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Why the Welfare State Isn’t Well and It Isn’t Fair October 24, 2014

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Politics, Politiocal Philosophy.
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Why the Welfare State Isn’t Well and It Isn’t Fair

Throughout most of the 19th and 20th centuries Socialism had a fairly precise definition, a somewhat clear program, and a generally agreed upon goal. The definition of Socialism was some variant of Karl Marx’s well known statement, “From each according to the ability to each according to their need.” Socialism’s program was the nationalization of all means of production, exchange, and distribution. Socialism’s goal was the use of all three in a comprehensive plan to bring about some chimera of social justice.

There were two general schools or roads socialists followed to utopia, Marxism and Fabianism. Both were variants of Socialism. They differed mainly in their stated ultimate ideal of a Socialist State and how to get there.

The Marxists said they believed that in a fully Socialist State the State itself would wither away, and all that would be left was a classless society basking in the sunshine of social justice for all. The method advocated by the Communists to achieve this social nirvana was revolutionary change leading to a dictatorship of the working class (proletariat) which ruthlessly exterminated the old society and built the new.

The Fabians saw their road to social justice leading through a highly centralized government built up gradually by democratic means slowly gaining control of the levers of power and gradually implementing its program of bureaucratic control until complete social justice was achieved.

In Europe these schools of thought were explicit and open forming political parties and vying for power either through the ballot or from the barrel of a gun. In America the engrained belief in personal liberty, individual freedom, and economic opportunity were too strong to allow the open development of any party that openly claimed Socialism as their philosophy. Therefore the gradualist approach of the Fabians became the incremental approach of the Progressives.

Starting with Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, massively redirecting society under FDR, and moving ever forward under every president, except Ronald Reagan, the Progressives have slowly built the web upon which America now is bound.

With the fall of the Soviet Union and of its satellite empire communism finally lost its great patron. It had long since lost its allure in the reality of a brutal dictatorship that ground its people into the dirt in the race to social justice. So in the West Socialism has gone underground in the Green Movement, the vast network of community organizing groups, and in the Democrat Party. Many of the leaders of the Party now openly call themselves Progressives. All of them champion the idea of a Living Constitution that is evolving from the old American ideal of individualism toward a new collectivist ideal of social justice.

As long as the ideas and goals of Socialism were just that: ideas and goals, it all sounded good and many intellectuals as well as many members of the general public bought into the lofty sounding fairness of social justice. However once the Socialists gained actual power in the USSR and later in its satellite empire the crushing reality of its brutish methods and the soul killing dullness of its execution dimmed the glow. It changed its image from a rising sun of opportunity into the glare of an interrogation lamp.

This is where the insidious and dangerous character of the new underground Socialists in the plethora of underground manifestations reveals itself. Today we don’t have a socialist state in America; instead we have a welfare state. Unlike Socialism the welfare State has no precise definition. The attempt to understand all its implications is like trying to take a picture of fog: it obscures the picture however it cannot be seen as anything solid. The leaders of this homegrown style of Socialism: Progressivism, have learned that by incrementally increasing the level of governmental control over private industry and individuals they can still achieve the Socialist goal of income redistribution without the stigma of advocating an admittedly authoritarian dictatorship.

All they have to do is speak in vague terms of the general good and spreading the wealth around and the low information citizens nurtured in state schools will stand in line to proudly vote for hope and change. Never realizing that the prosperity Paul thinks he is voting out of Peter’s pocket will not reach him as it is syphoned off to feed an ever growing bureaucracy needed to transfer the wealth.

As long as the danger to liberty came from self-declared Socialists who were openly pursuing collectivist goals and as long as there was the glaring disconnect of a brutal dictatorship saying it was oppressing its own people in the quest for social justice it was easy to argue that the tenets of Socialism were false. There were examples to show that it would not achieve its goals, that its execution was brutish, and that it would inevitably produce results which most Socialists themselves would find abhorrent.

The situation is different when we face the Welfare State. It has no definite form and is instead a conglomeration of diverse and sometimes even contradictory elements. Some of these elements may seem to make a free society more attractive such as something for everyone while others such as the means to take from one to give to another are incompatible with freedom.

I am not in any way advocating for no government. I am advocating for limited government. There are many things which most will agree are beneficial to society and which are legitimate concerns for government such as defense, the mail system, taxes appropriate to a limited role, and the judiciary. Most people today would also agree that some form of a safety net is possible in a free society to protect against risks common to all.

However here it is important to differentiate between two views of this type of protection. There is limited protection which can be achieved for all and absolute security which can never be achieved.

