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What a Conservative Social Safety Net Would Look Like – Part 1 of 4

social safety net
When I talk with liberals, most are shocked to learn that I support a social safety net.

They assume that, because I’m a conservative, I must support some kind of Darwinian “survival of the fittest” economic system.

That’s how President Obama usually describes our public policy views — every man for himself.

I explain that I am a conservative, not a libertarian.

Conservatives certainly believe in a social safety net because we believe in a humane civilized society.

But there is a strong perception (perhaps a majority perception) that we are opposed to any kind of social safety net. Mitt Romney’s 47 percent comment played into that perception in a major way.

It’s my view that comment cost him the election. That 47 percent includes those on Social Security, Medicare, veterans, our fighting men and women, policemen, fire fighters, and many who traditionally vote Republican.

So the 47 percent comment was devastating to the Romney campaign. He was writing off 47 percent of the electorate. Or at least, that became the perception.

The issue now is: How do conservatives fix their messaging problem?

My own view is that it’s not just a messaging problem, it’s also a bit of a substance problem.

Conservatives are strong when they are talking about opportunity and the wealth-creating power of free-market capitalism.

But most 70-year-olds, quite frankly, don’t care much about economic opportunity for themselves. They want to know their medical bills will be covered and their Social Security check will continue to arrive so they can pay their rent and continue to eat.

A single mother with three kids is not thinking about the great economic opportunities that might be out there. She’s not wondering: Should I buy a franchise, or start my own business?

She’s wondering how she can continue to hold down three jobs and raise her kids in this economy of part-time jobs.

The truth is, only a small portion of the population is even capable of actually starting a business — perhaps 5 percent of the population, at most.

Most people are not entrepreneurs, don’t have the temperament for it. Most people are not risk takers.

I am an entrepreneur. I happen to have the temperament for it.

I have built three successful businesses. I love getting paid according to what I actually produce. I actually like the risk of potentially not getting paid at all if I make bad bets. This risk, this uncertainty makes life exciting.

But most people are not wired this way. Most people don’t have an entrepreneurial temperament.

Over the years and decades, I have interviewed hundreds of prospective employees.

I have asked many of them this question . . .

Would you rather earn a fixed salary of $40,000 per year?

Or would you prefer to earn a percentage (say 15%) of the money you help bring into the company, with the potential of earning $500,000, $1,000,000, or more per year?

95 percent (or more) will choose the fixed salary of $40,000 per year over the realistic potential of earning $500,000, 1,000,000 or more.

They will choose the $40,000 salary over even an excellent chance to earn many times that amount based on measureable production.

Most people just don’t want their incomes to be directly linked to actual results.

Most people, let’s face it, want to be taken care of, at some level. They at least want to know they won’t end up on the street with their children.

Women, more than men, tend to be safety conscious — which is why there is now at least a 10 point gender gap in elections between how men tend to vote and how women tend to vote. This gender gap is enormous among single women. So, apparently, single women feel more vulnerable than married women, so feel they are in more need of government protection.

Safety is much more important to women than to men, but it’s important to almost everyone.

I don’t for a second think single women were voting on the Sandra Fluke contraception issue.

Women want a safety net. So do most people.

Conservatives make a big rhetorical and strategic blunder when they sound like they oppose a social safety net.

What we oppose is the kind of welfare state we have now that has created a culture of dependency and a permanent underclass.

No one in America should be starving and homeless. No one wants to throw their grandma out into the snow or allow her to die because she can’t afford medical treatment.

We’re certainly a rich enough country to take care of those who are not in a position to take care of themselves.

The question is: What would a conservative social safety net look like?

A social safety net should first and foremost be aimed at protecting those who cannot work.

They are either too young, too old, too sick, or seriously disabled.

Who doesn’t want to protect these people? 

This is a big reason for the failure of the Mitt Romney campaign for President.

He kept talking about entrepreneurs and “job creators.”

It’s certainly true that entrepreneurs and business leaders produce all the wealth.

