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The Conservative Case for a Minimum Income

Reagan and Hayek

 

We basically have this now anyway.

The problem is we now have 79 federal means-tested welfare programs that spend a bit more than $1 TRILLION annually.

These 79 federal welfare programs include . . .

12 programs providing food aid;

12 programs funding social services;

12 educational assistance programs;

11 housing assistance programs;

10 programs providing cash assistance;

9 vocational training programs;

7 medical assistance programs;

3 energy and utility assistance programs; and

3 child care and child development programs.

According to the Census Bureau, 44,000,000 Americans are living below the poverty line.

This means if we simply divided the $1 TRILLION among the 44 MILLION Americans in poverty, we could provide $22,727 each year for every man, woman, child, and baby living in poverty.

That’s $90,909 per year for a family of four living in poverty — if the government simply wrote these families a check each month.

Of course, the poor are not getting this money. It’s being siphoned off by the government bureaucracy. It’s also being passed out in the form of grants to non-profits — ACORN-style “community organizing” groups to turn out the vote for Democrat candidates.

The poor are not getting much of this anti-poverty money.

What would be an appropriate amount for people in poverty should receive from taxpayers?

Well, according to the federal government, these income levels are considered to be the poverty line:

2015 U.S. POVERTY GUIDELINES:
Persons in family/household poverty guideline

1 — $11,770

2 — $15,930

3 — $20,090

4 — $24,250

5 — $28,410

6 — $32,570

So if the federal government simply wrote checks to people at this level, we could eliminate probably 75 of the 79 federal anti-poverty programs.

Since we are now spending $22,727 on every man, woman, child, and baby in poverty, simply writing checks to poor people in the above amounts would easily cut the cost of welfare to the taxpayer by 60 percent or more.

Remember, the first person in a household is considered in poverty if that person is bringing in $11,770 or less per year. Each additional person per household is thought to require a bit more than $4,100 per year to not be considered below the poverty line.

Also, low income Americans are getting Medicaid. So their basic health care needsare covered, as has been the case since 1965.

Medicaid costs taxpayer about $265 BILLION per year. That’s considered a means-tested poverty program. So when this is factored in, the cost of means-tested welfare to the American people, could easily be cut by 35-40 percent if we simply turned welfare into a check-writing operation without all those government bureaucrats and “community organizing” non-profits siphoning off the money.

The poor also have free education in the form of the public schools.

So they get a minimum income, as outlined above. They also receive Medicaid (free health care) and free education.

But wouldn’t a guaranteed income encourage laziness and fraud?

Yes, it would — which is why able-bodied people on means-tested welfare should be required to work.

There are lot of jobs that need doing. Help rebuild the roads and decaying infrastructure. Pick up trash along the roads. Help take care of the elderly and the sick. Clean up the parks.

What would not be permitted is any able-bodied adult getting paid to sit on the couch watching TV.

Once a child is age 5 and eligible for school, the mom would have to work also — do something, until the kids get home from school.

There are a lot of jobs that need doing in America.

Plus, all the evidence shows that when work is required to receive welfare, most people quickly get off welfare.

If they must work anyway, they start looking for better jobs.

Yes, this would require some administrative bureaucracy to enforce this. We would still need case workers and social workers. But that’s another function government is pretty good at: law enforcement.

But isn’t a guaranteed minimum income conservative heresy?

No.

Conservatives certainly believe in a social safety net.

William F. Buckley, Jr, Ronald Reagan, Russell Kirk — all serious conservative thinkers and leaders have believed in a social safety net. Ronald Reagan never advocated getting rid of the social safety net.

The debate is: What should this social safety net look like? How do we create a social safety net that provides for the truly needy, but also that incentivizes the able-bodied to get off it. Conservatives believe a safety net should not become a hammock.

This is big part of what differentiates conservatives from libertarians.

Conservatives do not agree with Ayn Rand’s survival-of-the-fittest, dog-eat-dog society.