The first of these types of protection is against severe poverty: the assurance of a minimum level of support for everyone. The second is the guarantee of a certain standard of life which is determined by comparing the standard enjoyed by one group against that enjoyed by another. In other words the difference is between the protection of an equal minimum income for all and the protection of a particular income for particular groups. This is the goal of the Welfare State that brings us back to “From each according to their ability to each according to their need” or as our current Progressive President puts it, “Spreading the Wealth Around.”

To accomplish this, the coercive power of the State is used to ensure that particular people get particular things which in turn require discrimination between people and unequal treatment. Some are forced to give while others receive. This is incompatible with a free society. Thus the welfare State which aims at social justice inevitably leads back to Socialism with its coercive power and arbitrary methods. In addition though some of the aims of the Welfare State such as income equality can only be achieved through the use of methods which are incompatible with freedom all of the aims may be pursued in that fashion.

The primary danger is that once the aims of the Welfare State have been accepted as legitimate it is then tacitly assumed that the use of means which are contrary to freedom are acceptable. The ends justify the means and the rule of law is sacrificed in the name of social justice.

Ultimately we arrive at a place where the criticism of the generally accepted goals of the Welfare State leads automatically to negative labels. If you point out that Obamacare is socialized medicine you are throwing grandma over the cliff. If you point out that common core is indoctrination you are against education. If you point out that progressive taxation is inherently discriminatory and unfair you are the friend of millionaires and billionaires and the enemy of the poor. If you point out that government regulations are strangling business you are against clean air and consumer safety.

Our Progressive leaders always point to the shining city on a hill where everyone has everything. Our low information fellow citizens never seem to realize that a government which ceases to administer limited resources put under its control for a specific purpose will instead use its coercive power to ensure that people are given what some bureaucrat decides they need. They never connect the dots. They do not understand that when larger and larger segments of the population come to depend on the government for everything eventually it will be the decision of those in authority what anyone receives. This isn’t freedom. This isn’t what America was or what it is supposed to be. And this is why the Welfare State isn’t well and it isn’t fair.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion. He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2014 Contact Dr. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven December 14, 2012

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Uncategorized.
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Everybody wants an “A” but nobody wants to study.  Everybody wants to be rich but nobody wants to save.  Everybody wants to lose weight but nobody wants to exercise.  Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.  No matter how you say it, the desire for something without the willingness to do the hard things required to achieve it, will always lead to disappointment.  This is the cadence of the conundrum, the drumbeat of the do-nothing dreamer, the national anthem of the nihilist; the perennial I want but I will not work formula for failure. 

The signature phrase for the conservatives of this generation of Americans should be, “We all want a sound economy but we aren’t willing to endure the life-style changes it would take to get there.”

Case in point: the coming Fiscal Cliff, the looming disaster of sequestration that every talking head on every network blathers about endlessly, “It will happen” “It won’t happen.”  Pick a side and it will be argued back and forth hour after hour, “The President won’t let it happen, “The President wants it to happen.” Over and over we are barraged by the same few people who constitute the pundocracy of America debate what will happen.  There is only one thing they are all agreed upon.  If we go over this cliff, created by a vote of Congress and a signature by the President it will be terrible for our country.  Why stop there? It will be terrible for the entire world.

Just think, if we Americans raise our taxes and reign in our drunken sailor spending binge it will be a disaster for us and for everyone who draws breath on this planet. Not to worry we, the poor unwashed in fly-over country, don’t have to scratch our pumpkin heads and wonder why it would be a disaster if our country took the steps necessary to save our economy the network appointed chatter chiefs are quick to tell us. 

One side says raising taxes on anyone in a weak economy may push us over into a recession.  This of course comes from the people who evidently don’t buy their own bread, pump their own gas, or know any of the millions who are now permanently out of work, in other words personally prosperous people who believe the Great Recession actually ended.  The other side says raising taxes on anyone they don’t consider rich would be a disaster. 

Both sides agree that at least half of the spending cuts would be a disaster.  One side points at defense spending as a surrender of national security.  While the other side points at cuts in entitlements as throwing grandma off the cliff. 

The answers they propose are as predictable as a Hallmark Christmas movie.  The Progressive Democrats say raise the taxes on the evil rich and cut spending to the defense department.  The Progressive Republicans say raise revenues by closing loop holes and cut spending on entitlements.  The problem with this is that just like Representative Paul Ryan’s draconian budget it still never gets us to a balanced budget let alone paying down the principle on the National Debt.  Both sides favor plans that keep on borrowing even if it might be at lower levels than at present.  Maybe we will only borrow thirty six cents of every dollar instead of forty six.  Wow!  That should really make our arrival at the ash heap of History a few moments later.

