August 14th, 2007

An Interesting Ratio


photo credit: kmevans

A new study indicates that “1 in 2 Americans now receives income from government programs”.

It would help to translate this into layman’s terms:

“One in two Americans now receives income from the other one.”

The article states:

Slightly over half of all Americans — 52.6 percent — now receive significant income from government programs, according to an analysis by Gary Shilling, an economist in Springfield, N.J. That’s up from 49.4 percent in 2000 and far above the 28.3 percent of Americans in 1950. If the trend continues, the percentage could rise within ten years to pass 55 percent, where it stood in 1980 on the eve of President’s Reagan’s move to scale back the size of government.

Half of all Americans receive “significant income” from the other half.

Does anybody else not see the problem here? Granted, those currently receiving such an income have paid a paltry portion into the pot themselves, but the fact that they are on the receiving end of the stick indicates that the other person is on the giving end.

Voltaire once noted what persists in our day:

In general the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to the other.

This action is nothing more than legalized plunder. So stated Frederic Bastiat:

You say: “There are persons who have no money,” and you turn to the law. But the law is not a breast that fills itself with milk. Nor are the lacteal veins of the law supplied with milk from a source outside the society. Nothing can enter the public treasury for the benefit of one citizen or one class unless other citizens and other classes have been forced to send it in. If every person draws from the treasury the amount that he has put in it, it is true that the law then plunders nobody. But this procedure does nothing for the persons who have no money. It does not promote equality of income. The law can be an instrument of equalization only as it takes from some persons and gives to other persons. When the law does this, it is an instrument of plunder.

This statistic is disheartening.

13 Responses to “An Interesting Ratio”

  1. Dan
    August 14, 2007 at 2:14 pm #

    Connor,

    There you go again.

    “One in two Americans now receives income from the other one.”

    That is not correct. One in two Americans now receives income from both of them.

    You’re trying to say that half of Americans are bilking off the other half, which is not correct. Let the article speak for itself:

    Mr. Shilling’s analysis found that about 1 in 5 Americans hold a government job or a job reliant on federal spending. A similar number receive Social Security or a government pension. About 19 million others get food stamps, 2 million get subsidized housing, and 5 million get education grants. For all these categories, Mr. Shilling counted dependents as well as the direct recipients of government income.

    So 1 in 5 Americans work for the public. 2 million Americans get subsidized housing (not free mind you). 5 million Americans get education grants (I got one of those).

    So the only ones in that group that are truly not giving something back for what they get are Social Security recipients and food stamp recipients. The rest all give something back for their income.

    I really wish you would look at the world more realistically, Connor. It would be a breath of fresh air.

  2. Connor
    August 14, 2007 at 2:30 pm #

    That is not correct. One in two Americans now receives income from both of them.

    Keep reading… specifically where I wrote:

    Granted, those currently receiving such an income have paid a paltry portion into the pot themselves, but the fact that they are on the receiving end of the stick indicates that the other person is on the giving end.

    While those receiving government aid might have put a lot of money into the national coffers in the past, that money has long since been spent. And so, any money they are receiving currently is coming from other people. They may be still putting money into the system, but as they are on government aid that sum is no doubt quite small.

    So the only ones in that group that are truly not giving something back for what they get are Social Security recipients and food stamp recipients.

    Add on medicare, medicaid, and other entitlements promised to American citizens and the sum increases. Regardless of what the source of their “significant income” is, that money is coming from somewhere, and that somewhere is almost always other people.

    I really wish you would look at the world more realistically, Connor. It would be a breath of fresh air.

    Through the eyes of a democrat, perhaps? Ha! :)

  3. David
    August 14, 2007 at 2:37 pm #

    Does not your own religion see the ideal society as having “no poor among them” and embrace a form of wealth redistribution? Do you not as a people covenant to “consecrate of thy properties for their [the poor’s] support”and promise to be satisfied to live on as much as is “sufficient for himself and his family” with any “residue” to be “kept to administer to those who have not” to be granted “according to their [the poor’s] wants” and residue beyond that to be for “the public benefit”. Are not those who sit in their board rooms in their wealth and comfort called to repentance, to “not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer”. That every man should be “equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs” Is not one of the dominant themes of your Book of Mormon the corrupting power of wealth and high living, how it seems almost inevitably that the people forget God and poor when they get wealthy?

    Why has Mormonism embraced capitalism so dogmatically? Why has wealth become equal to righteousness? Why is it so common to cry foul at any efforts to take from the wealthy and to be applied to try to benefit the poorer classes of society?

