The Welfare State, Saint Paul and Pope Leo XIII

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Charles Sykes, of the Wisconsin Policy Institute, has a superb article on the Entitlement Mentality which is sinking the country:

The cultural shift has become so pronounced today that even some progressives are showing signs of unease. Were it not for her impeccable ideological pedigree, Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, might have irreparably damaged her standing with her mother’s friends when she produced a brief video for HBO about her recent encounters outside a New York welfare office. In the Pelosi video, a man waiting in line is drinking beer and smoking cigarettes as he admits that he’s fathered five children by four different mothers. “I’m here to get a check … whatever they’ve got to offer,” he explains. “It’s not like they’ve got a checklist … I’m just here to get what I can get.”

Of course he was. 

In the video, Alexandra Pelosi quizzes one man: “Why should I help you? Why should my tax dollars be going to you?” He replies, “Because my ancestors came here to help build this place – my ancestors, the slaves.” The last time the man worked, he says, was “half a decade” ago.

Go here to read the brilliant rest.  Any decent society able to will want to lend a hand to help those who cannot help themselves:  those who through physical and mental disability simply cannot work to support themselves.  However, we now have produced huge numbers of  able bodied drones in our society who simply feed off the work of others, with no thought of ever earning their own bread by the sweat of their brow.  Saint Paul addressed these type of people long ago:

For also when we were with you, this we declared to you: that, if any man will not work, neither let him eat.

Over a century ago Pope Leo XIII foresaw where we are now:

In like manner, the other pains and hardships of life will have no end or cessation on earth; for the consequences of sin are bitter and hard to bear, and they must accompany man so long as life lasts. To suffer and to endure, therefore, is the lot of humanity; let them strive as they may, no strength and no artifice will ever succeed in banishing from human life the ills and troubles which beset it. If any there are who pretend differently – who hold out to a hard-pressed people the boon of freedom from pain and trouble, an undisturbed repose, and constant enjoyment – they delude the people and impose upon them, and their lying promises will only one day bring forth evils worse than the present. Nothing is more useful than to look upon the world as it really is, and at the same time to seek elsewhere, as We have said, for the solace to its troubles.

52 Responses to The Welfare State, Saint Paul and Pope Leo XIII

  • How dare you! Next you’ll want to take away their birth control.

  • a man waiting in line is drinking beer and smoking cigarettes as he admits that he’s fathered five children by four different mothers. “I’m here to get a check …

    And I will wager you he did not get squat.

    1. Even twenty years ago, general relief had been eliminated in all but nine states.

    2. “Temporary Aid to Needy Families”, the successor to the old “Aid to Families with Dependent Children” (colloquially ‘welfare’) is a mother-and-child program for which this man does not qualify, can be drawn on (with some qualifications) for no more than five years of a mother’s lifetime, and supports a beneficiary population one-third the size of its predecessor program.

    3. Unemployment compensation requires minimum antecedent contributions, has circumstantial eligibility requirements, and is term-limited.

    4. Supplemental Security Income is limited to the old, the disabled, and the addled.

    5. Social Security disability has stiff circumstantial eligibility requirements, requires a minimum of antecedent contributions, is earnings related, and incorporates periodic eligibility reviews.

    6. Social Security old age and retirement requires a minimum of antecedent contributions, is earnings related, and is limited to…the old.

    The programs for which this man might qualify would be in-kind: medical insurance, food stamps, housing vouchers or berths, public defenders’ services. The children he has sired indubitably attended the public schools (like those of more than 90% of the population).

    However, we now have produced huge numbers of drones in our society who simply feed off the work of others, with no thought of ever earning their own bread by the sweat of their brow.

    I do not wish to offer a defense of the panoply of subventions to mundane expenditure that welfare departments and housing authorities offer at all levels, nor for long-term doles, but it is quite atypical in our society to be comprehensively dependent (rather than depending on supplemental subsidies) for any length of time if one is not old or disabled or a ward of the courts. TANF clientele currently number about 4 million, or about 1.3% of the population.

