George Will writes: Someone who is determined to disbelieve something can manage to disregard an Everest of evidence for it. So Barack Obama will not temper his enthusiasm for increased equality with lucidity about the government’s role in exacerbating inequality.
In the movie “Animal House,” Otter, incensed by the expulsion of his fraternity, says: “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture.”
Such thinking gives us minimum-wage increases that do very little for very few. Meanwhile, there are farm bills, like the one Obama signed last month at Michigan State University.
MSU was one of the models for the land-grant colleges created under the 1862 Morrill Act, whose primary purpose was to apply learning to agriculture. Today, we apply crony capitalism to agriculture. The legislation Obama lavishly praised redistributes wealth upward by raising prices consumers pay. Vincent Smith of Montana State University says small non-farm businesses are almost 30 times more likely to fail than farms, partly because the $956 billion farm legislationcontinues agriculture’s thick safety net. The geyser of subsidies assures that farm households will continue to be 53 percent more affluent than average households.
“We spend $1 trillion annually on federal welfare programs, decades after Daniel Patrick Moynihan said that if one-third of the money for poverty programs was given directly to the poor, there would be no poor. But there also would be no unionized poverty bureaucrats prospering and paying dues that fund the campaigns of Democratic politicians theatrically heartsick about inequality.”
Certain payments are, however, restricted. People making more than $900,000 annually are ineligible.
Seventy percent of Agriculture Department spending funds food services. Nearly 48 million people — almost as many live on the West Coast (in California, Oregon and Washington) — receive food stamps. This dependency, inimical to upward mobility, is assiduously cultivated by government through “outreach initiatives” to “increase awareness” and “streamline the application process.”
The revised regulations would classify social-welfare groups’ activities as political.
While Senate Republicans, following the lead of their House colleagues, are backing a bill to delay the rules for a year, and the protests of right-leaning nonprofit groups, big and small, are reaching fever pitch, Democratic politicians who are urging the IRS to move forward with the regulations have found themselves at odds with some of their largest constituencies, chief among them the country’s labor unions.
The proposed changes, which were unveiled in late November, would classify much of the day-to-day activity of 501(c)(4) social-welfare groups, including voter education and registration, as political, thereby endangering their tax-exempt status. They would also prohibit public communication 60 days before a general election or 30 days before a primary election that identifies a political candidate — that is, nearly every advertisement aired by groups such as the conservative Americans for Prosperity or the liberal League of Conservation Voters — during the period when they are most effective.
TMZ STAFF: Octomom has just been charged with 3 felony counts of welfare fraud and now faces more than 5 years in prison if convicted on all counts, TMZ has learned.
The L.A. County District Attorney’s Office filed the charges, including 1 count of aid by misrepresentation, and 2 counts of perjury by false application for aid. The D.A. claims Octomom — real name Nadya Suleman — failed to report nearly $30,000 in earnings between January 1-June 30, 2013.
Linda Taylor, welfare queen: Ronald Reagan made her a notorious American villain. Linda Taylor’s other sins were far worse.Posted: December 19, 2013
Josh Levin writes: Ronald Reagan loved to tell stories. When he ran for president in 1976, many of Reagan’s anecdotes converged on a single point: The welfare state is broken, and I’m the man to fix it. On the trail, the Republican candidate told a tale about a fancy public housing complex with a gym and a swimming pool. There was also someone in California, he’d explain incredulously, who supported herself with food stamps while learning the art of witchcraft. And in stump speech after stump speech, Reagan regaled his supporters with the story of an Illinois woman whose feats of deception were too amazing to be believed.
“In Chicago, they found a woman who holds the record,” the former California governor declared at a campaign rally in January 1976. “She used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.” As soon as he quoted that dollar amount, the crowd gasped.
Four decades later, Reagan’s soliloquies on welfare fraud are often remembered as shameless demagoguery. Many accounts report that Reagan coined the term “welfare queen,” and that this woman in Chicago was a fictional character. In 2007,the New York Times’ Paul Krugman wrote that “the bogus story of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen [was] a gross exaggeration of a minor case of welfare fraud.” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews says the whole thing is racist malarkey—a coded reference to black indolence and criminality designed to appeal to working-class whites.