Conservatives believe in the civil humane society. Conservatives are empiricists.

We want what works best.  We have done this over time through trial and error.

We realize that some people simply cannot take care of themselves. As Jesus said: “The poor will always be with us.”

That’s just a fact.

We don’t want people starving on the streets. We don’t want to throw grandma out into the snow. The American people would never put up with this anyway.

What conservatives want is a safety net that works and makes sense.

Mitt Romney’s Misunderstanding of What a Conservative Is

Mitt Romney lost the election in 2012 in large part because of his misunderstanding of conservatism.

He thought he had to campaign as a hardcore conservative to win the Republican nomination.  So he comically described himself in a speech as a “severe conservative.”

What the heck is that?

There’s no such thing as a “severe conservative.”

Conservatives are for conserving what works.

In America, that means defending the Constitution, the American idea, and free-market capitalism . . . because capitalism has worked so well, has created more wealth and prosperity and lifted more people out of poverty than any other system.

There’s nothing “severe” about that.

What conservatives want to do is maximize freedom, prosperity, and the general well-being of the county — what the Constitution called the “general welfare.”

By “general welfare,” the framers meant the “good of the whole” or the “good of the nation.”

Most people would say that it’s in the national interest not to have 14 percent of the population starving on the streets.  It would not make America look good to have that. We would not be the “shining city on the Hill” for the entire world to follow, as Reagan put it, if that were to happen.

Romney gave the impression to America that he opposed the social safety net in principle.  He even attacked the so-called 47 percent — defined as anyone receiving some kind of check or subsidy from the government — including military veterans, police officers, fire fighters, Social Security and Medicare recipients, students, etc.

Tough to win elections when you write off the 47 percent.

But isn’t a “minimum income”  basically the same as socialism?

No.

A key tenet of socialism is to redistribute wealth to create wealth equality.

The goal here is not to punish the productive and the successful, not to prevent people from earning as much money as they can.

This is not the class warfare of Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and the modern Democrat party — which has become Marxist in its rhetoric and orientation.

There should be no cap on achievement in America.

The corporate tax-rate should be cut to from a top rate of 39 percent to 10 percent. America should be a place that attracts capital. America should be the easiest place in the world to do business because the best anti-poverty program is a growing economy.

Capitalism is the only economic system that pulls people out of poverty. Socialism creates poverty and misery wherever it goes.

As U2’s Bono said in speech at Georgetown University:

"Aid is just a stop-gap. Commerce [and] entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid . . . In dealing with poverty here and around the world, welfare and foreign aid are a Band-Aid. Free enterprise is a cure."

The wealth doesn’t end up being redistributed anyway because poor people need to buy food and pay for the necessities of life.  So the modest income they receive from taxpayers ends up back in the bank accounts of businesses that provide the necessities of life.  The money is then reinvested by these businesses and circulated through the economy.

This is not a wealth redistribution scheme.  It’s a rescue scheme.   It’s social insurance — which 90 percent of Americans favor.

Even Friedrich Hayek, the great free-market Nobel Prize winning economist said: “I have always said that I am in favor of a minimum income for every person in the country.”  SOURCE: Hayek on Hayek (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994)

Hayek is a hero to most libertarians. Ronald Reagan awarded Hayek the Medal of Freedom for his work in economics and defense of capitalism. Hayek’s great book The Road To Serfdom had a big impact on my thinking, as it has many libertarians and conservatives. His book was an attack on socialism and a defense of free-market capitalism.

Milton Friedman also supported the idea of a minimum income. Friedman was, of course, another great free-market advocate, a Nobel Prizewinning economist, and hero to most libertarians.

Friedman’s book Free To Choose is the free-market Bible for many of us.

Friedman called his proposal a negative income tax. Instead of the byzantine sprawl of federal welfare programs, he proposed a simple cash transfer from the I.R.S. of, say, $6,000 for every citizen. So a family of four with no income would thus receive an annual payment from the I.R.S. of $24,000. Indexed for inflation, the amount would be more now than when Friedman was writing, probably closer to the current federal poverty guidelines outlined above.

