Have You Been Listening To The Republican Debates?
What Hard-Core Republicans Really Believe
— David Grace (www.DavidGraceAuthor.com)
Ripping away all the window dressing and patriotic baloney, being brutally frank, in their heart of hearts what do conservative Republicans really believe?
What Conservatives Think About People
Conservatives think that there are basically two kinds of people:
(1) intelligent, hard working, decent, successful people, the “good people” and
(2) stupid, lazy, untalented, poor people, the “bad people.” Or, if you prefer, Winners and Losers.
They believe, like John Calvin, that the Winners have good lives because they deserve to have good lives and that the Losers have bad lives because they deserve to have bad lives.
Are they right?
The Continuum Of Human Talent
It certainly is true that there are normal curves of human traits, ranging from intelligent to stupid, hard-working to lazy, honest to criminal, inventive to brain-dead, non-addictive personality to addictive personality, born in a successful family to born with no family.
In a relatively free society people with the right combinations of intelligence, talent, determination, inventiveness, non-addictive personalities and family support are going to end up on the top (Winners) and people with the wrong combinations of lack of talents, stupidity, laziness, addictive personalities, and family poverty are going to end up on the bottom (Losers).
Given that we’re always going to have dumb, lazy, unskilled, untalented and poor people in any society, how do the conservatives think society should deal with these “Losers”?
How Do Conservatives Think Society Should Work?
(1) That the Losers could be successful if they were willing to work hard, which they aren’t.
(2) That instead of working, Losers want the government to steal the Winners’ money through taxes and use it to pay their bills so that they can sit on their butts and get a free ride;
(3) That the way to defeat the Losers’ plan is to starve the government of money. Keep reducing taxes to the point where there is no money available to give the Losers a free ride.
(4) Instead of government subsidies, the way to deal with the Losers is to ignore them. If they don’t want to sink, they’ll find a way to swim. And for those who can’t swim, then that’s what charities are for.
The conservatives hold these ideas because they feel good. They match their self-interest. They fit into their moral and ethical philosophy of “We’re Winners. They’re Losers. We deserve to prosper. They deserve what they get.”
The Law Of Unintended Consequences
The problem with this “sink or swim” idea is that it’s like pointing a cocked gun at a steel plate without first asking, “Where will the bullet go after I pull the trigger?”
All the shooter thinks about is how much fun it will be to fire the gun, never bothering to realize that the bullet will bounce back right into their own head.
Suppose the conservatives succeed in ending food stamps and other social safety-net programs. What will happen next?
In their fantasy world all the Losers will wake up the next day and say, “Gee, I guess the party’s over. I’d better get a job and pay my own way.” And that job will be sitting right there, waiting for them.
But that’s a fantasy. It assumes that people who depend on food stamps and subsidized housing could support themselves if they wanted to but that they’re just too lazy to do so.
Sadly, factually, that’s not true.
Santa Clara County, California is one of the richest counties in America, yet 250,000 people there visit the Second Harvest food bank every month. A quarter of a million people every month standing in line to get free food.
That’s not laziness. That’s not “I don’t want to work.” That’s “I can’t support myself.”
That’s people trapped in quicksand poverty which they want to escape, but are not smart enough, trained enough, strong enough, rich enough or talented enough to escape.
The notion that the “Losers could support themselves if they were only willing to work” is factually untrue. It’s a fantasy. It’s a lie.
If you want to demand that people work hard and pay their own way then FIRST there have to be jobs available that they’re qualified to do that will pay them enough to support themselves. For people of average or below average intelligence, average determination, no special skills, no special talents and no family money very few if any of those jobs actually exist.
“(1) Support yourself or starve AND (2) there are no jobs you are qualified to do that will pay you enough to live on” is not a workable, or fair, plan.
You Can’t Make Stupid People Smarter By Hitting Them With A Stick
Central to the conservatives’ philosophy is the idea that if you make life hard enough on a stupid person the pain will motivate them to become smarter.
Here’s a flash: You can punish a stupid person all day long but he won’t get any smarter.
The same with drug addicts and alcoholics.
That principle applies even more to unskilled, untrained and untalented people.
You can take an unskilled person with an average IQ, a moderate level of determination and no special talents and starve him all day long, put him in a cardboard box in an alley, lock him out from medical care, give him as much pain as you want, and he still won’t be able to earn a living as a web designer or an X-ray technician, or a machinist or at any other job that might pay a living wage.
And if training were available he still may not be smart enough or talented enough to perform many skilled jobs. With all the training in the world could you successfully code software for an iPhone or perform veterinary surgery or drive a big-rig truck?
All letting Joe Sixpack starve is going to do is make him hurt, angry, and desperate. It won’t make him smarter, harder working, more talented, better trained or employable.
“Too bad for him,” the conservatives say, “He can get a minimum wage, unskilled job.” That, of course, assumes that such a job is available to him at all. Often it is not. But let’s assume it is.
When you point out that this theoretical minimum wage job does not pay enough to live on, they say, “Then he can get two minimum wage jobs. If, Loser that he is, he has to work 16 hours a day to feed and house himself, that’s what he deserves for being stupid or untrained, or low on determination, untalented, or born into a single-parent family. That’s his problem, not mine.”
