Home > Boneheaded stupidity, Economic policy > An unpublished letter to the New York Times

An unpublished letter to the New York Times

October 27th, 2012

Gary E. MacDougal (The Wrong Way to Help the Poor, 10/10/12) claims that the Federal government currently spends an average of $87000 a year on the typical family of four living in poverty. MacDougall’s calculation is out by a factor of at least four and probably more.

MacDougal’s source, Michael Tanner of Cato, treats all means-tested programs as anti-poverty programs. This includes the Earned Income Tax Credit, Family Tax credit and other programs for the middle and working classes. As Tanner admits, these programs have at least 100 million recipients, and probably many more. So, the average payment is less than $10 000, not the $20, 610 Tanner estimates.

It gets worse. The number of recipients doesn’t include children or adult dependents, but MacDougal’s calculation does. His family of four would include at most two benefit recipients, and would therefore receive less than the poverty line income of $23 050.

  1. Ikonoclast
    October 28th, 2012 at 05:29 | #1

    Neocons lie. It’s what they do.

  2. rog
    October 28th, 2012 at 06:28 | #2
  3. Ikonoclast
    October 28th, 2012 at 08:47 | #3

    I take it back. Cato neocons did not lie about corporate welfare.

  4. BilB
    October 28th, 2012 at 10:34 | #4

    It is best to evaluate the likes of Cato in conceptual terms. Cato is a Libertarian organisation. Libertarianism is an extrapolation of the natural Alpha male hierarchial community structure applied to human affairs. But it is an impure imposition as applied to government. Libertarians believe that all property should coalesce to the hands of those most worthy without interference. In the natural order the most disadvantaged are ultimately driven to redistribute property by force (Marx). Libertarian’s one concession to the function of a government is that it should protect their accumulations indefinitely. This concession effectively makes Libertarianism a conceptionally failed philosophy as applied to human affairs.

    Yet it does exist in nature in the Alpha male structure, so is it nature’s natural order?

    No.

    Nature is consistent.

    In space since the big bang primoidal suns have been created and destroyed over time. Yet each solar reconstruction, building on the remnants of previous suns, have created elements that were not created in the big bang. It is these heavier elements that make advanced life possible. So nature even in its grandest form demonstrates a progression from simple to complex, from primitive to advanced.

    How does this relate to animal nature and ultimately human affairs? because we see the very same trend in our near natural world.

    Robert Sapolsky, a scientist who devoted much of his life to the study animal nature through his extensive study of baboons. And it is from his studies that we learn that through calamity natural communities also evolve and progress. Sopalsky observed and report in extensive detail that following the inadvertent death of the entire Alpha member of his study community a new more advanced and harmonious community formed. This was a community built on sharing, harmony and cooperation. And it was stable. Sapolky’s evolved baboon community demonstrated all of the traits of modern inclusive and progessive society.

    So the conclusion is that Libertarianism is a primative less evolved form of community order, and is a barrier to develpment to a higher community order.

    We all know instinctively that an inclusive sharing economy is a better place in which to work and live. It is the economic Neanderthals, the Alphas amoungst us, who would push development back to a more primitive time, a time in which aggression and self interest reap the highest rewards at the expense of all others.

    I skimmed Rog’s Cato link, and the self interest just oozes from its phrases. You do not have to try at all hard to sense the Talibanic thread disguised behind the faintest Liberal weft.

  5. Jim Rose
    October 28th, 2012 at 11:17 | #5

    @BilB you say that “Libertarianism is an extrapolation of the natural Alpha male hierarchial community structure applied to human affairs. ”

    a good number of libertarians are gay. The U.S. Libertarian Party’s position on LGBT rights has remained unchanged since it was created in 1972. In 1975, Ralph Raico helped to create the “Libertarians For Gay Rights” caucus within the party. Are natural Alpha male pro-gay rights.

    how does the antiwar aspects of Libertarians fit with being natural Alpha males? so much so that libertarians have little to say on what is appropriate and effective self-defense after an attack.

  6. rog
    October 28th, 2012 at 12:11 | #6

    @Jim Rose How many is a “good number” and what evidence is there that alpha males are hetero?

  7. BilB
    October 28th, 2012 at 12:25 | #7

    What rog said, and

    Alpha dominance is about the immediate community. Global dominance is more of a pschycho-egotistic extention of the Alpha phenomenon.

  8. Jim Rose
    October 28th, 2012 at 12:27 | #8

    @rog I notice that you avoid the antiwar aspects of libertaranism.