    Now I am not saying the entire United States is ready to live the law of consecration and be forced upon the people as policy, that goes against the very foundation of the law of consecration and even the Mormons as a whole are obviously not ready to live in such a society. But are there not principles of Zion that the Mormons should support in their various forms? Should not the Mormons be some of the strongest advocates of lifting the poor, of finding ways to make society more equal, to cry warnings against the ever widening gap between rich and poor?

    I also realize that Mormons inherit a history with a bad taste of government. And so my only thought of justification for a Mormon to cry foul at government actions to help the poor is that a Mormon would want control over his own money so that he could help the poor according to the principles taught within their own faith. But for the large part you don’t see that happen, you see Mormons willing to give 10% and have the 90% for themselves as if they were entitled to it and justified to build their opulent homes on the hills. You see their church sanctioned university dominant in business and law but with struggling and small programs in social work, public health, international development, and social entrepreneurship.

    I myself do not always agree with the mechanisms by which wealth is redistributed in this country, it often does not lift the poor at all and create more problems along the way. And I personally appreciate the powers of capitalism and private property and see them as natural and powerful tools for growth and development. But I do think Mormons should stop and think more about exactly what form of capitalism they should embrace. They should think twice about their adopting the ways of the world and frankly of excelling at the principles of Babylon while they barely explore the principles of Zion. As one passing example, how much of their university library is dedicated to business schemes, wealth accumulation, and getting ahead as opposed to a handful of books on socially minded business practices? I’m just saying we must think twice. We must think hard and study the doctrine. And think again.

  4. Connor
    August 14, 2007 at 3:01 pm #

    David,

    In answer to your basic question of mandating the redistribution of wealth (and its comparison to Latter-day Saint doctrine of consecration and charity) I would invite you to:

    In summary of the above items, forceful redistribution of wealth is completely out of harmony with the gospel, charity, and the law of consecration.

  5. Dan
    August 14, 2007 at 3:05 pm #

    David,

    But what Connor fails to inform you is that it is not a forceful redistribution of wealth. We are in a Representative Democracy wherein we choose candidates that represent our views. The majority of Americans have chosen out of their own free will and choice to accept a taxation system that provides funding to the poor and sick and elderly. Were we in a system of government where we had no choice in the matter of what points of view were represented, then his point about it being a forceful redistribution of wealth would be accurate. Unfortunately, that is not the system of government that runs the United States. Connor is not being honest here.

  6. Connor
    August 14, 2007 at 3:15 pm #

    We are in a Representative Democracy wherein we choose candidates that represent our views. The majority of Americans have chosen out of their own free will and choice to accept a taxation system that provides funding to the poor and sick and elderly.

    We are in a representative democracy, but we were intended to be a constitutional republic. The fact that we have downgraded from a republic to a democracy has allowed for Washington to become a tyranny of the majority. No longer do we obey the rule of law. No longer do we heed the Constitution. No longer does Congress operate within its enumerated powers. And so, our government has assumed more and more power, including being the breadwinner of so many individuals.

    Connor is not being honest here.

    Your accusation on this post and other recent ones that I am not being honest is hollow and futile. Argue the points if you choose, but leave out any attacks regarding my intellectual honesty. I consider them an insult.

  7. Dan
    August 14, 2007 at 3:32 pm #

    It doesn’t matter what we intended to be in the first place, Connor. You are not correct in saying that our system right now forces us against our free will and choice to elect people that represent our views, and thusly to tax us at levels some of us might not agree with.

    But here is the lie of the libertarian. See the libertarian wishes to see something that can never exist. He rails against a taxation system as being forced upon us, but the kind of system he wishes to employ is impossible to employ because without any enforcement (which yes, it does mean forcing people to do something they may not like), all you have is anarchy and chaos. A man-made system of government will tax you. It is your free will and choice to vote for a representative that will set that tax to the level you desire. If that representative does not have enough compatriots to get it to your desired level, that does not mean the system is not lawful or Constitutional. It is definitely Constitutional and lawful to tax you at a level you do not desire if more people desire a higher taxation level. That is the system. Saying it is something else is not being honest, Connor. It sure sucks for you, but there it is. A democracy, and worse a republic is not a perfect system. There is no perfect system. Not on this earth. So stop pretending that what the Founding Fathers intended was supposedly a perfect system, or more perfect than today’s. That just simply is not true.

  8. David
    August 14, 2007 at 3:51 pm #

    Conner,
    Thank you for the links, I did appreciate them and found myself in agreement with them. I think we, relatively, defending different sides of the same and right ideal. You are stressing the preservation of freedom and choice, and that is right and I support that. I am trying to make us think about the spirit of our decisions, along the lines of Romney’s statement that the only limitation is within ourselves to follow the principles of the Zion. I am trying to bring light to that spirit. My reaction is focused on the spirit that often accompanies cries against welfare and wealth redistribution. The spirit is often that of greed and building up oneself and feelings of entitlement.