He’s absolutely correct about that.

But with that message, he was talking to about five percent of America, at most.

Most people are not Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Most people are not capable of even running a hotdog stand.

What most people want is some sense of security in life. Most people don’t expect to get rich, aren’t even trying to. They are living paycheck-to-paycheck.

They are just happy to know there is a floor — a minimum living standard — through which they can’t fall.

This is why insurance companies are so profitable. Insurance companies are built on the fear people have that bad things happen — because bad things often do happen.

People know that insurance is a bad deal most of the time. They know they are probably paying more than they should for insurance. But they want insurance anyway, to protect themselves from disaster. 

The social safety net is a form of insurance. People want it.

Insurance provides peace of mind.

People lose their jobs, lose their heath, have accidents, and have catastrophic disasters. People want to know that the society will step in to help them, if needed.

It’s worth noting that there’s not much of a gender gap among married women. But Republicans are losing big among single women. And it has nothing to do with contraception or abortion.

Unmarried women feel vulnerable. They don’t have a husband to lean on. Many are single moms with children.

Instead of looking to husbands and their families for support, single women tend to look to government.

The Republican emphasis on helping entrepreneurs and “job creators” does not resonate with most single women.

All that changes when women get married — when marriage and family become their safety net.

Republican candidates do fine among married women . . . because married women feel more secure.

But as long as Republicans keep sounding like they are for “survival of the fittest” economic and social policies, they might as well write off single women, minorities, and all portions of the electorate who feel vulnerable.

It’s certainly true that entrepreneurs and business leaders create all the wealth. We want America to be the world’s most business friendly country. We don’t want to chase wealth and business out of the country with excessive taxation and onerous regulation. We want America to be attracting money and business, not repelling money and business. We want America to be a repository for the world’s wealth — a place where investors put their money . . . because that’s how nations become wealthy.

But a message that emphasizes helping five percent of the population — “job creators” — is not a formula for winning elections.

This is why it’s a mistake for conservatives to align themselves too closely with libertarians.

The Ron Paul-Ayn Rand “Virtue of Selfishness” approach to public policy is a non-starter with 80 percent of voters. 

Ron Paul and Ayn Rand certainly have put forth some great ideas — especially their explanations on why free-market capitalism is the surest path to prosperity .  .  . and why socialism and centralized economic planning by government always fails.

The free market is the engine that produces the most general prosperity.

But the free market also cannot solve all problems.

To read more by Ben Hart go  to

Tomorrow, Part 2: Why trying to make Obama’s “You didn’t build that”  remark the centerpiece of the campaign strategy to defeat Obama for reelection in 2012 was pretty dumb.

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No need what so ever for a Federal safety net

Face the facts. All this talk of a "Safety Net", is simply talk about forced and mandatory religious charity, except of course that real charity is voluntary, and based on Love, kindness and compassion. When it becomes mandatory, it is better known as theft, and is based upon, greed, envy, power and buying votes.
Tens of thousands of religious charities exist, and those of us that give to charities usually go to lengths to ensure the charities we give freely to are honest and efficient. The Federal Government is without doubt one of the most dis-honest and inefficient charities one could imagine.
There is nothing at all within our past, current, or proposed Federal "safety nets", that could not, and should not, be done more efficiently in the private sector.
Unemployment "insurance" could be handled much more efficiently in the private sector. If a person voluntarily wanted to buy into "unemployment insurance", a free market private sector could provide vast choices of insurers and policies to choose from. Private sector-for profit unemployment insurers would have no problem policing those policies, and preventing fraud.
Social Security and Medicaid "old age/disability insurance" could be handled much more efficiently, and honestly in the private sector, being voluntary, and policed honestly and effectively.
Welfare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Obamaphone, and other such forced religious charities should be handled the way they have been handled in Nature for millennia. If one of your friends or family are truly in need, then for heavens sake feed them or cloth them, or let them live with you if your religion tells you that is "the right thing to do". The ugly truth is that too many people today not only do not want to be responsible for themselves, but do not want to be responsible for their friends and families, It is much easier to cop out and whine that "The Government" should take care of Granny, instead of caring for her yourself. The underlying reason that people want "the Government" to provide welfare and food stamps for their immature, irresponsible, and lazy brother-in-laws etc., is that they know that he is a deadbeat, and not justified in receiving a handout from them personally. It is much easier (and irresponsible)to let your brother-in-law steal through the tax code handouts, than to confront him yourself with the truth about their dishonesty and sloth.
The Founders designed that people should be judged by a jury of "their peers", which at the time meant they should be judged by people who knew them well personally. With the logic that an individuals friends, family and acquaintances would be best to judge if a person is actually guilty or lying about the crime they are accused of. This was based on an generally accepted knowledge that truth is just, and lying is not. It was never intended that people be judged by total strangers the way it has been corrupted these days. It has become much easier ( and corrupt) to let total strangers ( the Federal Government), judge whether or not your friends and family members be allowed to profit through the " safety net/ theft", than it is to judge them honestly yourselves as a candidate for real charity, Love, kindness and compassion.

