Saturday, March 7, 2009

Obama Seeks Permanent Expansion of Welfare Handouts

In a recent comment thread, Dr. Hussein Birdbrain dismissed the idea that President Barack Obama will expand welfare handouts to the poor:

So what ARE the anti-poverty programs you keep going on about? How much money are we talking about? Because I can assure you that the majority of this spending is NOT for anti-poverty welfare programs ... Perhaps I'm wrong and you can explain all these anti-poverty programs that I haven't been hearing about in my liberal circles; but I'm fairly sure they'll turn out to be minor amounts. But perhaps you'd like to put actual numbers to your rhetoric and prove me wrong.
Dr. Hussein needs to specify exactly what he means by "anti-poverty welfare programs"; because while there is a policy difference between entitlement programs and means tested-programs, both categories are referred to by policy analysts as "income security expenditures," which means by definition that such programs are designed to keep Americans from falling into poverty. Indeed, when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law in 1935, he said:

We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.
The rise of the social service state has elevated federal spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, TANF for the poor, anti-poverty food programs, drug rehabilitation, housing relief (Section 8), and unemployment insurance (to name a few) to the center of public budgeting. All of these are "anti-poverty" programs, and since Social Security and Medicare make up roughly one-third of all federal spending, we're talking about at least another 15 percent of the budget going to "anti-poverty welfare programs."

Actually, there's been a lot of commentary on these issues lately. Policy analyst Robert Rector has argued that President Obama will
end welfare-refrom as we know it:

The stimulus bill will overturn the fiscal foundation of welfare reform and restore an AFDC-style funding system. For the first time since 1996, the federal government will begin paying states bonuses to increase their welfare caseloads ... Candidate Barack Obama promised to make government "more open and transparent." But, in office, President Obama has done the opposite, promoting a massive spending bill riddled with secret provisions unrelated to economic stimulus. The stimulus bill is being used as a Trojan horse to secretly overturn welfare reform, massively expand long-term welfare spending, and permanently "spread the wealth."
At the Wall Street Journal, Benjamin Sasse and Kerry Weems also discuss Obama's welfare reform rollback:

Through a little noticed provision of the stimulus package that has passed the House of Representatives, the bill creates a fund for TANF that is open-ended -- the same way Medicare and Social Security are.

In the section of the House bill dealing with cash assistance to low-income families, the authors inserted the bombshell phrase: "such sums as are necessary." This is a profound departure from the current statutory scheme, despite the fact that, in this particular bill, state TANF spending would be capped. The "such sums" appropriation language is deliberately obscure. It is a camel's nose provision intended to reverse Clinton-era legislation and create a new template for future TANF reauthorizations.
Hmm, open-ended? Sounds like public assistance would in fact become an "entitlement" program, which means that these appropriations would become what's known in budget parlance as "uncontrollable expenditures" in which funding would be set by fixed formulas and reauthorization is automatic. Such programs are extremely difficult to reduce or refrom.

Peter Ferrara at the American Spectator identifies explicitly how the administration's budget will expand the tradition anti-povery sector, with open-budget appropriations and accounting gimmicks:

Here, in fact, is exactly how the budget promises to produce these many years of economic growth, in its chapter on "Jumpstarting the Economy and Investing for the Future":

-- Make Permanent the $800 "Making Work Pay" Tax Cut for Workers and Families. This is the income tax credit discussed above that sends lots of money to people who do not pay income taxes, and involves no change in incentives for those who do pay income taxes. Borrowing $800 for each two-earner couple to send them a check for $800 adds nothing to the economy on net.

-- Continue to Cut Taxes for the Families of Millions of Children Through an Expansion of the Child Tax Credit. Ditto the above.

-- Increase Food Stamp Benefits for Over 30 Million Americans. Increasing welfare does not promote economic growth. It retards it, by promoting dependency and non-work instead.

-- Provide Nearly 60 Million Retired and Disabled Americans an Immediate $250 Through Temporarily Increasing Benefits. Increasing welfare does not promote economic growth, even if the recipient really needs the money.

-- Extend, Expand and Reform Unemployment Insurance (UI) Benefits. Extending and expanding unemployment insurance benefits provides no incentives or other boost for economic growth. Rather, it does just the opposite.

-- Reform Asset Tests. This means make it easier to get welfare. No economic boom here.

There is also some infrastructure spending, which will work to promote the economy like Roosevelt's old Works Progress Administration (WPA) did early in the Great Depression. Government spending is not free, and is not the foundation of economic growth.