    Ever heard of Ron Paul and his belief that the United States should avoid entangling alliances with other nations, but still retain diplomacy, and avoid all wars not related to direct territorial self-defense?

    Paul advocates bringing troops home from U.S. military bases in Korea, Japan, and Europe. Paul wants to swiftly withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. He opposes sanctions on Iran and thinks the Iranian nuclear threat has been exaggerated.

  9. rog
  10. Robert (not from UK)
    October 28th, 2012 at 13:23 | #10

    The statistical overlap between libertarians and homosexuals – far from being a new idea – has been quite widely and lengthily discussed, Ernest van der Haag and Russell Kirk having remarked on it back in the 1980s (Kirk referred to homosexuality, in a MODERN AGE article, as “sexual eccentricity”):

    http://www.mmisi.org/ma/25_04/kirk.pdf

  11. BilB
    October 28th, 2012 at 13:58 | #11

    Opportunism and dominance are not possibilities excluded from the gay psychy. Try dropping your wallet in a gay bar and see if you sense a situational vulnerability collectively perceived that could lead to exploitation. I see no Libertarian incompatibility there.

  12. Jim Rose
    October 28th, 2012 at 16:29 | #12

    The idea that voters on the left or right have a certain psychology is misplaced. About half of the electorate are now swinging voters. Split ticket voting is common.

    People change their minds and votes over their lives despite having stable personalities. Personality scores are largely independent of age from the age of 30 onwards. There is modest evidence that extraversion and openness decrease, and agreeableness increases slightly with age.

    There is an empirical flaw in hypotheses that appeal to preference shifts. When proxied by personality, preferences are roughly stable although there is immense diversity between people in their personalities and preferences. The source of shifts in behaviour must usually lie elsewhere.

    Up to half the electorate used to vote labor at elections. Labour is now struggling to win 30% of the vote. The core of the Left vote is much less in the working class than before in part due to the success of capitalism in increasing the size of the middle class.

    HT: http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/bcaplan/pdfs/sbvsmb.pdf

  13. Jim Rose
    October 28th, 2012 at 16:41 | #13

    The idea that voters on the left or right have a certain psychology is misplaced. About half of the electorate are now swinging voters. Split ticket voting is common.

    People change their minds and votes over their lives despite having stable personalities. Personality scores are largely independent of age from age 30 onwards. There is modest evidence that extraversion and openness decrease, and agreeableness increases slightly with age.

    There is an empirical flaw in hypotheses that appeal to preference shifts. When proxied by personality, preferences are roughly stable although there is immense diversity between people in their personalities and preferences. The source of shifts in behaviour must usually lie elsewhere.

    Up to half the electorate used to vote Labor at elections. Labour is now struggling to win 30% of the vote. The core of the Left vote is much less in the working class than before in part due to the success of capitalism in increasing the size of the middle class.

    HT: filter does not like hyperlinks at the moment.

  14. Jim Birch
    October 29th, 2012 at 11:14 | #14

    @Jim Rose
    “The idea that voters on the left or right have a certain psychology is misplaced.”

    Really?! There’s a significant accumulation of evidence for this on many fronts. The virtual absence of female libertarians would be a case in point. I’d be very interested to see what kind of explanation you might have for that that didn’t involve biology. (From a biological perspective it’s about reproductive strategies.)

    @BilB

    One thing that I find curious about libertarianism is the elevation of imaginary property “rights” to near divinely-ordained status, with the revocation – backed by the full force of the state – of the natural right to take “property” by force when opportune. All in the name of freedom. It seems that there’s a bit of situational blindness there, but it keeps the benefactors on side.

  15. Jim Rose
    October 29th, 2012 at 15:56 | #15

    @Jim Birch On “The virtual absence of female libertarians would be a case in point”, David Boaz’s demography of libertarians is 59% male and 41% female. his paper was for cato and is called the libertarian vote.

    this 59:41split is not a “The virtual absence”. you over-reached, not me.

  16. Jim Birch
    October 29th, 2012 at 16:15 | #16

    @Jim Rose
    Right! So David Boaz would be a reliable independent source for this in your opinion?

    My experience of libertarians is that they are prone to wishful thinking on just about everything else so denial of their gender imbalance fits this pattern. However, if you’ve got any real evidence….

  17. Jim Rose
    October 29th, 2012 at 16:25 | #17

    @Jim Birch Boaz drew on recent data from the Gallup Poll, the Pew Research Center Typology Survey, and the University of Michigan’s American National Election Studies.

    you made a innocent mistake. why do you keep digging?