  • This article by Theodore Dalrymple about Scotland sheds more light on what happens when countries foster a culture of dependence.

  • Ok these are some of the dregs of society. I have been unemployed for a while and would LOVE LOVE LOVE to work. Please don’t lump me in with these people. Also there are plenty of white people that are like this too. I do not take or look for handouts even in my present situation, if I can avoid it. We do have to remember that this economic situation is pretty bad and there should be more concern for those that DO want to work like training, etc…

  • Michael, read the article. It is not talking about legitimate assistance. It’s talking about the burgeoning entitlement mentality.

    As the article states…
    The process can be illustrated this way: “I want you to buy me lunch. Therefore, I need lunch. And if I need something, I have a right to it – and you, therefore, have an obligation to pay for it.”

    The equation looks like this: Wants = needs = rights = obligations.

    And is illustrated by this…
    While GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney was campaigning last week in Peoria, Illinois, a young woman was caught on camera declaring: “So you’re all for like, ‘yay, freedom,’ and all this stuff. And ‘yay, like pursuit of happiness.’ You know what would make me happy? Free birth control.”

  • This article by Theodore Dalrymple about Scotland sheds more light on what happens when countries foster a culture of dependence.

    I respect his writings generally, but it is poor judgment of him to cite the econometricians at The Spectator (a breezy opinion magazine). In a population of nearly 8 million, it is not credible that there are only 15,000 net taxpayers.

  • It’s talking about the burgeoning entitlement mentality.

    There are disagreeable aspects of culture and society in the slums, but these began to appear (per Daniel Patrick Moynihan) around about 1958 and had reached full flower by 1972 or thereabouts. Given that the TANF rolls are 1/3 as long as the AFDC rolls, why would we say this mentality is burgeoning?

  • The entitlement mentality is not a “in the slums” problem. It is spreading to the middle class and in some cases, beyond. It infects all classes and races.

    The FT article gives concrete examples…
    The laundry list goes far beyond free lunch to include free health care, free cell phones, free birth control, free mortgage bailouts – and on and on.

    There are more avenues to government money than just TANF. No one is against legitimate assistance. Exploitation or a sense entitlement to assistance programs is a problem.

  • “Ok these are some of the dregs of society. I have been unemployed for a while and would LOVE LOVE LOVE to work. Please don’t lump me in with these people.”

    I certainly never would Michael and I hope you are able to find work soon.

  • The entitlement mentality is not a “in the slums” problem. It is spreading to the middle class and in some cases, beyond. It infects all classes and races.

    Beyond? You mean there are patricians who are asserting their right to grocery subsidies? Between the slums and the bourgeoisie there is the wage-earning element. To what do you fancy they feel entitled?

    —-

    There are more avenues to government money than just TANF. No one is against legitimate assistance. Exploitation or a sense entitlement to assistance programs is a problem.

    Have you in your own mind a set of understandings as to what constitutes ‘legitimate assistance’ and what is the nasty ‘welfare state’? Can you let us in on it?

  • Art, Between the FT article and Don’s article, you have all the information you need. The answers you seek are in both if you read them carefully.

  • Art, Between the FT article and Don’s article, you have all the information you need. The answers you seek are in both if you read them carefully.

    They are not.

  • How about the following:
    One (net) taxpayer, one vote?

  • Michael Medved makes a compelling point on this, with school lunch programs (which sometimes include breakfast, dinner, summer meals, etc.). These are justified as necessary because parents may not have the time or money to make sure their children have proper meals.
    Medved’s concern is : If parents are no longer responsible for feeding their own children, what responsibilities remain?

  • You mean there are patricians who are asserting their right to grocery subsidies?

    You didn’t hear about the lottery winner that’s on food stamps, or the woman up here in the Seattle area that was getting food stamps at her beach-side big bucks home?

