Do conservatives and Republicans hate the poor?
As a general rule, I try to steer clear of long conversations on Facebook. It’s not that I would not enjoy the discourse, it’s just that it is a large use of time, a luxury that I never have in abundance. It is, however, a worthy endeavor to debate with people of good conscience, to try to reach a greater understanding of important issues, and I found myself compelled to do so this morning. I will paste my argument below, complete and unaltered, for your edification.
The subject at hand was, essentially, this:
There are people who truly need assistance (charity). Are conservatives and Republicans hard-hearted to their plight? Do they consider all welfare recipients to be lazy leeches? Or is that largely just a propaganda theme of the left?
My argument on the subject follows below (with the names of my correspondents changed to X, Y, and Z to maintain their anonymity).
@ XXXXXXX, YYYYYYY, ZZZZZZZ . . . This subject does not avail itself of easy answers.
Without a doubt, there are some people who are in need of assistance. That is the case in every land, at every time in human history. We have free will, and we live in a universe that, while operating based on certain rules, allows for inequality in circumstances and sheer bad luck. This means that some people will get stuck with a bad lot; or bad things will happen to them; or a free choice they made will have unintended consequences; or the actions of some external person, force, or group will impact them negatively. These people need our help, and it is the duty of people to offer that help.
In is also the case that there are A LOT of people who are mooching off the system, even though they are perfectly capable of working. Next time you’re at Walmart or a grocery store, ask the cashier to tell you stories about perfectly healthy people who roll up to the register, buy a bunch of items with a SNAP card, and then pull out a massive roll of cash and buy a bunch of luxury items . . . all while talking on a brand-new iPhone. Those same cashiers will also have stories about people who clearly need assistance, of course, but the stories about the obvious welfare cheaters are always more numerous. I am going to look into this matter to see what hard numbers I can find, but one thing is for sure—-the number of people who truly need assistance is dramatically smaller than the number of people who are receiving assistance.
Either way, the question then becomes—how to deliver help to those who truly need it? What is the most efficient way? Today, after 100 years of statism, we have, as a society, largely swallowed the notion that the state is the only viable mechanism for delivering that help. But state-delivered assistance is not as efficient as, and cannot be as discerning as, local, private charity. The ham-handed, cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all bureaucracy has no real ability to make informed decisions about who truly needs help and who is a lazy moocher. The system simply grows and grows. The system drives families apart by rewarding absent fatherhood with more cash for the mother. The system causes people who once genuinely needed help to become addicted to that help. They often pass that dependence to the next generation like a family heirloom, and the whole situation metastasizes. This is not healthy for the people involved, nor is it healthy for the society as a whole. And it certainly is not healthy for the dwindling number of producers who are being increasingly taxed in order to pay for it all.
Government “charity” isn’t charity at all; it is force. It literally puts a gun to one man’s head and puts him in economic bondage to another. (If you want to see the gun, try not paying your taxes.) Then, since everyone gets to vote, the next thing you know, the people receiving the benefits realize that they can vote to put a bigger gun in the state’s hand (i.e., vote for more Democrats), to take more money from producers and give it to them. Whereupon the state (read: Democrats, mostly) discovers that they can keep doing this and gain greater power through votes. The bondage cycle gets worse. The number of makers shrinks, and the number of takers grows. Eventually, the whole system becomes unsustainable, and the number of takers grows so large that the makers cannot support them. Then we start borrowing. We have already reached and passed that point.
We are conservatives and libertarians. We believe in the civil society. We believe in people, families, communities. We believe in subsidiarity. We believe in Locke and Smith, not Rousseau and Marx. We do not look at problems and immediately leap to the notion that government is the only solution. If we do, then we are statists, and not conservatives at all. I am not saying, necessarily, that there may not be some room for a targeted government social safety net for those who truly need it. There are problems with that–primarily the problem that it inevitably gets out of control–but for the sake of argument, I am willing to stipulate to the possibility. But we are far, far beyond that now. We have the most progressive income tax in the world. We have the highest corporate tax in the world. The amount of America’s bill that is paid by the upper income brackets has risen dramatically over the last 40 years, and the amount that the bottom half pays has continually dwindled to virtually nothing. It has become more unbalanced than almost any other country in the world. We are reaching a tipping point where society will not continue to function. You cannot add more and more and more people to the wagon, and ask an ever-dwindling number of people to continue to pulling the wagon. That is the situation we are in now. This contention is supported not by a feeling on my part, or a desire to complain, or a sense of solidarity with the rich (I am definitely not rich). This contention is supported by hard data, by numbers, by arithmetic.
I have no doubt that some conservatives have become cold and hard-hearted on this subject. But it is not fair to critique conservatives or Republicans as being anti-poor. According to a recent study by the excellent Arthur Brooks, the order of cohorts who give the most and least charity (ordered from most to least) are
- conservative and religious
- liberal and religious
- conservative and non-religious
- liberal and non-religious
It is simply the case, statistically, that conservatives care MORE about the poor than “liberals” do.
Republicans, for their part, are mostly sounding the alarm on the situation described above. Even Mitt Romney’s (obviously ill-considered) comments about the 47% were sounding the alarm on what is a seriously dangerous situation for any society to be in. Not just dangerous, but fatal. This situation cannot continue; it is unsustainable.
I am inclined to agree with ZZZZZZZ: The imputation of lack of concern for the poor is a propaganda weapon of the left. I am deeply sympathetic to those who suffer, who have ended up in difficult circumstances, and who need our help. But we cannot allow the needs of that cohort to empower the state to create a situation that will eventually destroy us. There is a better way.
For more on all this, I recommend these:
Ardently devoted to the cause of human freedom, he has worked at the confluence of politics, activism, and public policy for more than a decade. He co-wrote a ten-part series of video shorts on economics, and has film credits as a researcher on 11 political documentaries, including Citizens United's notorious film on Hillary Clinton that became the subject of a landmark Supreme Court decision. He is the founder of several activist endeavors, including AnyStreet.org (now a part of Western Free Press) and Liberatchik.com. He is currently the managing editor of and principal contributor to WesternFreePress.com.