  18. Robert (not from UK)
    October 29th, 2012 at 20:40 | #18

    Off-hand, I can’t think of a single female libertarian writer since Ayn Rand’s death, unless you count Virginia Postrel, who is – it could easily be argued – more of a techno-optimist than a political ideologue.

  19. Jim Birch
    October 30th, 2012 at 09:01 | #19

    @Jim Rose
    Whatever, Jim. Every political organisation wants to believe, and wants others to believe, that they represent the will of the people, rather just the whims a demographic subset. Anyone can cherry-pick statistics into a believable narrative if they want to. Cato have demonstrated to me that they are unable to put science above ideology on some matters, so why not on this? I don’t have the time or inclination to check it out. You would have been better off quoting an independent peer-reviewed source if you want me to take your word. It seems to me that asking Cato for the libertarian demographic profile is like asking a Jehovas Witness a question on comparative religion: it’s unlikely to produce a reliable result.

    Annecdotally, I can tell you, for example, that the libertarians who choose to appear on this list are IIRC 100% male. It’s a very quiet 41%. If you went to a green political site you’d probably a much more equal split, possibly even a female majority, I don’t know. These splits are consistent with other observations by myself and reports from others. Maybe you could do a head count of your active libertarian friends and correspondents – I seriously doubt you’d get anywhere near 41%. From an evolutionary biological perspective, this should not be a surprise at all, it is roughly what you would expect when humans construct/select political ideologies that suit their undelying biological drivers. (Which poses an interesting equity question. Well, interesting to me anyway.)

    The fact that you have assumed this to be some kind of win/lose debating competition only supports my point.

  20. rog
    October 30th, 2012 at 09:24 | #20

    @Jim Rose “Up to half the electorate used to vote Labor at elections. Labour is now struggling to win 30% of the vote. ”

    Once again Jim Rose spreads untruths. Records show that the only time labor was less than 30% of the vote was in 1901. In fact voting records repudiate all of Jim Rose theories on voting patterns.

  21. Jim Rose
    October 30th, 2012 at 15:54 | #21

    @rog According to the latest Newspoll survey, Labor’s primary vote rose from 33 per cent to 36 per cent while the Coalition’s support fell from 45 per cent to 41 per cent. The Greens remained unchanged on 10 per cent.

    Labor was below 30% primary vote in the newspolls from June to November 2011.

    In the Hawke Keating years, Labor tried to stay north of 40%. 33% means 2/3rds want someone else as their first choice.

    Labor got 26.66% in the Queensland election in 2012. Katter’s party got 11.53%. Does Labor still have party status in the QLD parliament?

    in NSW, labor got 25.55%, which was twice the vote of the Nats!

  22. rog
    October 30th, 2012 at 16:59 | #22

    @Jim Rose You will have to do better than quote Newspoll, it is not a credible substitute for an election. Prior to the 2007 election (Nov 20-22) Newspoll had ALP at 44% and 2pp 52%. Try to spin that one!

  23. Jim Rose
    October 30th, 2012 at 17:19 | #23

    @rog roy morgan research has had Labor struggling to get more than a 1/3rd of the primary vote for much of this and last year with trips below 30% as recent as June 2012.

  24. rog
    October 30th, 2012 at 18:18 | #24

    @Jim Rose Once again you are wander off the point, your original caim was about elections. Having (again) failed to substantiate your claims you now fall back on polls.

  25. Jim Rose
    October 30th, 2012 at 18:21 | #25

    @rog Labor got 26.66% in the Queensland election in 2012. in NSW, labor got 25.55% in 2011

  26. Graeme Bird
    October 30th, 2012 at 18:26 | #26

    These guys are always trying to pin the blame on poor people. When the GFC hit they were trying to blame people from minority areas because of some legislation encouraging bankers to lend to formerly discriminated-against areas. But the size of the bailout was so huge that they could have alternatively refinanced every outstanding mortgage in the US at 0% for a fraction of the largesse that has been subsidising the banker bigshots. Offloading properties to the poor end of town was just a way of losing that hot-potato.

    I don’t see poor people causing problems. I see the already rich benefiting from currency debasement and from being the other half in the bankers money-creation schemes. I see high-paid politicians and public servants. Subcontractors to these ludicrously waged wars, run in such a way as to keep the government loot rolling out for as long as possible. Wars by a superpower ought to be just about punishing a few of the top bigshots and getting home as soon as you possibly can. Beazley had it about right for our own commitment. He wanted us to come home a lot earlier. I’m sure he’s a fine ambassador but we really needed him here.

    We know what the Americans ought to do to help poor people. Stop taxing them. Keep the welfare low but don’t threaten to rip it away from them. Get rid of as much non anti-poverty spending as you can. And bring all those boys and girls home from overseas.