    Incidentally, food stamps (or rather the SNAP cards, these days) are as good as cash; you just sell them for a portion of the face value. If you’ve got an “in” with a store that can take them, you can probably get better than the going rate. (I think the crag’s list average was about 1/4 of the value in cash?)

  • Also, on the rich-people-getting-entitlements, talk to the spoiled brats I went to school with who got new cars at 16 but are still horrified the state ALMOST took their free birth control away while they were at college.

  • If the black market requires a 75% discount, the SNAP cards are not as good as cash.

    The woman in Michigan was cut off by the Food and Nutrition Service because she had failed, per their rules, to notify them of any income or asset changes. Lottery winners do not qualify as patricians.

    There are several problems here:

    1. You are all speaking of an extant problem that was manifest 40 years ago as if it were novel or spreading like kudzu, even as public policy is less accommodating than it was a generation ago. (For example, general relief still exists in New York, so the man just might get his check, but there is a life time limit of two years’ worth of benefits).

    2. While there is much here that I would not wish to defend and small programs can sustain some quite disagreeable tendencies in the culture, the sort of programs under review are just a few tiles in the mosaic of our political and economic problems manifest in public sector borrowing. The big ticket federal programs are as follows:

    a. Social Security (>$800 bn)
    b. Medicare (>$500 bn)
    c. Food Stamps ($89 bn)
    d. Higher education subsidies ($46 bn)
    e. Housing vouchers ($27 bn)

    The state and local programs (partially financed by the central government) which are most salient are as follows:

    a. Public schools (~$650 bn)
    b. Medicaid (~$470 bn)
    c. Unemployment compensation (> $90 bn)

    I think the TANF program clocks in there at about $30 bn.

    If I am not mistaken about 90% of all Social Security benefits go to the old or disabled (with the remainder to widows &c.). About a third of Medicaid expenditure is for the care of nursing home residents. Therefore, about 60% of the expenditure noted above is on geezers and cripples. Shy of 30% is allocated to the public schools, a purely universalistic program. About 4% is allocated to unemployment compensation, which is short term. The remaining 6% may be socially unsalutary, but it is a small part of why we are careering into bankruptcy.

  • Ach. I cannot do arithmetic anymore.

    Crippled and elderly: 51%
    Public schools: 24%
    s/t 3%
    miscellaneous 22%

  • He is still getting the stamps. Turns out he did follow the law, technically. They’re trying to fix that.

    About the disabled you mention that are on SS….

    In the fiscal year that ended in September, the administrative law judge, who sits in the impoverished intersection of West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, decided 1,284 cases and awarded benefits in all but four. For the first six months of fiscal 2011, Mr. Daugherty approved payments in every one of his 729 decisions, according to the Social Security Administration.

  • Disability programs are difficult to administer precisely and consistently and some of the hearing examiners are doing a poor job of it (which you can surmise by comparing their decisions to those of other hearing examiners). Ergo, you trash the whole program. Do I have your viewpoint correctly stated?

  • 13.6 million receiving disability benefits and rising rapidly Art:

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/aug/21/disability-claims-rise-threatens-solvency/

    From my expience as a bankruptcy attorney, quite a few people receiving disability benefits are not disabled in that they have no physical or mental impairments that really prevent them from working.

  • Of course you don’t, and you didn’t even try. Sort of like your notion that because they don’t sell for the price on the card, a guaranteed income is somehow not as good as cash.

    From those two points, it’s pretty clear you’re not willing to actually discuss the issue without making silly assumptions and taking a running jump to insulting conclusions. I don’t have the time for that.

  • Foxfier, I cannot figure what the referent to your response is.

    13.6 million receiving disability benefits and rising rapidly Art:

    That is 60% higher than the last figure I saw in print. I do not have time to research matters right at this moment, but I am at this moment skeptical.