    I personally think the best plan is to have us maintain our liberties, even regarding income, and choose among ourselves to ‘redistribute’ and care for the poor. That’s why I support this general movement of the private sector taking over philanthropy, in terms of social enterprises and institutions as large the Gates Foundation or as small as Kiva.org. But I think we as Mormons are not always in the right place in the spirit of the issue. We often cry for our liberties and our freedom but are slow to cry out in defense of the poor. There must be a balance and we must be equally proactive in defending both causes.

  9. Connor
    August 14, 2007 at 3:56 pm #

    I am trying to make us think about the spirit of our decisions, along the lines of Romney’s statement that the only limitation is within ourselves to follow the principles of the Zion. I am trying to bring light to that spirit.

    Agreed, and I applaud your desire to encourage this mentality. Would that we could all live the law of consecration. But since we have failed, we are given a lesser law, together with less blessings. We each share part of that indictment.

    I personally think the best plan is to have us maintain our liberties, even regarding income, and choose among ourselves to ‘redistribute’ and care for the poor.

    Absolutely. All charity should be voluntary, for liberty is lost once force is introduced.

    We often cry for our liberties and our freedom but are slow to cry out in defense of the poor. There must be a balance and we must be equally proactive in defending both causes.

    Again, I fully agree. I find myself doing this as well—raising awareness, encouraging others to give, pointing out our opulence, and hoping to help others realize what our heavy responsibility is to our brothers and sisters in need.

    Thanks for doing your part.

  10. Adam
    August 14, 2007 at 9:04 pm #

    Heaven forbid we help everyone live a decent life.
    Legalized plunder?

    Are you the same person that just wrote that post about the “Gap”? What hypocrisy! You should be ashamed.

  11. Connor
    August 14, 2007 at 9:13 pm #

    Are you the same person that just wrote that post about the “Gap”? What hypocrisy! You should be ashamed.

    I suppose, Adam, you’re yet another socialist that would look to government intervention (brute force and the threat thereof) to solve the world’s problems and solve the poverty problem?

    This is a problem that requires personal, private participation—NOT socialistic redistribution of wealth through force and legislation.

    So yes, legalized plunder. Feel free to learn from Bastiat on this issue.

  12. Connor
    August 14, 2007 at 10:11 pm #

    Adam’s accusation of hypocrisy has gotten me a bit worked up this evening. I find it quite frustrating that those who would be charitable seek to enforce that charity upon others through government intervention. In a desire to be humanitarian, they employ force to steal from the rich to give to the poor.

    Should I be ashamed, Adam? If so, of what? Of having a strong, personal desire to bless the lives of those less fortunate? Of seeking to do so through private initiatives and organizations free of government control and socialist backing? Of desiring to give of my own time and resources instead of compelling my neighbor to do the same?

    No, Adam, you should be ashamed. Ashamed for desiring to task your government agent with a task which you yourself would be jailed for—forcefully taking somebody else’s money, despite any charitable intentions.

    Elder Carmack has taught why there is a right way and wrong way in this endeavor:

    Giving in the wrong way often causes more problems than it solves. Our giving can be wasted, even when given with the best of intentions. And handouts often weaken more than they strengthen.

    Indeed, any charity rendered should keep intact individual responsibility and agency. Government subsidies, programs, and doles have the opposite effect.

    I am not ashamed, Adam, of desiring to lift others out of their poverty while encouraging them to develop their skills, make their own decisions, and progress socially and emotionally. I am not ashamed of my firm belief that charity through government is nothing more than legalized plunder—an action which we ourselves cannot legally do, therefore our agent, the government, has no right to do so either. I am not ashamed of taking a stance in this regard that is in complete harmony with the gospel—one of individual action and responsibility.

  13. Yin
    August 14, 2007 at 11:40 pm #

    On a lighter note, I haven’t the faintest idea what this is a picture of. What is the one stick man doing to the other? Wrapping his head in toilet paper?

    Because of my experiences, I do agree more with Connor on this one. Forcing people to help others live a better life is not the way to go. Speaking as someone who’s lived in a socialist country, the further we can get from that governmental regime the better! Having the government provide so many things for an individual does not provide a “decent” life. It may appear so at first. But, in actuality, you’re crippling them and making them dependent. The intention may be good, but there are definitely better ways to go about it. For example, freely giving to worthy philanthropic organizations that teach and educate, as well as serve.

    The giving a man a fish versus the teaching the man to fish analogy is highly appropriate here. It’s late… don’t get me started… :-P

    Back to pondering the man toilet papering the other man…

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