Tuesday, January 14, 2014

the War on the Poor

With respect to the poor, those on the Left focus moreso on outcomes than process-- and then churn and grasp for remedies.
Part of the focus on outcomes is a taste and preference-- and I can't quibble with that. People have different beliefs about equity, including the weight/importance of those beliefs. Although interesting and important, I'm not going to argue with them about that-- anymore than I'm going to get excited about putting pepperoni or sausage on their pizza.

In part, the approach of those on the Left stems from a reasonable inference: if the outcomes aren't fair, then the process cannot be fair. A big part of this is based on ignorance about the deeply flawed statistics used to describe such outcomes-- e.g.,
the poverty rate, income inequality, and wealth inequality. Reasonable but shallow and improper inferences are drawn-- and off they go. (Others on the Left and Right know that the stats are deeply flawed, but use them anyway-- to achieve their partisan or ideological goals.)

To the extent that those on the Left focus on the process of the economy, they often (and often implicitly) believe that it must be deeply flawed-- e.g., because workers have little bargaining power in labor markets. These reasons are often unstated and almost always untested. When stated, the beliefs are often incoherent (e.g., screeds against "greed" or "discrimination"-- without having or using a coherent definition). On occasion, the concerned party will make a good point, but the subsequent problems are not nearly sufficient to explain the deep outcome flaws they've asserted. (Next time you hear this from someone, ask him for a list.)

The funny thing? I agree with the Left's assessment of injustice against the poor and middle class. But I know that various government interventions-- at the behest of interest groups and wrong-headed but good intentions-- are the cause of the bulk of the problems they face.
And it's not just a belief; one can easily list an array of devastating policies from birth to death: the subsidized kick in the pants to family structure and stability; the crony-capitalistic bow to the status quo in K-12 education with its tremendous monopoly power over those with fewer resources; a War on Drugs which tempts the young and unskilled to sell drugs and then tosses them in jail; subsidies not to work and a long list of labor market regulations that particularly restrict those with fewer skills; if they do work, a payroll tax which takes about 15 cents of every dollar earned by the working poor and middle class; and a Social Security system that provides a negative rate-of-return for the poor and disadvantaged minorities. Only someone committed to Statism would not want to talk about these inconvenient and indefensible truths-- and work passionately to do something about them.
This is not to say that government has no role in the economy. This is not to say that everything the govt does is bad, ethically or practically (for the poor or otherwise). But it is to recognize that the government does many things which directly and indirectly harm and hammer the poor.
As we "celebrate" the government's 50-year War on Poverty and we lament its failure to make far greater strides, we should also open our eyes and condemn the government's War on the Poor. Can those on the Left put aside their ignorance and idolatry toward government? Can those on the Right fight courageously for the rights of others, particularly the vulnerable?


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