    By the way, if I understand correctly, most who receive Social Security Disability are recipients for a discrete run of years (5 or 6) because they age out of the program or return to work.

    From my expience as a bankruptcy attorney, quite a few people receiving disability benefits are not disabled in that they have no physical or mental impairments that really prevent them from working.

    I have known only a small corps of people who receive benefits. One was a 44 year old woman with Crohn’s disease who had been collecting for four years. She was looking forward to returning to work after her next evaluation. One was a 59 year old woman with lupus who worked without interruption from 1958 to 1998. She aged out of the program. Another was a 49 year old pharmacist with a ghastly injury to his leg which made it impossible for him to stand for long periods of time. I think he could have retooled. I lost track of him.

    I do not doubt you can find people who would not meet the criteria legislators had in mind and a few out-and-out chiselers. Again, what would be your solution?

  • http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/STATS/OASDIbenies.html

    This would indicate that the Social Security Disability program supports 10.6 million people. That would be the sum of beneficiaries and their dependents. They receive a mean of $13,000 per capita.

  • A report from the CBO on social security disability in 2010:

    “Between 1970 and 2009, the number of people receiving DI benefits more than tripled, from 2.7 million to 9.7 million (unless otherwise specified, all years are calendar years). That jump, which significantly outpaced the increase in the working-age population during that period, is attributable to several changesin characteristics of that population, in federal policy, and in opportunities for employment. In addition, during those years, the average inflation-adjusted cost per person receiving DI benefits rose from about $6,900 to about $12,800 (in 2010 dollars). As a result, inflation-adjusted expenditures for the DI program, including administrative costs, increased nearly sevenfold between 1970 and 2009, climbing from $18 billion to $124 billion (in 2010 dollars). Most DI beneficiaries, after a two-year waiting period, are also eligible for Medicare; the cost of those benefits in fiscal year 2009 totaled about $70 billion.

    Under current law, the DI program is not financially sustainable. Its expenditures are drawn from the Disability Insurance Trust Fund, which is financed primarily through a payroll tax of 1.8 percent; the fund had a balance of $204 billion at the end of 2009. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that by 2015, the number of people receiving DI benefits will increase to 11.4 million and total expenditures will climb to $147 billion (in 2010 dollars; see Figure 1). However, tax receipts credited to the DI trust fund will be about 20 percent less than those expenditures, and three years later, in 2018, the trust fund will be exhausted, according to CBOs estimates. Without legislative action to reduce the DI programs outlays, increase its dedicated federal revenues, or transfer other federal funds to it, the Social Security Administration will not have the legal authority to pay full DI benefits beyond that point.

    A number of changes could be implemented to address the trust funds projected exhaustion. Some would increase revenues dedicated to the program; others would reduce outlays. One approach to reducing expenditures on DI benefits would be to establish policies that would make work a more viable option for people with disabilities. However, little evidence is available on the effectiveness of such policies, and their costs might more than offset any savings from reductions in DI benefits.”

    http://www.cbo.gov/publication/21638

  • “One (net) taxpayer, one vote?”

    I kinda see your point, but before you go that route, consider the full implications. If you are implying that people who receive more in money or other benefits from the government than they pay in taxes are all mere freeloaders who should not be allowed to vote, then very few people (perhaps not even including yourself) will be allowed to vote.

    For one thing, the 53% (or whatever the current figure is) of Americans who end each year with a federal tax liability of less than zero (often due to refundable child, education, and home ownership tax credits that target the middle class) would be disenfranchised, as would anyone employed by any branch of federal, state or local government. Not to mention business owners who receive government subsidies, credits or tax breaks for various reasons.

    My point is NOT to defend the kind of welfare or entitlement mentality on display in the video, but to point out that they are not the only people getting more in benefits than they are paying in. They are simply the most obvious ones; there are other forms of “entitlement mentality” among the middle class and wealthy that are less obvious.

