** which way is up?
Topics: Welfare, Subsidy
23 Sep 1994
In today's Chronicle there was a front page story on Metro (the city bus)
boosting its fare from 85 cents to $1. The article said "critics ... claim
the budget is being balanced on the backs of poor, transit-dependent
patrons." The truth is precisely the opposite, it is being balanced by
consumers in the city via the a sales tax.
On 9/21 there was an article on a new survey. The title was "It's grim out
there. Americans becoming bitter, cynical, frustrated and selfish, major
poll says." The front page part of the article reported the conclusion that
"Americans are increasingly indifferent toward the problems of blacks..."
On the inside part is the actual question which was asked (apparently there
were other questions asked but not listed): "[do you agree that] We have
gone too far in pushing equal rights in this country[?]". 51% agreed.
First, 'equal rights' is a preposterous misnomer meant to confuse the
reality of the situation. But leaving that aside, the poll result does
nothing to justify the conclusion (I'm not addressing the question of what
people really think as that seems all too often to be a division by zero
exercise). Feeling that AA is failure, or perhaps a non-cost effective
success, is not tantamount to being racist. The author of the article just
assumed that the only reason one could be opposed to the liberals' 'good
ideas' is racism.
A few months ago, Massachusetts (I think, maybe NJ) found itself in court
being sued, by among others, the ACLU, for discrimination because it was
cutting welfare benefits.
All three of these share the following common feature: The assumption that
the current amount of a subsidy is neutral ground, a fair amount in some
sense(*). It says that if you give me a $100 gift one Xmas and a $50 one
next you have stolen $50 from me. Why is it 'balancing on the backs of the
poor' to have the poor pay $1 and the taxpayers $2 for each bus ride, but
having the poor pay 85 cents and the taxpayers pay $2.15 is not? Why is it
discriminatory to give a single mother of two $600, but $800 is not? I
think the absurdity of this speaks for itself.
There is a deeper flaw of liberal thinking revealed in all of this. It is
that we can command reality just by declaring what's fair (by majority
consensus, nonetheless). It denies that prices or money represent anything
at all. It says that $4.25/hour is a fair minimum wage, regardless that it
causes unemployment. It says that women should be paid the same as men for
'equivalent' work, even though implementing such an idea would impoverish
men and women alike. It reminds me of the Southern Baptist convention
voting (in '84) that the earth is 4,000 years old.
(*) Whether or not there exists a break even point >$0 for considering these
things as 'social investments' is a different argument from the one I'm
making here. Though obviously I think there isn't.