work and no hope for improvement.


More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of: Paul Krugman

19 Nov 2012 /

America in the 1950s made the rich pay their fair share; it gave workers the power to bargain for decent wages and benefits; yet contrary to right-wing propaganda then and now, it prospered. And we can do that again.

I hardly know where to begin with this . . .

First of all, what is the relevance of the 1950s as opposed to any other period of American history? America prior to 1913 had no permanent income tax and contrary to left-wing propaganda, it prospered. Why can’t we do that again?

Workers of the World, Unite!

Of course we’re all in favor of fairness — right? — but why is it only important that “the rich” pay their “fair share”? I don’t remember ever hearing anyone, certainly not Krugman, use the phrase “pay their fair share” in reference to any group except “the rich.”

If you’re concerned about fairness, isn’t it also important that the middle class “pay their fair share”? Isn’t it important that the poor “pay their fair share”? Shouldn’t we all have some skin in the game?

Why not say that everyone should “pay their fair share” instead of making a class warfare issue out of it?

 

As George Harrison used to say:

Should five percent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all

America in the 1950s had a top tax bracket of 91 percent for incomes greater than $200,000. For every dollar you made in excess of $200,000, the federal government took 91 cents as its “fair share.” You got to keep nine cents as your “fair share.”

Out of those nine cents, you also had to pay Social Security taxes, state taxes, local taxes, sales taxes, property taxes and excise taxes. Am I forgetting anything? It doesn’t seem unlikely to me that nine cents on the dollar wouldn’t be enough to cover all those taxes, in which case you’d actually lose money on every dollar.

If I’d been a business owner in the 1950s, with the knowledge that once I made 200 grand, I’d be operating at a loss, I would have just shut the place down at that point and sent everyone home till the next year. I don’t care if it was November or August or January.

Finally, when Krugman talks about workers having “the power to bargain,” he’s talking about unions, as though the two things are inseparable. I’ve never been in a union but I’ve bargained for wages and benefits at every job I’ve ever had. Anyone with marketable skills can bargain for wages and benefits.

P.S. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but “workers” is a telling choice of words, isn’t it? Why not “employees” or just “people”? “Workers” calls to mind communist rallying cries and the Wobblies.


Opting Out

18 Jun 2011 /
In the United States, Social Security benefits...

What we need is competition and a chance for people to opt out of the system. You talk about opting out of ObamaCare? Why can’t we opt out of the whole system and take care of ourselves?

That’s a great question that I’ve wondered about for many years. For example, why can’t people opt out of Social Security? It seems to be in pretty bad shape.

Why can’t I say to the government, “Do not take any Social Security deductions from my income. Let me keep all that money, and when I retire, you owe me nothing.” Why is that not an option?

You might say, “Because you’ll screw it up. You’ll spend all the money now, and when you’re too old to work, you won’t have anything in the bank.”

Why is that your problem?


Twitter: 2010-08-17

17 Aug 2010 /
Twitter
  • RT @jdickerson: Breaking News: Person unknown to you did something of dubious distinctIon or is no longer missing or married. #
  • RT @joshcomers: "Everything’s going to be okay." (First lie to self of week). #
  • RT @TheOnion: In Focus: Al-Jazeera Introduces 'Lighter Side Of The News' Segment http://onion.com/dknefU #
  • RT @fredthompson: Obama warns GOP planning to privatize Soc Sec. Very upsetting for him. Interferes with the current plan of bankrupting it. #