For each dollar the family then earned, this payment might be reduced by 50 cents, or some fraction (so as not to disincentivise finding work in the market economy).

So if this principle passes muster with Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, that’s good enough for me.

Thomas Paine, one of the intellectual leaders of the America Revolution with his book Common Sense, was also an advocate of a minimum income, which he called a “citizen’s dividend.”  You should be entitled to a minimum standard of living simply by being a citizen, in Paine’s view.

Paine proposed that this Basic Income be financed with a 10% death duty from estates.  His logic came from John Locke (Thomas Jefferson’s argument in America’s Declaration of Independence came from Locke) who argued that the world in its natural state belonged equally to everyone.  But the development of private property rights allowed people to increase the value of the land through their own hard work and innovation.  Nevertheless, a certain percentage of this (Paine thought a 10% death tax from estates) should go back to the people — most specifically to those living in poverty to pay for their Basic Income.

You can read about “Thomas Paine’s Two Arguments for Basic Income” through the link.

So this is hardly a new idea.  Why do we need 79 different federal welfare programs to achieve this?

A minimum Basic Income was also proposed by conservative/libertarian hero Montesquieu (1689-1755) whose writings also heavily influenced the thinking of America’s founders.  Montesquieu is often quoted by Mark Levin in his books in defense of liberty and limited government.

So this is certainly a conservative, pro-freedom idea . . . and does not lead to socialism.

In fact, socialism is far more likely to come if there is no social safety net. When people are desperate, they take desperate measures. They end up following Pied Pipers like Hitler, Mao, Lenin, Pol Pot.

Do you want to see Fergusons happening everywhere — open warfare on the streets?

The social safety net is a key pillar of a prosperous civil humane society.

It helps keep the peace.

There is nothing the least bit contradictory about being both in favor of a social safety net that works (not the dysfunctional one we have now) while also being a pedal-to-the-metal, full-throated, unapologetic capitalist.

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Minimum Income

Ben, Ferguson had nothing to do with poverty. It was, in fact, a gentrifying community, one that was becoming attractive to yuppies. Near the University of Missouri St. Louis (UMSL) Ferguson featured a microbrewery, a wine bar, and numerous restaurants. While there is a number of Section 8 apartments, there are also many large Victorian homes and beautiful buildings. It has a wonderful recreation center and nice parks. What happened in Ferguson was a lot of rabble rousers came in almost immediately, and criminals came from all over the country. Most of the people involved in the riots and looting were NOT Ferguson residents. It was largely an astroturfed catastrophe'.

Another redistribution scam

Although some props must go to this redistribution scheme for efficiency, the Constitution does not permit such a scheme, just as it does not permit all the current schemes, including Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid. As Bono stated, the cure for poverty is not redistribution but the free market. And, it never should be forgotten that when the free market is mentioned, it includes the traditional Christian values.

It also does no good to simply add up the existing programs and divided by the population to determine the proper level for such income support. In fact, politicians and bureaucrats simply do not have adequate information the make such a determination as Hayek so eloquently states.

America became the wealthiest country in the world back in the 1870s because it lacked the misappropriation of private property. It is the miracle of freedom and personal responsibility that most efficiently defeats poverty and conservative effort must be directed at phasing out all of the past unconstitutional errors and let the minds of the entire population solve their own problems rather than let the planners usurp it.

I would consider the idea of

I would consider the idea of a "minimum income" with the thought that income implies work.

For those who are physically capable of performing work and refuse to work I am less forgiving.

Some people find themselves in financial straights because of bad health, disaster, accident, etc. Those we should help absent drug and crime problems. The idea is to get them back on their feet so they can earn a living.

Many people who live "below the poverty level" are there because of bad decisions they made. Any "income" they receive should be dependent on drug tests and work participation of some kind. Think WPA and CCC work. No work - no pay.