Recently, Bernie Sanders of Vermont declared his candidacy for the presidency of the United States of America. This should be a surprise to no one. Bernie is convinced that capitalism works as long as it can be unwound to include free educations for all, and other transfers of wealth from those who are producers to those who are spectators. Examples of ‘spectators’ are those who seek and find free stuff such as free education and free healthcare with no obligation to ‘earn’ these benefits.
Here’s how free ‘stuff’ works: any person that gets a ‘free’ education assumes he or she ‘deserved’ the free education based on the fact that they have a pulse and are able to breathe rhythmically. Or maybe the recipient believes that education and healthcare are rights accompanying citizenship. Another consideration is that the recipient has no idea why he or she receives these ‘free’ gifts and decides that several years of study without work or (in some cases) even without study would be a good way of perpetuating unemployment.
These ‘free riders’ may believe that all responsibility for healthcare, retirement and other benefits are the burden of government. The reality is that ‘government’ is a fiduciary of citizens that is authorized to collect taxes and distribute those funds to individuals and organizations as they see fit.
A new member of our U.S. House of Representatives is Christiana Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) who is a cum laude graduate of Boston University with a BA in ‘International Relations and Economics.’ However, her ‘instincts’ regarding the loss of the Amazon headquarters project for NYC (Long Island City) was elation in that she thought the approximately $3 billion tax relief for the project could now be distributed locally. Ms. Christiana Ocasio-Cortez does not apparently understand that the $3 billion was not a sum of money that actually existed but was rather simply a promise of ‘payment for performance’ by Amazon. This is evidence of abject ignorance, not naiveté.
The list of ‘free stuff’ is long and costly; free pre-natal, delivery and post-natal care, free pre-school care, free living wages for those who can’t or are “unwilling to work,” (really?) free cell phones, free college, free healthcare and (almost) free housing. This is only a partial list but in any nation where there are more consumers than producers, there is a natural magnetic force that makes consumers grow faster than producers. Taxes increase (think California, Illinois and New York) until the producers through their companies cannot generate enough revenue to increase efficiency and capacity; thus workforces shrink, college graduates sweep floors and run parking lots as ‘entitlements’ overwhelm the budgets of individual states and federal government.
In 1966 the Democratic Party controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. Coincidentally, Professors Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven at the Columbia University School of Social Work developed a strategy that is re-surfacing today. Their philosophy stated that if all welfare recipients could file for full government benefits at all levels, our economic system would collapse and the only solution would be a ‘guaranteed national income that would bring poverty to a halt.
If activated in 1966 or in 2020, this would be a devastating blow for our nation, costing trillions. Cloward and Piven were not the only extremists dedicated to reducing poverty to zero by completely impractical means. There was Chicagoan Saul Alinsky whose book, “Rules for Radicals”, was published in 1971. His method for transforming poor people to prosperity was by extremes; his book recommended that community organizers bring together low income residents to force legal, social, economic and political power into the ranks of the poor (think Barack H. Obama).
Poverty in the USA in 2017 amounted to 12.3% or about 40 million people, the lowest in several years. Should we compromise our defense budget and other critical state and federal expenses to pay the poor to stay poor or should we try to change our culture to help the poor become contributors to the economy?
It is a fact that ‘free stuff’ is much more costly than ‘earned stuff.’ It is axiomatic that in a free society all able members of that society must contribute to the economy to the degree that one is able. Our Constitution provides equal opportunity for all with no guarantee of equal outcomes. Self-esteem, self-reliance and self-respect are the true earmarks of a ‘great society.’