Though Reagan was known to stretch the truth, he did not invent that woman in Chicago. Her name was Linda Taylor, and it was the Chicago Tribune, not the GOP politician, who dubbed her the “welfare queen.” It was the Tribune, too, that lavished attention on Taylor’s jewelry, furs, and Cadillac—all of which were real.
As of 1976, Taylor had yet to be convicted of anything. She was facing charges that she’d bilked the government out of $8,000 using four aliases. When the welfare queen stood trial the next year, reporters packed the courtroom. Rather than try to win sympathy, Taylor seemed to enjoy playing the scofflaw. As witnesses described her brazen pilfering from public coffers, she remained impassive, an unrepentant defendant bedecked in expensive clothes and oversize hats.
Linda Taylor, the haughty thief who drove her Cadillac to the public aid office, was the embodiment of a pernicious stereotype. With her story, Reagan marked millions of America’s poorest people as potential scoundrels and fostered the belief that welfare fraud was a nationwide epidemic that needed to be stamped out. This image of grand and rampant welfare fraud allowed Reagan to sell voters on his cuts to public assistance spending. The “welfare queen” became a convenient villain, a woman everyone could hate. She was a lazy black con artist, unashamed of cadging the money that honest folks worked so hard to earn.
After her welfare fraud trial in 1977, Taylor went to prison, and the newspapers moved on to covering the next outlandish villain. When her sentence was up, she changed her name and left Chicago, and the cops who had pursued her in Illinois lost track of her whereabouts. None of the police officers I talked to knew whether she was still alive.
When I set out in search of Linda Taylor, I hoped to find the real story of the woman who played such an outsize role in American politics—who she was, where she came from, and what her life was like before and after she became the national symbol of unearned prosperity. What I found was a woman who destroyed lives, someone far more depraved than even Ronald Reagan could have imagined. In the 1970s alone, Taylor was investigated for homicide, kidnapping, and baby trafficking. The detective who tried desperately to put her away believes she’s responsible for one of Chicago’s most legendary crimes, one that remains unsolved to this day. Welfare fraud was likely the least of the welfare queen’s offenses.
The establishment GOP’s embrace of progressivism’s central premise.
This week, Dr. Krauthammer, Washington’s most influential expositor of mainstream GOP thought, obligingly spared me the need to prove my point. He gave as clear an account of the modern Republican conception of “conservatism” as you will find. Fittingly, he did it on the program of progressive commentator and comedian Jon Stewart. Today’s smartest Republicans, self-aware enough to know their core views deviate significantly from those of conservatives in the tradition of Buckley, Goldwater, and Reagan, are more likely to say what they think to Jon Stewart. His audience is apt to be receptive, maybe even won over, by a mature progressivism portrayed as what conservatives really think. It is not likely to go over as well with, say, readers of National Review.
Stewart claimed that conservatives are anti-government. Initially, Krauthammer appeared to reject this caricature, replying, “The conservative idea is not that government has no role.” But, alas, when he got around to what the proper role of government is, Krauthammer sounded more like Stewart than Buckley.
Daniel Halper writes: New research from the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee shows that over the last 5 years, the U.S. has spent about $3.7 trillion on welfare. Here’s a chart, showing that spending versus transportation, education, and NASA spending:
“We have just concluded the 5th fiscal year since President Obama took office. During those five years, the federal government has spent a total $3.7 trillion on approximately 80 different means-tested poverty and welfare programs. Read the rest of this entry »
Jay Cost writes: When political scientist Harold Lasswell, writing in the mid-1930s, defined politics as the decisions society makes about “who gets what, when, and how,” he might as well have been describing the debate over taxes and spending in the United States today. But what happens when the focus of the political debate changes from who gets what to who loses what? This concept is unfamiliar to Americans, who have enjoyed more than 100 years of (mostly) uninterrupted economic growth. Read the rest of this entry »
Since 2009, the Fair Labor Standards Act has dictated that the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Some people think that’s too low; others think it’s too high. But it turns out that, in 35 states, it’s a better deal not to work—and instead, to take advantage of federal welfare programs—than to take a minimum-wage job. That’s the takeaway from a new study published by Michael Tanner and Charles Hughes of the Cato Institute.