But factually, that’s not true. It is your problem too.
You Are Not Alone — In An Urban Society Other People’s Problems Will Hurt You
If your neighbor’s house is a fire trap, that’s also your problem. If your neighbor’s yard is filled with dead animals and his delapidated pool is breeding mosquitos, that’s your problem. If your neighbor is cooking meth in his garage, that’s your problem too.
If your city has thousands of homeless and unemployed people wandering the streets, that’s bad for you too.
It’s your problem because the Losers whom the conservatives fantasize will somehow evaporate once food stamps are cancelled won’t just disappear and not cause you any trouble. They won’t just crawl into a some corner and quietly die. They aren’t going away.
Won’t starvation force them to take a minimum wage jobs and live quietly in a cardboard box someplace where you won’t have to look at them? No, it won’t.
Society is an organism, like a body. If your appendix gets inflamed you don’t say, “That appendix is a useless organ. It doesn’t do me any good. It doesn’t deserve anything from me. I’m the brain. I’m the organ that counts. Screw the appendix. I’m not going to spend my money on getting it fixed.”
The appendix is part of you and if not treated it will kill you.
Starving people are part of your societal body and not getting them “fixed” will be very, very bad for you too.
What Will Happen If You Cut Off Food Stamps And The Like?
What will happen if the conservatives get their way is that the Losers will respond in lots of ways that will cost the Winners lots of money and pain:
1) petty crime, breaking into cars, daytime burglaries, stealing mail, identity theft, muggings, selling drugs, etc.
2) massive drug and alcohol use, and then even more crime
3) large homeless encampments in parks, public streets, etc.
4) squatting in empty houses and buildings
5) massive overcrowding in small apartments
6) having lots of unprotected sex and creating many, many more people like themselves.
7) political instability because they will vote for any extremist candidate who will promise them a better life
People Won’t Act A Certain Way Just Because You Think They Should
It doesn’t matter that you think that people shouldn’t act in those ways.
If the choice is taking an unpleasant job that doesn’t pay you enough to live on or not taking an unpleasant job and still not having enough to live on, lots of people will figure that if they’re not going to have enough money either way, not working a crap job and not having enough money is better than working a crap job and not having enough money.
If the “Losers” had the ability, determination, diligence and industriousness to work eighty hours a week at a crap job they wouldn’t be stuck at the bottom in the first place.
If people of average or below average intelligence, skills, determination, common sense, etc. don’t have what they feel is a reasonable way of earning enough money to support themselves then they won’t earn the money to support themselves. They will find other ways to get money, ways that the Winners won’t like.
You can complain all day long that they shouldn’t act that way. It doesn’t matter what you think they should do. What matters is what they will do.
People shouldn’t drive after drinking alcohol. But they do. People shouldn’t beat up their spouses, but they do. People shouldn’t lie or cheat, but they do.
If you make the rules for your society based on the fantasy that people will act the way you think they should act, then your society will crash and burn because real people in the real world will not act the way you think they should. They will act the way that is easiest for them.
The communists found this out when they decided that all people should be altruists and share the wealth. We all know how well that fantasy worked for them.
You Can’t Arrest Your Way Out Of The Problem
“But, we have the cops,” the conservatives say. “We’ll just lock them up.”
That’s a really, really stupid response because crime is really, really expensive. Here are some numbers.
The Costs Of Crime
For police, judges, prosecutors and public defenders in 2014 Santa Clara county and the City of San Jose spent $670 million dollars for a population of approximately 1.838 million people or approximately $664/per man, woman and child. That number does not include the policing costs for any of the other cities in SC County. Multiply this by the 38,000,000 California residents and the cost of arresting and prosecuting criminals comes to over $25 Billion dollars per year.
In 2012 California had about 150,000 people in state prison. The county jail population was about 81,000 for a total state prison and county jail population of about 231,000. That’s about .8% of the adult population. Almost 1% of the adult population was caught, convicted and locked up. How many more people committed crimes who weren’t caught, convicted and locked up?
The cost to incarcerate one person in state prison is in excess of $45,000 per year and the cost to lock up a prisoner in the county jail varies by county but averages about $41,600 per inmate. An average cost of over $43,000 per inmate per year X 231,000 prisoners = approximately $9.6 Billion per year just to lock up the criminals who were caught, tried and convicted. This doesn’t include the cost to society of the criminals who weren’t caught or didn’t go to trial or who weren’t convicted or who were given probation.
If .8% of the adult population was caught and locked up what is the percentage of the adult population that are practicing criminals? 1.6%? 2.4%? That would be about 700,000 active criminals in California at any given moment.
Next, consider the actual, direct dollar losses from crime. In 2012 The direct property loses in California from crime were estimated to be about $50/person/year X 38,000,000 California residents = $1.9 billion dollars. So, $25 billion for police, judges and prosecutors + $1.9 billion for direct property losses + $9.6 billion to lock up those criminals who were actually caught, convicted and sent to jail = $36.5 BILLION dollars to deal with crime in California not counting the increased insurance premiums that crime generates.
