Thursday, June 02, 2011

Government: The Good and the Bad Ny HJS

HJS Comments: The more things change, the more things stay the same. Do you know why? It is not always simple to explain government, but one of the causes is quite simple. If a friend said he wanted to commit suicide, would you lend him the gun? There was a time—and I hope that train has not left the station—when a friend would forget about the gun and find out what is causing his friend to give up and end it all. Is it social, economic, health, fear?

We have social programs that cost us taxpayers a great deal of tax money each year, for what?

Who are they serving? I have seen news reports indicating some of the programs are not budgeted anymore, because nobody uses them.

The programs are still there, however, because it costs too much to eliminate them. We have economic programs also that have cost the taxpayers their hard-earned dollars. I have known one individual with a disability, turned down from one job after another, finally visit a state unemployment office and after several months of coordinating with other services, have a list of employers with offers because his disability was neutralized with equipment, and he had been sent to at least a half dozen courses in an area not saturated with workers in that category.

He was now a very desirable employee. His base salary began at $50,000 per years with benefits, travel, and opportunities for advancement. That was just one small office in a very small town. He took the first step by just going there and letting them know what the problem was. As the Chinese say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Some people never can take the first step because they are afraid of being turned down. They do not seem to realize that by not taking the step, they are turning themselves down. Decades ago, a person I know accepted a position for which he was in no way suited. He was afraid of the job because it involved math and absolute accuracy. He had a family to support, so he took the job anyway, deciding to learn while he was doing it. Apparently he did learn, because he was promoted several times and ultimately became the director. He could have very easily turned himself down because the job was too hard, as so many people do, but he could not raise a family correctly without a good job. Besides, he had to ask himself, “Just what do you want your children to know about you? Would they want to follow in your footsteps? Are you a good role model for them? Can you give them a good home and good environment?

The first office, by coordinating with available services, provided economic and health assistance so a disabled person could not only find a job, but also do well with his life. The second person took the bit, swallowed his fear, and enjoyed a successful career. If the first person had not turned the knob and walked into the state office, look what he would have missed. I would bet he still has companies interested if he wants to move on. The second person simply had to swallow his fear of the unknown and resolve to learn the job, no matter how difficult it seemed. An uncle told me once that not many things are as difficult as they seem. Somebody always manages to do them. Why not you?

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Make good use of it—do something!

John Stossel
Government Against Blacks

The other day, I went to Times Square to ask people what government should do to help poor people. Most everyone agreed on the answer: "more social programs and a higher minimum wage."

It's intuitive to think that way. I used to think that, too. When President Johnson declared a "war on poverty," he said "compassionate government" was the road to prosperity for poor people. That made sense to me. At Princeton, I was taught that government's central planners had the solution to poverty.

But then I watched them work. Government spent trillions of dollars on poverty programs, and the poverty level stayed stuck at about 12 percent of the population. It's stayed there for about 40 years.

Now I understand that that government poverty programs encourage people to stay dependent. There's money in it. They policymakers would have known this 25 years ago had they read "The State Against Blacks." The author, an economist, said poverty programs destroy the natural mechanisms that have always enabled poor people to lift themselves out of poverty.

That author is Walter Williams of George Mason University. Williams, who is black, says "there's a huge segment of the black population for whom upward mobility is elusive, and it's because of the welfare state -- because of government."

Williams elaborates in a new book, "Race and Economics." A chief culprit, he insists, is the minimum wage.

"Let's not look at the intentions behind minimum wage," he said. "We have to ask, what are the effects? Put yourself in the place of an employer who must pay $7.25 no matter whom you hire. Will that employer hire a person who can only add $3 or $4 of value per hour?"

He will not. And so fewer young people get hired and "get their feet on the bottom rung of the economic ladder." This hurts all young people, but black teens most, he says, because "many of them get a fraudulent education in the public school system. So a law that discriminates against low-skill people has a doubly negative effect on black teenagers. The unemployment rate among black teens today is unprecedented in U.S. history. In the '40s, black teenage unemployment was less than white teenage unemployment."

And yet a Pew survey says 83 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage.
"People have the misguided notion that the minimum wage is an antipoverty tool."

Economists understand the truth. A survey of the American Economic Association found that 90 percent of economists say the minimum wage increases unemployment.

Williams says the minimum wage law has also been a tool of racism. In his book "South Africa's War Against Capitalism," he studied that country's labor markets during apartheid:

"White racist unions in South Africa that would never have a black as a
member were the major supporters of minimum wage laws. Their stated purpose was to protect white workers from having to compete with low-skill, low-wage black workers. In the United States we found some of the same reasoning for support of a super minimum-wage law," the Davis-Bacon Act, which forces taxpayers to pay union-like wages for government-funded construction projects.

Williams says other programs designed to help the poor -- like welfare payments -- have wrecked the lives of millions of black people. He likens the welfare state to a "drug pusher" that keeps people dependent and in poverty.

"The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery (and Jim Crow and racism) could not have done ... break up the black family. Today, just slightly over 30 percent of black kids live in two-parent families. Historically, from the 1870s on ... 75-90 percent of black kids lived in two-parent families."

Why does the welfare state create illegitimacy?

"(Without welfare,) people would decide, 'I'm going to go out and get a job, I'm going to live more responsibly.'" And that would include getting married before having children, something the welfare system discourages.

I believe the creators of the welfare state had good intentions, but good intentions aren't good enough. Even if deficit spending were not bankrupting America -- which it is -- America should end these programs.

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "Give Me a Break" and of "Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at

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