And that is the heart of the problem.  Or as another old saying tells us nobody wants their own ox gored.  It is the “Not in my backyard syndrome” applied by everyone to something.  We all want cuts in spending but not in our spending.  We all agree that wasteful programs should die but every program has its supporters.  This is where reality takes a bite out of dreams.  Unless we balance our budget and reverse the slide into bankruptcy our days as a great power, let alone our days as the world’s only super power, are numbered, and everyone knows China is counting off the numbers.

Looking around in the cloistered world of self-appointed opinion writers I hate to have to be the one to tell my fellow Americans this but we have to do the work to get the “A,” save the money to get rich, do the exercises to lose the weight, and we most assuredly will have to die to go to heaven.

We, through our elected representatives, have spent like there was no tomorrow until tomorrow is mortgaged to pay for today without asking the question, “How are we going to pay for tomorrow?”  I guess we have always figured we could use the day after tomorrow for collateral.  That may work for a while or at least until our children and grandchildren have been sold into slavery to the highest bidder.

Unfortunately my generation, the Boomers who proudly offered Bill Clinton and George Bush the Younger as our contribution to the pantheon of American Presidents, has kicked the can down the road while paraphrasing Louis XV on the eve of the French Revolution, “After me the flood.”  Or as many fellow boomers have phrased it to me, “It won’t crash in my lifetime.”

Now the handwriting is on the wall, the torches and pitchforks are seen on the horizon, and it is becoming obvious though the end may not come on December 21, 2012 it isn’t too far off.  Anyone who isn’t comatose in the cultural soma of social media and the game can see you can’t continue to spend more than you bring in forever.  The interest on the National Debt is going to eat us alive. Our creditors won’t keep lending us more and more once they realize our only answer is to print our way out of debt.  Ask any scam artist trying to live by charging their Visa to the MasterCard when the shop keepers start cutting up the cards the happy days aren’t here anymore.

What we need to do is go over the fiscal cliff, and instead of using the ensuing economic contraction as an opportunity to re-launch the United States in a fundamentally new direction tighten our belts.  We have got to go through a period of austerity to return to reality. 

Endlessly printing money always leads to money that isn’t worth anything.  Even if our current leaders think they have figured out a soft landing for this lead balloon they haven’t, and when that bubble pops the economy stops. 

Our fiscal conservatives who want to return to a gold standard should tell everyone that doing that will cause a contraction in the value of money that will resemble a train going 100 miles an hour hitting a brick wall.  There just isn’t enough gold in the world to value every American dollar at one dollar.  A return to gold would give us an economy based on real money, and that would be a good thing.  However the proponents of this course need to be honest about the transition from funny money to real money: there will be a great deal of pain on the way back to reality.

There are plans to do something from the right. There is the plan to cut off Social Security at 55. Everyone younger having paid into the world’s greatest Ponzi scheme all their lives get another deal.  Even if it is a better deal they will still feel like they are getting ripped off because they are.  There is also the plan to cut all the wasteful spending out of Medicare but leave it all over at the Pentagon.   These plans won’t fly because they only have one wing.

The left has a plan too.  Raise taxes on the rich, and keep on spending.  This may eventually pass due to the President’s perceived strength and the Republican leadership’s Progressive inclinations and acceptance of defeat but it will only continue our progress towards national suicide.

The fact is we can either choose to cut the spending, raise revenues, and save the future or we can continue to stagger like drunken sailors spending our children’s as yet unearned money until our creditors pull in the leash.  I know calling for higher tax revenues is heresy to most conservatives, and I am not in favor of the government taking one more cent than necessary for Constitutional purposes.  Saving the country from ruin is the ultimate Constitutional purpose. 

Like any household that is buried in debt we need more money and less spending; the trick is getting both.  The slight-of-hand artists in Washington are great at striking Grand Bargains for taxes now and spending cuts that never materialize.  That never has worked and it certainly won’t work now.  We could do it without tax increases.  Without taxes the spending cuts would have to be much deeper and more painful, and we can’t get anyone to sign on for the pain of cuts with taxes.

Here’s the secret of raising revenues with taxes.  We can’t raise rates which merely increases tax avoidance.  A flat tax would bring in increased revenues by growing the economy and would indeed be fair.  In contrast raising rates in a progressive tax system is merely punitive and is a populist trick to buy the votes of those who earn less.

If we don’t endure the pain now, if we don’t endure the necessary radical fiscal surgery despite years on life support, decades of refusing to take our medicine will finally cause our economy, and with it our dreams of a brighter future, to die.  However, we won’t get to go to heaven.  Instead we will go into debtor’s prison as our beloved nation sinks beneath mountains of debt into the second or third rank.  We will watch as a tomorrow which could have been ours becomes someone else’s.

