The Conservatives’ Society That Only Benefits Winners Is Bad For Everyone

Nov 9, 2016 · 8 min read

–David Grace (

What Conservatives Want

During this campaign season I’ve heard this Conservative refrain:

“Those welfare losers shouldn’t be getting my money. We need to cut taxes and get rid of Obamacare, food stamps and all that other welfare nonsense. People should take care of themselves, work harder, or do without.”

The philosophy here is that we should have a sink-or-swim society, that the winners should prosper and keep all their money because they earned it and that the stupid, lazy and ignorant people should be left to sink or swim on their own.

It’s Not A Practical System — It’s A Social Religion

It is not a philosophy based on pragmatism but is rather the codification of Conservatives’ social religion about what they think is fair. In their view collecting taxes from successful people and then spending that money on “losers” is unfair and is nothing less than organized stealing.

The thing is, fairness is a subjective quality. What is fair to one person is unfair to another. Fairness is a moral opinion, not an objective determination.

This Conservative philosophy that taking my money to benefit other people is wrong has nothing to do with creating a society that works well any more than Communism has anything to do with building a society that works well.

They’re both designed to run a society according to the true-believers’ social religion instead of running a society under rules that are pragmatically designed to deliver a prosperous, efficient, free and productive society for all of its members.

Who Are The Winners?

Let’s take a second to understand who the winners are in the Conservatives’ “Don’t take my money help losers” society.

The winners in the Conservatives’ society are people:

  • who won the family lottery and were born into a family that is willing and able to educate them and support him while they are being educated.
  • who won the family lottery and were born into a family with a culture that teaches hard work, saving, foregoing gratification, education, and determination.
  • who won the genetic lottery and were born smart or clever or energetic go-getters.

Who are the losers?

The losers are Joe Sixpack, 100 IQ, C-average or less high school students or dropouts who

  • were unlucky enough to be born into a family that cannot afford to support and train them,
  • don’t have the intelligence or the talent to perform a living-wage skilled job
  • were born into a culture that teaches instant gratification and living from day to day.

How Poor Are We?

What percentage of the population are losers who fit into one of those three groups: 20%? 30%?

You disagree?

  • About 15% of the American population today feeds themselves via food stamps.

For almost 25% of all U.S. households’ the family income (both a husband, wife and children) is $25,000 GROSS per year or LESS.

The average household is 2.7 people but for the sake of simplicity let’s reduce that to 2. $25,000/2 = $12,500.

  • Almost 25% of all U.S. adults have an average annual gross income of $12,500 or LESS.

But here’s an even more disturbing number. A recent survey revealed that:

  • 47% of Americans said that they could not handle a $400 unexpected expense.

Essentially that’s telling us that almost half the population does not have even $400 in savings. Half the population is essentially broke.

If anything, I think saying that 30% of the population qualifies for what the Conservatives would consider to be losers is itself a conservative figure.

The Conservative’s Plan: Do Nothing

Is the government going pay to train these people to be able to perform a living-wage skilled job?

The Conservatives say, “No way am I paying the bill to train them. That money is mine and I’m keeping it.”

Is the government going to raise the minimum wage for unskilled work to a living wage?

The Conservatives say, “No way am I paying more for stuff so that those losers can earn more than the market thinks they’re worth.”

Is the government itself going to provide living-wage unskilled jobs for these people?

The Conservatives say, “No way am I giving up my money to subsidize some basket-weaving job for those losers. That money is mine and I’m keeping it.”

The Conservative philosophy is essentially that 20% to 30% (or more) of the population are losers who should be written off.

Why are they against Obamacare?

Because it uses tax money to subsidize the losers’ medical insurance premiums. The Conservatives believe that winners shouldn’t be taxed to subsidize the loser’s medical insurance costs.

Why are they against food stamps?

Because it uses tax money to subsidize feeding losers. The Conservatives believe that the winners shouldn’t have their money taken to subsidize the loser’s food.

You’ve got at least 25% of the population wobbling on a financial tightrope with a very tiny social safety net beneath them and the conservatives are demanding that even that net be removed because they think that it’s unfair to make the winners pay for it.

Punishing Stupidity Does Not Make People Smarter

Inherent in the Conservatives’ philosophy is the idea that if you just punish stupid people enough, they will get smarter.

The idea is that if those losers are just ground down far enough without medical care, food, housing, job training or living-wage jobs, that they will somehow get smarter and will be able to figure out how to be successful on their own.

And if they don’t, well, in the Conservatives’ view society is for winners.