  27. rog
    October 30th, 2012 at 20:33 | #27

    @Jim Rose And that’s it? Two results don’t make a trend.

  28. Jim Rose
    October 30th, 2012 at 21:29 | #28

    @rog I hope you do not take this approach of an ever rising standard of evidence to other issues such as evidence on global warming.

    Labor struggled to get more than a 1/3rd of the primary vote for much of this and last year in various opinion polls. labor did worse at recent state elections.

  29. rog
    October 30th, 2012 at 21:53 | #29

    @Jim Rose It would be helpful if you had nominated the time period associated with this statement “Up to half the electorate used to vote Labor at elections. Labour is now struggling to win 30% of the vote.”

  30. Jim Rose
    October 30th, 2012 at 21:59 | #30

    Labor struggled to get more than a 1/3rd of the primary vote for much of this and last year in various opinion polls with trips below 30% as recent as June 2012. Labor did worse at the recent state elections getting 25% of the vote.

  31. rog
    October 30th, 2012 at 22:31 | #31

    @Jim Rose Well if you are going to confine your comments to the period <2 years then we have a reversal of polls in Victoria, a majority gain as preferred PM, a gain federally 2pp and a loss to Liveral in Sydney by election.

  32. Peter Whiteford
    October 31st, 2012 at 08:24 | #32

    This is an attempt at a repost without any links.

    There is an Australian version of this argument run by the IPA and Sinclair Davidson at Catallaxy.

    I commented on the IPA version at Club Troppo (Google “Club Troppo, could we abolish poverty if we didn’t spend so much on public servants) . Julie Novak of the IPA had argued that “the primary beneficiaries of big welfare are the middle-class bureaucrats who administer the welfare state in fine detail. To get a sense of how much welfare-state funding is being misdirected, consider this: based on an upper estimate of 13 per cent of Australians living in poverty, the Commonwealth’s social security and welfare budget of $117 billion could have been evenly shared among the poverty stricken with a $40,817 payment.”

    The most recent version of it can be found at Catallaxy (Google “What happens to our welfare spend”), where Sinclair Davidson suggest that we could reallocate our welfare spending: “Looking just at the Social Security and Welfare Budget of $131,656 million and then assuming, say, three million Australians living below the poverty line (even more generous than the ACOSS measure) that equates to (131,656,000,000/3,000,000) $43,885 per person.”

    Apart from the points made by John, the basic problem is that these commentators don’t seem to understand – or want to understand – that to estimate the impact of welfare spending on poverty you need to look at the difference in poverty before and after transfers, not how many people are left in poverty after they receive benefits.

    If it weren’t for current welfare spending, then there would be a lot more people in poverty than just 2 or 3 million.

    For example, in Australia we currently pay income support benefits to 5 million people (half of them age pensioners) and pay FTB to 1.8 million families with 3.4 million children (and around 25% of those families also receive income support benefits).

    Overall what we provide reduces relative poverty from a bit more than 6 million (before transfers) to roughly 2 million (after transfers), and of course those 2 million are a lot closer to the poverty line than they were before they received social security benefits.

  33. Graeme Bird
    October 31st, 2012 at 15:52 | #33

    “I commented on the IPA version at Club Troppo (Google “Club Troppo, could we abolish poverty if we didn’t spend so much on public servants)”

    Thats one third of the story and an important third. But two more overlooked areas are 1. The relentless subsidy to the financial sector (and their favourites) and 2. The relentless subsidy to corporates.

    The Americans have to put up with this constant financial drain of overseas adventures. And this is a problem for us too, but in our case its more on the human then the financial level. But consider the subsidy to the medical-pharmaceutical industry (just for one case)…. The bill for the legal drug-dealers keeps growing.

    The least important drag on the economy is straight welfare transfer payments. Straight cash. If we deep-sixed all the pharmaceutical-doctor subsidies in their entirety, we could take one third of the savings to reduce the deficit, one third to increase the tax free threshold, and one third to boost sickness and elderly benefits, and everyone would be better off. People would change their health-care choices (mostly for the better by the way) economise on this over-use of what we get from the drug-dealers, and still have extra money in their pocket.
    >>>>>>>>>>>
    But the silent thief in the room is the fractional reserve financial subsidy. I cannot for the life of me understand why leftists will sit still for this subsidy. Is there nothing that the hard right and the hard left can agree on when it comes to destroying parasitism? I would have thought I’d find allies thick on the ground when it came to destroying this most egregious menace.

Comments are closed.