When our children and grandchildren ask us, “Where’s my inheritance?” we will have to say, “We spent it yesterday.”  When they ask, “Where’s our future?” we will have to say, “We spent that too.”

Instead of being pushed over the cliff, let’s dive over and then resist any attempt to restore the spending.  Let’s take the pain so our children can gain.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2012 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

 

This isn’t a Recession October 30, 2010

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Uncategorized.
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Perhaps the following examples are emblematic of our present precarious situation.  The Progressive Congressional leadership apparently believes Steven Colbert is not only what they perceive as a conservative commentator they also believe his outrageous satirical views are worthy of a Congressional hearing.  Not to be outdone by the pedantic puffery of his lockstep legislative sidekicks, our President, like millions of his devotees, apparently perceives John Stewart as a serious news broadcaster.  Together these two politically motivated comedians are what the left believes constitutes an effective counter-weight to Glenn Beck and his chalkboards.

After the dust settles, after the confetti is swept up and all the balloons have popped what will the transformed American political landscape look like?  Who will be leading and where?  Will the recently awakened millions who’ve campaigned to get their country back have anything to show for all their efforts?  Or, will the entrenched GOP establishment reach across the aisle proving all they were really interested in was co-opting the Tea Party Movement to regain their power so they could continue their side of the slide into the shabby future of a Progressive Social Democracy?

Hopefully the Loyal Opposition will realize this election was not a place holder.  This was not merely a warm-up for the opportunity to send Mr. Obama back to Chicago.  This tea-nami will send people to Congress who need to know this is their chance to work for the reversal of the Progressive agenda.  If instead they misinterpret it as a two-year lease with an option they will soon hear the cry, “We can see 2012 from here!”

Then again this whole election cycle may be President Obama’s version of rope-a-dope.  His erratic pronouncements and lack of any message except variations of his car-in-the-ditch illustration make it seem as if he wants the Republicans to win control of the House and pick off some old mass-backs in the Senate.  That way like the new boss who cleans out the old team, he’ll be free of Nancy and Harry and for the next two years he can bounce against the ropes, play the Comeback Kid, and let the Senate absorb the force of the punches.  Then in 2012 he can blame the Republicans for the mess he has created while saying the answer to the failure of Plan A is Plan A again.

Niccolo Machiavelli once said, “No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.”  Now look at the situation the 112th Congress is going to face.  Without total veto-proof control of both houses the ship of state will continue to speed towards the glacier of unsustainability while the wide-eyed reformers rearrange the deck chairs.  Or as Sun Tzu said, “He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.”

The unemployment rate in September 2010 stood at an abysmal 9.6% and that only includes people receiving unemployment benefits.  If everyone is counted, those whose benefits have run out and the underemployed who work part time but want to work full time the real unemployment rate is closer to 16.7% and some analysts peg it as high as 22%.   Then there are the 99ers, those who have exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.  With the help of the AFL-CIO and the SEIU they are unionizing online hoping to use the power of collective action to legislate longer benefits.

One in eight Americans, are now enrolled for food stamps.  This is the highest share of the U.S. population ever receiving food stamps, which is another first for the Obama Administration’s economic recovery program.  The stigma caused by using the old funny colored monopoly money has been replaced with an anonymous looking debit card linked to someone else’s account.  Looking forward, the research of professional anti-hunger lobbying groups shows that one in three eligible people are not receiving the benefits they deserve.  If this is correct, soon half of America may have the opportunity to subsidize the other half.  This will be a major blow to the pro-hunger lobby.

The Census Bureau reports over14% of the population were below the poverty line in 2009, compared with 13.2% in the previous year and 11.3% in 2000.  The number has increased three years in a row with no decline in sight as the trillions spent in the President’s recovery plan just keep on giving.

The national debt has increased by 5 trillion since Nancy Pelosi became the Speaker of the House and promised no new deficit spending.  Since President Obama’s inauguration the debt has increased by 3 trillion.  And according to the administration projections the National Debt will increase by approximately $6.5 trillion during President Obama’s first term which is greater than the unacceptable increases of Bushes two terms.

Apologizing for our past, pillaging our present, mortgaging our future, kowtowing to China, imitating Europe our first post-exceptionalism President rejects our greatness as illegitimate and seeks to manage America’s decline.  This isn’t a recession this is the new normal.  The Progressive Evolutionaries are systematically destroying our economy in order to produce the Lumpenproletariat their cherished theory of life, the universe, and everything predicted Capitalism would produce.  Now that the name of Communism has changed to State Capitalism maybe it will.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System.  http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook.

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