    It should also be noted that just because someone does not have a federal tax liability for a given year does NOT mean they pay no taxes at all. They may still owe state or local income taxes, or property taxes; and they probably pay sales or use taxes on most of what they purchase.

  • For one thing, the 53% (or whatever the current figure is) of Americans who end each year with a federal tax liability of less than zero (often due to refundable child, education, and home ownership tax credits that target the middle class) would be disenfranchised, as would anyone employed by any branch of federal, state or local government.

    Now, hold on, that second one doesn’t follow– for that matter, the first isn’t needfully so, either.

    Last things first, those who are employed by the government at any level do still pay taxes, and there is no need to lump them in just to inflate the number. They do a job, they are paid for it. If there is a lot of quality control that needs to be done, that’s a separate issue, but they are NOT equivalent to someone that is dependent on public charity. That sort of reasoning is part of why we’re in this mess. Likewise, businesses and families that are “allowed” to keep more of their money, so long as they don’t end up “keeping” more than they had in the first place, are net tax payers as well. (It seems you slipped between being a net tax payer and being paid from taxed funds at all.) That would knock out any tax breaks from consideration.

    There is NOTHING WRONG with the government taxing the population and using that money to hire people and buy stuff– there’s not a lot of other reason for the government to tax at all.

    There is NOTHING WRONG (inherently) with keeping more of the money that YOU earned. It is yours, not the government’s. The problem comes in the matter of fairness, which is sorely lacking. (17% of the income pays 35% of the taxes? Not fair at all.)

    I hate to beat this to death, but it really has to be pointed out: tax breaks are NOT the government giving you anything, it’s just not taking things, and WORKING for the government is not the same as HANDOUTS.

    Jumping back to the first claim, it makes the classic assumption that people won’t change their actions. (It’s even built into our gov’t budgeting estimates. Fails constantly, too.) Sadly, a large part of the country that’s currently not paying net federal taxes wouldn’t give a crud about losing their vote if it meant that they got free stuff. Other folks would not claim things like the child credit to make sure that they could still vote.

    A much better route of objection to the “one net taxpayer, one vote” idea is that it would disenfranchise those who are not paid for their work, especially retired folks who had money taken from them for their entire lives, shoved in the leaky box that is social security, and are now dependent on getting some fraction of that money back. It would disenfranchise stay-at-home parents, business folks who ran a loss year, adults still in school if they manage it without a job, those on unemployment (which is supposed to be money they would have been paid which was taken by the gov’t to hold in reserve in case they couldn’t get a new job.) and those who in other manners didn’t have an income.

  • I have to say, anecdotally, I grew up in – and live – in a county, where the people who are in line in this video make up a large part of my friends and neighbors, and they do get a lot of free stuff from the government. People who say that entitlement abuse is improving or is no longer a very great concern probably know very few people who abuse entitlement programs.

  • Good point, Ike– I think there’s a big social level thing here, too. The ranch was one of the go-to places for people who wanted to work just long enough to get unemployment insurance; one couple would gladly teach you exactly what you had to do to do the absolute minimum while maximizing your income and comfort. Step one, don’t marry, just live together….
    (Folks talked the owner out of hiring such when one tried to file a worker’s comp for a problem she’d had before she drove truck for us.)

  • People who say that entitlement abuse is improving or is no longer a very great concern probably know very few people who abuse entitlement programs.

    No matter whom I know or do not know, the quantum of goods, services, and funds distributed is a matter of public record, as are the eligibility requirements of various programs.

  • Art-
    that says nothing about abuse of the programs, and you did bring up people you know who use the programs.

    As Donald showed when you didn’t have time to research, the payouts from social security for disability have gone through the roof. Medicaid is well known as a target for fraud. Medicare, likewise. Food stamps are a big target.

    A search for entitlement abuse brings up a lot of articles like this– by the way, the “adult baby” wood worker was found to be totally fine and cleared of fraud.