Finally, take a look at the budget analysis from the left-wing NPR:

Regarding poverty, it's difficult to tell exactly how much the administration proposes spending on the disadvantaged. Specific numbers will not be available until April, when the administration is set to release a more detailed budget. However, Sharon Parrott, a welfare expert at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, says it's clear the administration is not trying to reduce the deficit at the expense of programs for the poor. Some critics warn, though, that temporary benefit increases approved as part of the stimulus package could turn into a permanent expansion of welfare programs.
So, we'll see exact anti-povety numbers in April. But given, the above analysis, there's really not much that remains to be known. The Obama administration is committed to literally trillions of dollars to the expansion of anti-poverty programs. And this will be costly, coming out to $25,573.48 apiece per taxpayer. And keep in mind, we're not even talking about the socialization of American medicine.

So, let me put out the call to Dr. Birdbrain to respond to this post with a rebuttal to the argument and the preliminary numbers (although the guy's a pathological liar, so whatever response we do end up seeing with be contaminated with progressive postmodernist budgetary baloney).

We are seeing the largest expansion of government in American history. While folks right now are focused on anti-tax tea parties and those who're going "John Galt," this subterranean expansion of the state welfare-handout sector is one of the biggest signs that this administration is indeed hellbent on to shift this country over to the European socialist model.


Anonymous said...

"I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit."
-- President Grover Cleveland vetoing a bill for charity relief (18 Congressional Record 1875 [1877]

"I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity. [To approve the measure] would be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded."
-- President Franklin Pierce's 1854 veto of a measure to help the mentally ill.

A far cry from Obama.

Dave said...

"In a recent comment thread, Dr. Hussein Birdbrain dismissed the idea that President Barack Obama will expand welfare handouts to the poor:"

What a surprise. Hell, I am guessing should a conservative tell him their was a flood on, he would strenuously deny it even if he were standing on the roof of his domicile up to his neck in water.

"But perhaps you'd like to put actual numbers to your rhetoric and prove me wrong."

So, its numbers you want, eh?

How does $65.5 Trillion grab ya?


Rich Casebolt said...

Professor, thanks for doing the research ... being that it was my comment that produced Biobrain's question. What the "brain" doesn't understand, is that numbers, while important ...

... like the $3 trillion or so spent on the Great Society programs, which provided all the disincentives needed to perpetuate poverty across generations ...

... like the billions spent at all levels by government on education, in the belief that more money will ALWAYS produce better results, even when it is evident that many of the problems stem from places that are not affected by funding (like, say, the imposition of an ideological agenda upon the process?) ...

... like the trillions to be consumed in a headlong rush to impose taxes and mandates upon this nation in the name of "climate change", even though the jury of OBJECTIVE science is still out ... and in the face of government foulups on alternative energy, from synfuels to California's mandate for mandatory fleet percentages of pure EV's (physics and engineering be damned) ...

... are secondary to the principles behind them, as they only represent the effect of the application of such principles.

And, as you have shown Professor, the trends of this Administration are indicating a return to the principles that have failed us before.

Not "change" ... change BACK!

Now, let me make it perfectly clear to our antagonist here ...

1> My concern is about a lot more than just anti-poverty programs ... it is about having my nation run by a lot of educated fools who think, because they went to the "right" schools and are thinking in terms of "fairness", they can do a better job running this nation than 300 million problem-solvers, to the point these educated fools demand we surrender more and more of our resources and control to them in areas where, because the solutions are so individual in nature, the Federal government is STRUCTURALLY INCAPABLE of effectively addressing them.

2> BTW, our antagonist also does not perceive, apparently, the ability of greed to assert itself WITHIN govenrment (especially the Federal) ... and use the mechanisms of politics to tenaciously remain there, far longer than in other venues.

3> And why does our antagonist gloss over the fact that even long-term infrastructure projects -- that might have stood just fine on their own merits -- were instead deceptively sold as "stimulus", implying immediate relief for our economy? Were they perhaps being used as cover for all the return-to-the-Great-Society and entrench-the-teachers-unions and ACORN-funding projects that were also being rammed down our throats by the dreamers of Woodstock Nation and political animals who now run Congress, with the willing support of the Mess-iah? Where was the "transparency" we were assured would be there?