The Constitution

Usurp the freedom and responsibility of citizenship and you end up with irresponsible people wanting to live the life of dependency, like domesticated pets. The redistribution of wealth, the Nanny State or the safety-net is not listed in the Enumerated Powers so must be phased out to realize the currently hidden beauty and virtue of liberty.

If I miss the next three chapters, I probably won't be missing much.

RE: The Constitution

I agree, you hit the nail on the head for those of us who understand what the Constitution and America is all about.

You've never heard of promote the general welfare?

Article 1 Section 8 of the United States Constitution has providing for the general welfare as an 'Enumerated Power' of Congress. That's what the social safety net is.

General Welfare

When the Constitution says Congress shall have the Power to provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States, it deals with providing protection to the individual States from outside forces (Nations, Armies, Mobs, etc), and providing protection to the individual States from other individual States or groups of States, thus promoting the general peace and welfare between the States that are uniting under the Constitution. It does not mean that Congress has the power to take personal properties and liberties from individuals, and give that personal property to other individuals, especially not for the purpose of buying votes of those on the receiving end of the give and take. "Welfare" certainly did not have the same meaning to the founders and the Constitution, as it does today for the people receiving "welfare". You must acknowledge and remember, It is not ok, acceptable, or Cool to steal someone else's stuff, just because it is me that is receiving the stolen stuff, or you that is receiving it, or some of our friends or families that are on the receiving end of the stolen (eg taxed) stuff.

A Conservative's Twist on a Liberal Agenda

Consider an American "Conservative" Opportunity Agenda

The goals of Sen. Warren's "American Opportunity Agenda" might be achievable with some conservative tweaking:

- Instead of "paid family leave" which would be an expensive perk, a more business friendly solution would mandate only "unpaid" family leave or perhaps partial payments similar to unemployment assistance or even payments from the existing unemployment fund (with no need to exhaust any accumulated sick and vacation time).
- Instead of "raising the minimum wage", replace the job killing payroll taxes (worst tax) with a value added tax (best tax worldwide). All workers would get an immediate 7.65% raise and boost consumer spending that the economy needs. Businesses would find labor 7.65% less expensive and reduce outsourcing of jobs.
- Instead of "affordable child care" for all that could encourage women to work who might otherwise stay at home it would be better to limit support to single parents with less than average net wealth who have no choice but to work full time.
- Instead of "universal pre-kindergarten" for tens of millions (which is very expensive and has only a dubious affirmative action rational) it would be better to provide more resources for parents to spend quality time with their children.
- Instead of "equal pay for equal work" and similar non-discrimination provisions just for protected classes it is time to eliminate arbitrary discrimination and to provide fair right to work rules for all - including straight white males.

Conservatives can share the goals while supporting different means to get there.