  • As Donald showed when you didn’t have time to research,

    He cited the executive summary of a report by the Congressional Budget Office. I cited the case statistics published by the Social Security Administration.

    and you did bring up people you know who use the programs.

    Parenthetically, in response to his claims about his clients.

    There is a problem with the disability program, as can be seen in the evolution of the beneficiary population. I would be very skeptical that malingering is an important part of the problem; musculoskelital problems are at the root of 36% of awarded claims, not more. Policy is a problem (for 11% of those who receive awards, the primary diagnosis is a psychiatric mood disorder). The evolution of how people respond to a given set of conditions is a problem. The expectations set by authority are a problem. Consistency in administration over space and time is a problem.

    Given the change in the population (between 1966 and 2007) of workers in the salient cohorts, you might have expected a 2.25-fold increase in the population of primary beneficiaries. You actually saw a 6-fold increase. Was the program underutilized before or overutilized now? Interestingly, the number of juvenile dependents of said beneficiaries increased just in step with the change in the whole population and the number of spousal dependents declined. What hypotheses would you tease-out of that?

    I am fairly sure that eliminating the program is a cure worse than the disease. I might also suggest that a dependent population which consists largely of adults in the latter part of middle age, more-often-than-not having a work history of twenty-five years or more, and living alone in spite of documented medical problems, suggests a particular nexus of social problems. One which consists of young and able-bodied women (with little or no work history) and their bastard children suggests a different set of problems.

  • He cited the executive summary of a report by the Congressional Budget Office. I cited the case statistics published by the Social Security Administration.

    Your point being? Do you think they are wrong, as you implied before he did so?

    I am fairly sure that eliminating the program is a cure worse than the disease.

    Why do you keep acting like this is being discussed? You jump from fraud not being a big problem to a large glob of digression to no specific point and then go back to acting like people are saying “screw it, nuke the whole thing!”– this, in spite if the original post SPECIFICALLY SAYING: “Any decent society able to will want to lend a hand to help those who cannot help themselves: those who through physical and mental disability simply cannot work to support themselves.

    Will you stop charging at strawmen and try to actually engage on the topic?

  • There are no strawmen here. You keep offering anecdotes of the system functioning poorly and he cited a summary document indicating the program was actuarially unsound. That would indicate that the program required restructuring. Neither of you offer anything but non-specific complaints that the gubmint is being incompetent. That kind of talk gets old. If you have an idea of how to improve the program, let’s hear it.

    All of that is rather at a remove from his initial complaint, which was that our world is awash in a burgeoning population of free-loaders. The opportunities for that sort of thing among the able-bodied are not what they were 40 years ago and the sort of welfare rights discourse you used to hear even 25 years ago has largely disappeared. As for the statutorily disabled, many of them ought to be doing something else, but a 54 year old divorcee with a heart condition who had twenty-five years on construction sites is not quite what you have in mind when you hear phrases like, “However, we now have produced huge numbers of able bodied drones in our society who simply feed off the work of others”.

    And any solution you all offer needs to be scalable.

  • There are no strawmen here.

    Show where I, or Donald, said a single thing about ENDING welfare. That is the strawman you have been fighting– not fixing the problem, not trying to cut down on fraud, but ENDING THE PROGRAMS.

    I’ll waste the time correcting your other unsupported claims when you bother to support that one.

  • “All of that is rather at a remove from his initial complaint, which was that our world is awash in a burgeoning population of free-loaders.”

    As is demonstrated Art by the explosion of people getting on disability, which is why I cited the CBO report. This was over a time period, 1970-2009, when fewer and fewer of the work force are engaging in the hard type of physical labor and resulting injuries that the disability program was originally set up to alleviate.

    We also see this in the explosion in the food stamp program which, as Foxfier noted earlier in the thread, are frequently used as a substitute currency.

    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2011/11/food-stamp-nation.php

  • “As Maine goes so goes the nation.”