4> As for the dismissal by our antagonist of our concerns over the raising of marginal tax rates, equating it to the paranoid delusion that Mr. Bush would declare martial law ... there is a lot more precedent for, and a lot fewer protections against, repeated raises in the marginal rates to confiscatory levels, than there is to a return to martial law. The latter would be perceived as hard fascism and quickly/vigorously opposed ... the former is "soft, cuddly" fascism that sneaks up on you, especially when a majority of the nation is not affected (directly) by such "compassion". If nothing else, where is the PRINCIPLE that determines when "enough is enough", and the raises stop? Is it simply the whim of the elites?

5> Our antagonist believes he is standing up for the "little guy" ... well, when prices go up -- and, as I and my fellow workers from the newest assembler to the president of my firm will feel firsthand, our year-end profit-sharing bonuses go down as our owner's taxes are raised -- and eat away any tax cut this Administration is able to offer us ... how is that helping the "little guy"? Biobrain, you continue to deceive the "little guys" by pushing the idea that they look to government redistribution to save them economically, instead of encouraging them to take the steps to increase their prosperity, and prepare for life's ups and downs, on their own by "thinking like businessmen".

I will conclude with this ... I have no problem with safety nets to protect the less fortunate, but I do think that you do the less fortunate a disservice by creating hammocks, cocoons, and traps that look like safety nets.

That is what you get when you look to the Federal government, instead of the private sector and/or local/state governments, to resolve problems in social services ... yet our antagonist and his fellow-travelers in Leftism always look to the Feds FIRST for such nets. The same goes for other areas of social advancement, like education and the environment, where structural incapability of effective Federal involvement is evident.

I think I know why ...

For one thing, they are LAZY ... instead of seeking to build those systems in areas of our society that are better-suited to manage them, but would require "selling" their plans over and over again to multiple sectors of our society, they instead look to the Feds as a "one-stop shop".

For another, they seek to remove individual responsibility from the equation ... and the respect for civil liberties by, and the relative detachment of, the Federal system when it comes to individual behavior lends itself to the decoupling of personal responsibility from the delivery of services ... more so than the alternative channels I described above.

Advocates for Federal involvement might attempt to impose rules/authoritarian control, often in misguided ways that attempt to "assure" that no one fails or suffers... but our antagonist and his allies often settle for highly-softened enforcement of such rules in practice -- at least up to a certain level of pocket depth.

I consider that willingness to settle a manifestation of their projection ... because the individuals that make up the Left have also historically wanted to suppress criticism of their pet vices, even as they condemn their opponents for evils from smoking to conspicuous consumption.

IMO, they figure that, if their vices do end up taking them down, help for them will be more likely -- and more comfortable for them -- if it does not include the "judgmentalism" of demanding responsible behavior in return.

Vote Democrat; guarantee your "right" to ...
get high ...
get your jollies ...
get a free Band-Aid(TM)
get a check ...
and just get gy ...
... by giving up your right to get ahead!

Doctor Biobrain said...

Donald, what is this? I ask Rick which programs he was referring to, so you turn it around and ask me which ones I was referring to? Donald, I wasn't referring to ANY programs. Rick was. And I only asked him because he was being so vague, yet it sounded like he was referring to huge expansions in programs that weren't being expanded. So I wanted him to give actual numbers to his rhetoric as a way of furthering the discussion.

And what do you do to back-up your case of Obama's expansion of welfare handouts? Provide us with some original research or at least a link to actual facts? No. You once again outsource your arguments to other conservatives who assert that Obama is expanding welfare handouts.

For example, the one from the Washington Times is only correct if these provisions aren't phased out when they're supposed to; and require Congress to reapprove them. Currently, these AREN'T longterm expansions of these programs and he was only writing of his prediction that it would happen. I can't refute predictions, Donald. Nor can you rely upon his predictions as evidence. You believe these expanded programs will be made permanent and I believe they'll expire like they're supposed to. There's nothing to refute here.

And the one from WSJ is worse, as it's complete speculation based upon one phrase which they admit is "obscure" and might not do what they say it might do. Plus, that was written before the bill passed, so you're not even sure if that one phrase was included. Again, I can't refute the meaning of one phrase that might not even be in the law.

And the guy from American Spectator was completely wrong. Giving money and food stamps to poor people is an EXCELLENT way of boosting the economy. Every dollar they spend is another dollar into the economy, and it doesn't matter whether the dollar came from a paycheck or a welfare check; they spend the same way. Now, you can argue like Rick does that these programs discourage hardwork because they make laziness too easy. But you can't argue that they don't improve the economy. Ferrara's assertions were not only wrong, they were nonsense. All dollars spend the same, no matter where they came from. And even borrowed money can help the economy.