There’s a huge problem with that philosophy. It doesn’t work.

I’m not talking about fairness. I’m not talking about so-called “social justice.”

Bleeding-heart liberals will babble about the honor and decency of the working class. The communists will talk about the heroes of the proletariat. Nonsense.

Everybody Counts Or Nobody Counts

You don’t need to glorify the population of 100 IQ, C-minus, high-school-graduate Joe Sixpacks to justify building a society that works for them too. You do that because it’s good for you as well.

I’m saying flat out that an elitist society that only provides a decent standard of living for the 70% of the people who were either born smart or born into a family that can take care of them is a mess for almost everybody. Not morally a mess. Actually a mess.

Here’s the thing: You’re always going to have the 30% you think are losers. You don’t have a magic island someplace that you can ship them off to. They aren’t going anyplace. They are always going to be right there with you.

What’s Bad For Your Fellow Citizens Is Bad For You

If you don’t give average, unskilled people a path to earn a relatively decent life for themselves and their children they are going to make you pay for it, big time.

People aren’t just going to sit there without medical care, without decent food or housing or jobs or a future for their kids while the media flashes images at them of all those rich, happy people leading the good life that they have no access to, and just take it.

Do you remember what happened in France after Marie Antoinette was told that the people had no bread and she supposedly said, “Then let them eat cake”?

It did not end well.

The 19th Century Is Long Gone

If we were still a small town, principally agrarian society of the 1800s our unskilled workers could be be farm hands and the like. If we had a frontier like the 1800s they’d be the sodbusters and pioneers.

But the frontier is gone. The agrarian society is gone.

If this was the 1950s and 1960s with good manufacturing jobs that paid unskilled C-average, 100 IQ high-school graduates a living wage and promised them a better life for their kids, that would work.

But those good-paying unskilled jobs are largely gone, partially killed by trading them away for cheap stuff made in third-world countries and partially killed by massive advances in technology that have replaced unskilled jobs with skilled jobs they are not trained for and maybe cannot ever be trained for.

So, now we continue to be pummeled with a Conservative philosophy that might have worked in the 19th Century but which today foolishly believes that we can safely throw 30% of the population into quicksand poverty without poisoning the remainder of our society in the process.

Here’s some reality: You can’t.

Poverty Generates Crime, Drugs, Gangs and Political Instability

It costs almost $50,000 a year to keep someone in prison and that doesn’t count the cost of the crime itself, the police to catch criminals, the lawyers and judges to try them and the parole officers to supervise them. It’s far cheaper to employ people to perform useful work than turn them into part-time criminals and then try to catch, try and imprison them.

Non-Profit, Public Benefit Employers

Take some of the tax money that’s currently being spent on welfare programs, cops and prisons and give it to nonprofit corporations that are set up to employ people to perform public-benefit work at a living wage.

Establish “Clean Up The Streets, Inc.” a non-profit corporation. Require that 90% of its expenditures be paid directly to the people it hires at a living wage. Send them out to pick up trash and remove graffiti. Limit the highest salary it can pay to any manager to no more than ten times the lowest full-time amount paid to any worker. Set the worker’s wages at a living wage, plus medical insurance and ten days per year paid time off.

Give it enough tax money to employ many, many unskilled workers.

Create another non-profit called “Day Care, Inc.” that will provide free day care to any working parent.

Create as many such non-profits as necessary to provide living-wage jobs for anyone and everyone who is willing to work. Get the money from the reductions in the costs of entitlement programs, prisons, and taxes on corporations, inheritance taxes, and the top earners in the society.

The Body Politic

A modern, industrialized society is a living organism–the body politic. Disease in one part poisons the other parts.

If your appendix gets inflamed you don’t say, “I don’t want to spend any money fixing that thing. It doesn’t do me any good. It’s a loser” because it’s a part of you and if you don’t fix it, it will kill you.

The fifteen or twenty or thirty percent of the people in our society who are living on the edge of poverty or in poverty are your inflamed appendix.

  • They give rise to demagogues like Donald Trump.
  • They commit crime.
  • They reduce consumption.
  • They weaken the economy.
  • They are a drag on and a danger to the entire society.
  • They are part of you.

It isn’t them.

It’s us.

Creating a society that only benefits the winners and that treats the losers with benign neglect is like ignoring your inflamed appendix or rot in the walls of your house.

It a really dumb idea and it won’t end well.

–David Grace (

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Graduate of Stanford University & U.C. Berkeley Law School. Author of 17 novels and over 200 Medium columns on Economics, Politics, Law, Humor & Satire.

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