    December 2011: Maine Republican (!) Governor LePage stated in a radio address that his state has more residents receiving “welfare” than paying state income taxes.

    Nationally, 53% of households pay Federal income taxes.

    The laws of arithmetic will resolve the imbalance. The restoration of equilibrium will not be pretty. See Greece.

    PS: As of tomorrow, the US has the highest corporate tax rate on the planet.

  • As is demonstrated Art by the explosion of people getting on disability, which is why I cited the CBO report. This was over a time period, 1970-2009, when fewer and fewer of the work force are engaging in the hard type of physical labor and resulting injuries that the disability program was originally set up to alleviate.

    You need to do better than a cursory inspection of descriptive statistics in order to ascertain what is going on there. (And no, I do not think you are going to discover in the legislative history that work-related injuries were the sole or even primary consideration in enacting the program). The descriptive statistics are hypothesis formers. Your conclusion about this particular beneficiary population was antecedent to adducing any real evidence. If you want to restructure the program, you have to ascertain what the drivers are of changes in observable behavior. Some things to consider:

    1. The contemporary beneficiary is not any older than their counterparts forty years ago, nor much younger. Why do they have so few dependents? The ratio of dependents to primary beneficiaries has fallen by 75%.

    2. Is it possible that changes in public health have augmented a ‘gray zone’ population that was proportionately much smaller in 1970? Are there people drawing benefits who would have been in institutional care in 1970 or would have been deceased?

    3. How much of the inclination to apply for benefits and to grant them (and, keep in mind, 61% of those who apply are turned down) is motivated not by the cash pension but by the medical insurance appended to it?

    Foxfier, you and Donald have not offered the slightest suggestion about how one might restructure the disability program. All you’ve done is bitch about the hearing examiners and the clientele. What’s wrong with this population and what alternatives might there be for them? It just does not do to say they are free-loaders awarded benefits by incompetents, no further investigation needed.

    T. Shaw:

    A possibility to investigate: are state income taxes in Maine a levy not meant for anyone but a fairly affluent population? That was initially the case with the federal income tax.

  • PS: As of tomorrow, the US has the highest corporate tax rate on the planet.

    Doubt it. The last time I checked, about 9% of corporate profits were collected in federal tax levies. We have payroll taxes (amounting all told to 10% of labor income). What we do not have is a national value added tax, which casts a much wider net. Rates in the EU range from 15% to 27%.

  • “You need to do better than a cursory inspection of descriptive statistics in order to ascertain what is going on there.”

    Considering that disability awards are now based on mental problems, including depression, and alleged back problems, both of which are difficult to disprove, I think it is clear what is going on here.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/13/AR2010091306493.html?sid=ST2010091401818

    Getting government handouts has almost no stigma, and more people are holding their hands out for freebies from Uncle Sucker. I see this all the time in my practice Art; this is no deep, dark secret.

    “(And no, I do not think you are going to discover in the legislative history that work-related injuries were the sole or even primary consideration in enacting the program).”

    You would be wrong about that Art. What the program was initially was supposed to be for was clear from the fact that permanent disability benefits were normally contingent on the loss of a limb.

  • “Foxfier, you and Donald have not offered the slightest suggestion about how one might restructure the disability program.”

    Make all benefit awards reviewable each year and actually conduct the reviews. Replace the current hearing officers and administrative law judges hearing disability cases. Narrow eligibility to those who are truly unable to work. (Depression would not be on the list, along with a host of other dodges currently used to scam benefits.) Give bonuses to government investigators who ferret out people who are receiving benefits and also working. It would be difficult to come up with a worse system than what we currently have.

    http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2008/12/disability_fraud_saps_social_s.html

  • “I doubt it”

    “WASHINGTON, March 30, 2012 (Reuters) – The United States’ (39.2%) will hold the dubious distinction starting on Sunday of having the developed world’s highest corporate tax rate after Japan’s drops to 38.01 percent.”