Beyond that, I totally encourage you people to call all these programs "Welfare". You're just offending the people who rely on them. Social Security and Medicare are huge successes. And with people losing their jobs, extending unemployment benefits and job training programs are increasingly more popular. And drug rehabilitation programs as anti-poverty program? And you disapprove?!? Bitch about welfare all you want, but when you touch these programs, you'll just be laughed at.

And frankly, I totally encourage you in this. You guys have had huge losses in the last two elections and your only solution is to keep getting more unpopular. And I hope you keep up with it. Sure, I'd like if you guys joined reality and stopped opposing helpful programs. But, if you're not going to join us, I'd just as soon see you guys spouting out this crazy stuff and pretending like everyone who gets unemployment and earned income are lazy. You're only making Obama's job easier.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Oops, in my last comment, I wrote "Rick" when I meant "Rich". Sorry, didn't meant to confuse anyone.

Doctor Biobrain said...

So Rich, why can't you answer the questions? I asked "So what ARE the anti-poverty programs you keep going on about? How much money are we talking about?"

Because if you look at the stimulus bill, you'd see only $3 billion specifically on Welfare; compared with $288 billion in tax cuts, including $51 billion in business tax cuts. And perhaps you're also referring to money being spent on the recently unemployed and programs like food stamps and Medicaid which also go to working people with full-time jobs. And perhaps you're like Donald and also include Social Security and Medicare; which are a form of retirement insurance that these people paid to be a part of. And now it looks like you're attacking bridges and education.

But here's the thing. You doth protest too much. Because for as much as you went on and on and on about the programs you disliked, these aren't the programs you were attacking before.

As you wrote:
"I don't mind paying taxes ... but I do mind when I am asked for more and more, to pay for the expansion of governmental philosophies that have already demonstrated a lack of effectiveness in lifting people from poverty and ignorance to productivity and awareness, in large part because they suppress the immediate need for personal responsibility. "

And you said many things like that. Now maybe I'm crazy, but I thought you were referring to welfare programs which involved us giving money to people who don't work. But I wasn't sure, so I asked for a clarification, as well as an actual number of what you thought Obama was spending; as a way of introducing a bit of reality to this discussion. But now you're railing against Global Warming and all this other stuff, without having answered my simple question. I mean, if you're complaining about these programs, it shouldn't be too hard for you to provide us with the details that you already should have known.

And maybe I'm wrong and you somehow imagined that Donald's vague post was a proper response (it wasn't!), but I suspect your problem is that you don't really know what you're talking about. You've been told that Obama is expanding these debunked programs, but don't have any data to back it up. So instead you divert the argument into all these other issues without having even explained the FIRST part you were complaining about. Rather than get more detailed, you just made this a whole lot more vague.

And hey, I'm not going to debate Global Warming. I never do. Nor do I blog about it. You don't agree with the science and I'm in no position to argue with you. But I would at least like to deal with these supposed welfare programs you were attacking. And if you were referring to Social Security, Medicare, drug rehab, education, and these other programs, then it really undermines your case.

I mean, people EARN Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment. You don't get them unless you worked for awhile. And whether you think they're effective or not, education and job training programs are designed so that people DON'T need to be dependent on the government. We support these policies to educate people and make them self-sufficient. And just so you know, the stimulus bill contained more for job training programs than for Welfare. You should be happy about that. But I suspect you don't really know much about this at all. You only know what you've been told.

Now, if you want to have a real discussion of this, you'll need to use real numbers and facts. Or, you can just make this as generalized as possible and attack me for things that I've never believed. As it is, for as much as you act like you're complaining about government programs, it looks to me like you're just complaining about the people who support them.

And just so you understand: You just got totally skunked by a professional. I didn't think you had real numbers, because you don't have any. But I got you to admit that you were talking about "a lot more than just anti-poverty programs," which contradicts what you said before. And I knew that was the case. And by refusing to work with actual numbers, you've only exposed how disingenious you are on all this. You complained about welfare until someone asked you to explain your complaint. And then you backed-off and started complaining about everything. Dude? You got SKUNKED. If you want to answer the question from the top, I'd be happy to keep talking about that. But I suspect you just can't do it. As usual, conservative rhetoric sounds great until you actually have to provide the details. You can prove me wrong, or you can just keep attacking my motives.

Rich Casebolt said...

I mean, people EARN Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment. You don't get them unless you worked for awhile.