Now, cut off food stamps, housing subsidies, medical care, job training, day care, and imagine how much crime will increase. If it just doubles that’s over seventy billion dollars a year in police, courts and prison costs alone in just one state.
The Link Between Poverty And Crime
In his book, Freakonomics, University of Chicago economist Professor Steven Levitt argues that the drastic drop in the urban murder rate in the 1990s was principally due to the legalization of abortion in 1973.
By 1980 there was one abortion for every 2 1/4th live births and almost all of those were by poor, unmarried teenage girls. One study showed that if born those children would have been 50% more likely than average to live in poverty and 60% more likely to grow up with just one parent.
Poverty and a single parent are the two strongest predictors that a child will end up as a criminal. They more than double the child’s chance of committing a crime.
Levitt contends that these children not being born in the 1970s and 1980s is the principal reason for the drastic drop murders and other violent crimes in the 1990s.
Do you want to live in a crime-ridden society? How safe will you be? How high will your taxes be? How big will the government be? How many cops and prisons will you need?
“We have the cops. We’ll just arrest them” is a criminally stupid, completely unworkable plan. At a $45,000 per prisoner per year incarceration expense it costs vastly more to catch someone, try them, and lock them up than to pay a quarter more for a hamburger served by a worker who is being paid a living wage.
“They’re Losers, let them starve” is like pointing a gun at a steel plate directly in front of you and pulling the trigger.
Unemployed People ALWAYS Cost Society Money No Matter What You Do
Unemployed people will always be an expense for the rest of society. Always.
That cost might be levied on the Winners as a tax to fund police and prisons.
That cost might be levied as a tax to fund welfare programs.
It could be levied as an increased cost to purchase products made by unskilled workers who are now being paid a living wage.
It might be levied as a tax to run free schools to train unskilled but talented people to perform skilled jobs.
It might be levied as an increased price for products requiring skilled workers whose training was paid for by the manufacturer and then factored into the cost of the product.
It might be levied as a tax to pay people to perform public service jobs.
But, everyone in a society will always end up paying for unemployed people one way or another. The only question is how that cost is assessed.
The truism “You can pay me now or pay me later” comes to mind.
Is Welfare The Right First Alternative To A “Let Them Starve” Policy?
Welfare is a flawed main alternative because:
1) The costs of administration make it extremely wasteful
2) It requires a massive paperwork bureaucracy
3) It increases the size of government
3) It encourages people not to work
Jobs That Pay A Living Wage For All Who Are Willing To Work
One answer is to make sure that there are living-wage jobs available for all the not very smart, untalented, unskilled, relatively unmotivated people. If private industry can’t supply enough unskilled jobs then put people to work at a living wage cleaning the streets, recycling trash, trimming trees in the park, babysitting kids at daycare centers, whatever.
One way or another give everyone who is willing to work a job that will pay them a living wage and you won’t need most of the welfare and some of the prisons we now have.
Because of age, illness, mental and physical limitations and the like there are always going to be people who will need public assistance but that number will be drastically reduced if people who can work are given the opportunity to support themselves through a job that pays a living-wage job.
A Capitalist Solution
But won’t these living-wage jobs make things more expensive?
Capitalists believe that the price of goods should reflect the real costs of manufacturing those goods so that the market can choose which products to buy.
If fast-food burgers cost twenty-five cents more because Burger King is paying a living wage that’s fine. Then the consumer can decide to either pay that price or buy ground beef and a package of buns from Safeway. If they do that then Safeway will stay open longer and hire more checkers and stock clerks while Burger King will hire fewer burger makers. That’s how the market works.
What’s Good For The People On The Bottom Is ALSO Good For The People On The Top
People living on food stamps feel like losers. They have no connection with society and they resent their society because they feel excluded and discarded.
When you have no opportunity for a decent life you are going to be angry and you’re not going to be very interested in following the rules.
People with nothing, with no job and no way to get a job that will pay them a living wage can’t help their children get a better life, and, in fact, if their kids are just average, which most kids are, those average kids are doomed to the same horrible life they have.
All of that is bad for the rest of us. Not morally bad. Factually, real-life bad.
People who have jobs that pay them enough to have a decent life have a stake in their society rather than being outcasts from it and perhaps becoming enemies of it, and they have a chance to make a better life for their ordinary, non-genius children, and that’s good for the rest of us.
The Conservatives’ Theory Of “Let-Them-Starve” Costs Too Much
The conservatives’ “let them starve” philosophy is rooted in notions about right and wrong, fair and unfair, and “I’m good and you’re bad” instead of a pragmatic “What’s the most cost-effective way to deal with unemployed, unskilled, not very talented people?”
There’s an old Three Stooges scene set in a restaurant. When the waitress gets to Curly he orders a burned piece of toast and a rotten egg.
Larry asks him why he did that.
Curly answers, “I’ve got a tape worm and it’s good enough for him.”
That exactly expresses the conservatives’ philosophy.
It’s an “I’m willing to shoot myself in the head if the ricochet will also hit the other guy whom I don’t like” philosophy.
It’s stupidity masquerading as morality.
It’s a terrible plan.
By David Grace