    Art, I was prepared to provide facts and figures to defend my Maine comment.

    No matter how much liberals use them, the truth isn’t the result of a three card monty game flip or how well a demagogue can gull envious classes that believe it’s the government’s duty to provide for them.

    Soon enough, like Greece, Maine and Washington politicians will run out of other people’s money and then the “jig is up” – the laws of arithmetic are not subject to weeping, gnashing of teeth, or lying.

  • Art,

    Of course people with no income pay no income taxes: some receive tax credit payments.

    In Maine, Medicaid, welfare, food stamps and subsidies for education have a combined enrollment of 660,000. Adjusting the 660,000 for overlaps reduces the number to 453,194 – or 8,120 more people on state assistance than the 445,074 state income taxpayers in Maine.

    We shall see if Maine can be more suave at bankruptcy than Greece or Harrisburg, PA.

  • Foxfier, you and Donald have not offered the slightest suggestion about how one might restructure the disability program.

    Which does not justify your false accusation that we’re suggesting dumping the whole thing.

    The obvious conclusion to take from our “bitching” is to apply some common sense to the awarding of these benefits, as foreign a concept as that is in bureaucracies.

  • Considering that disability awards are now based on mental problems, including depression, and alleged back problems, both of which are difficult to disprove, I think it is clear what is going on here.

    About 23% are based on psychological problems, of which half are for ‘mood disorders’, as pointed out above. (The remainder are for schizophrenia, mental retardation, &c.)

    No, nothing is very clear.

  • The obvious conclusion to take from our “bitching” is to apply some common sense to the awarding of these benefits, as foreign a concept as that is in bureaucracies.

    The obvious conclusion is that getting this right and getting it consistently right is easier said than done.

  • You would be wrong about that Art. What the program was initially was supposed to be for was clear from the fact that permanent disability benefits were normally contingent on the loss of a limb.

    Where did you read that?

  • The obvious conclusion is that getting this right and getting it consistently right is easier said than done.

    And that justifies accusing those who dare point out there’s a problem of wanting to shut the whole thing down…how?

  • And that justifies accusing those who dare point out there’s a problem of wanting to shut the whole thing down…how?

    If you recall, I asked you if I had understood your position correctly, and your response was indignation. (And arguing about the argument we are having is not terribly productive).

    (And, by the way, such an interpretation would be a reasonable inference to be drawn of the moderator’s remarks).

    Since I have pointed out some of the discrete problems with the program, your complaint does not make much sense. What I have done is reject the frame you all have put around the problem.

  • If you recall, I asked you if I had understood your position correctly, and your response was indignation.

    Yes, I responded indignantly to you projecting a viewpoint that is ludicrous as a reasonable interpretation of pointing out valid problems.

    “Ugh. My car keeps pulling to the right, it’s clearly screwy.”
    “So, you want to blow it up, is that right?”
    “What the heck is wrong with you? How on earth is that a reasonable jump?”
    “Well, you didn’t say you wanted to mechanic on it.”

    And arguing about the argument we are having is not terribly productive

    It’s more productive than trying to have a conversation with someone who rejects offered data and mischaracterizes those he disagrees with into foolish strawmen.

  • To solve a problem, you have to decide that there is a problem, identify the problem, figure out possible causes, and then you start on solutions.

    *Video shows that there is some sort of problem.

    *Problem is initially identified as “Good people want to help those who can’t help themselves, but now we have a bunch of people helping themselves to the aid they don’t need.”
    **Problem is secondarily identified as the programs allowing obvious abuses–getting services while technically qualified (say, those in jail who get food stamps) or flat-out fraud, plus the stuff that’s murky. (“Emotional issues” disability.)

    There are some possible causes– the qualifications are off, the judge mentioned earlier that approves almost all the cases isn’t a good gatekeeper, etc.– but it’s not clear you agree there is a problem to solve.

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