And I don't include those INSURANCE programs -- no matter how much our elected leaders have pushed them towards insolvency that would NEVER be allowed in a private-sector program -- in my analysis.

And whether you think they're effective or not, education and job training programs are designed so that people DON'T need to be dependent on the government. We support these policies to educate people and make them self-sufficient. And just so you know, the stimulus bill contained more for job training programs than for Welfare. You should be happy about that.

Intent counts for little -- performance is measured by RESULTS. And the Obama Administration has shown NO evidence that they will be able to manage these programs any more effectively then when similar programs were part and parcel of the Great Society.

But I suspect you don't really know much about this at all. You only know what you've been told.

No ... fifty years of life experience has told me what I know, Biobrain. I am hardly "skunked" by the likes of you.

You, OTOH, wish to discredit me to diminish the "skunking" you got at the hands of the good Professor ... even if you have to strain at gnats to prove it.

I mean, what part of "open-ended" don't you understand?

Anyone can cite numbers ... show us principle, instead.

Explain to me HOW this expansion of government being perpetrated by the Obama Administration will lead to the enhancement of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- as opposed to their degradation, as we have seen such expansions do in the past.

It's about more than just "welfare" -- it is about whether or not we are creating a culture of DEPENDENCE, on multiple levels -- by removing more and more of the individual's ability to live free and pursue happiness, be that through taxation, regulation, and/or degradation of economic and educational opportunity, and replacing it with incentives to let an elite few control our resources and their application as they see fit.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Rich - Social Security insolvent? It still provides billions more in revenue than it pays out. How is it possibly insolvent? The government is insolvent, based on some definitions, but Social Security is most definitely NOT insolvent. Besides, the point is that these are earned benefits which only go to people who have worked for many years. To lump these in with programs that discourage work is an absurd joke.

In regards to job training programs, what on earth are you talking about? We've been using job training programs for YEARS! We're expanding these programs to train MORE people, to handle the extra burden now that unemployment is growing. And again, these are programs designed to make people self-sufficient. Do you have some evidence to suggest that these programs don't work? Please provide it. Again, it becomes increasingly obvious that you have no idea what you're talking about.

And how did Donald skunk me? All he did was quote from two articles which stated opinions about Obama expanding welfare programs, as well as another article that wrongly asserted that pumping money into businesses wouldn't stimulate the economy. And this stuff wasn't any more convincing than if Donald had written it himself.

And I understand "open-ended" perfectly well. More so than you apparently, as these AREN'T open-minded programs. They're part of a two-year stimulus progam and are set to expire after that. And for these programs to be expanded, Congress would need to approve it. Perhaps that sounds "open-ended" to you, but it sounds like "two years" to me.

And just so it's understood, the purpose of this two-year expansion is a temporary boost to the economy. Perhaps people will become more dependent after two years of this. But the main point isn't to get people on benefits, but to get money to these people in order to help the economy. Perhaps you'd like to explain how pumping $19 billion in food stamps to grocery stores doesn't improve the economy, but this seems pretty obvious to me. You might not like these programs, but I assure you that my local grocery store loves them.

And again, you say you support indepedence, but also oppose job training programs and spending on education? And what about the billions in tax cuts we just got? It was the largest tax cut in history, by some measures. Yet this gets ignored and you complain about more taxes, probably because you don't like that Bush didn't make his tax cuts open-ended.

And again, the fraudulent nature of your opposition to Obama's policies becomes more clear with every post. You started by complaining about welfare programs which reward laziness and when confronted by the fact that these programs are a tiny portion of the stimulus, you're now attacking programs designed to make people self-sufficient, as well as programs that people paid to be a part of. Obama is giving billions to Americans in the belief that they know where to spend the money to help the economy, as well as giving billions to state and local governments under the belief that they know better where the money should go. Yet you suggest that an "elite few" are controlling the money? What a weird idea.

But of course, part of your problem is that you've got the wrong idea of what these programs are meant to do. While Obama wants to help these people, he's pushing these policies because they best help the economy; under the belief that once the economy improves, these people will be able to take care of themselves. That's why these are temporary programs.

Now, if you'd really like for me to explain more how these programs work, I can do that. Or, if you'd like to provide some facts and numbers to back-up your arguments, please do so. But for you to continue with these vague rants against The Great Society, without any real knowledge of what these programs are is just silly.

I'm sorry, but there is no logical consistency to your argument. You blew it when you moved away from your attack on Welfare. That sounded plausible. The rest of this is just embarrassing you.