America’s public-assistance system pays many people better than the jobs they’d otherwise have.
Suppose someone offered you the same amount of money that you currently make at your job on one condition — you don’t work. Might you be tempted? That is exactly the deal that our welfare system offers too many people today.
The federal government currently funds 126 separate anti-poverty programs at an annual cost of $688 billion. Of these, 72 provide cash or other benefits directly to poor families. State, county, and municipal governments often operate additional benefit programs. The combined benefits from those multiple overlapping programs can easily add up to the point where welfare simply pays better than work.
A new study finds that a New York mother of two is eligible for $38,004 in welfare benefits–a sum more than the annual salary of a New York entry-level school teacher.
The study, conducted by the CATO Institute, says in many states welfare pays better than work. Topping the list of wage-equivalent benefits for a mother and two children was Hawaii at $60,590. Idaho came in last with $11,150.
The study found that 33 states and the District of Columbia offer welfare benefits that pay recipients more than an $8-an-hour job would. Twelve states and the District of Columbia offer welfare packages that pay better than a $15-an-hour job does…
Polyamorist Michael Philpott killed his children in pursuit of welfare benefits.
A recent case in Derby, an industrial city in the English Midlands, has ignited controversy. An unemployed man, Michael Philpott (now 56), fathered 17 children by four women, all of whom he treated violently. For ten years, he lived in one house with two of these women: his wife, Mairead, with whom he had six children; and his concubine, Lisa Willis, with whom he had four. Tired of Philpott’s abuse, Willis left him in 2012 and took her children with her. Philpott, furious at this insubordination, wanted the children back. He, his wife, and a friend hatched a plot: they would set fire to the house in which his six children by his wife were asleep; Philpott would rush in and save them, showing himself to be a heroic and devoted father. He would then blame the departed Willis for setting the fire, which would result in her going to prison and his winning custody of her children. But the plan went catastrophically wrong: the fire got out of hand, and all six children died, five by asphyxiation and one by burns.
The bizarre plot was quickly exposed. It also came to light that all involved had long lived on government subsidies. In the trial that followed, the prosecution alleged that Philpott had wanted custody of Willis’s five children—the four whom he had fathered and one by another man—because of the welfare benefits attached to them. When Philpott lived with the two women, the household was receiving about $80,000 a year in such benefits, as well as money that both women earned in part-time jobs. Willis’s departure, then, meant almost halving the household’s welfare income—which, evidence suggested, Philpott used as much for his own pleasures as for the benefit of his progeny.
The revelations set off a furious debate about the indiscriminate nature of state welfare. The Daily Mail, for example, led with a headline about Philpott that has since become notorious: VILE PRODUCT OF WELFARE UK. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, a Tory, remarked, rather mildly in the circumstances, that the case raised questions about the propriety of subsidizing the lifestyles of Philpott and of people who lived as he did.
The Internal Revenue Service has been caught engaging in political profiling while processing applications for tax-exempt status. In this case it was against organizations with “tea-party” or “patriot ” in their names and other right-wing groups. Next time it could be libertarian or left-wing antiwar and pro-civil-liberties groups. No dissenter can ever rest assured he is safe from the arbitrary power of the IRS.
Nothing will have been learned from this scandal if all that happens is the firing of some IRS administrators and the issuance of new guidelines on 501(c)(4) applications. That is not nearly enough.
Obviously, tax exemptions exist only because individuals and some organizations are subject to income and other forms of taxation. Congress levies a tax on incomes, then in its “wisdom” chooses to exempt certain activities but not others. This is social engineering, with Congress seeking to encourage some kinds of organizations — while not forgoing more revenue than necessary. The IRS then writes rules to carry out the directions of Congress.
Where possible, people will naturally strive to qualify for exemption by pushing the boundaries of the regulations. That incentive will always be strong because a nonprofit organization that is exempt from taxation will have more resources with which to pursue its mission. Since the language of statutes and regulations is inevitably vague, the IRS will have room to interpret when ruling on who qualifies and who doesn’t qualify for exemption. The line between vigilance and harassment is not bright, and the potential for abuse is great.
It should be apparent that this power, which is inherently arbitrary, ill suits a society that sees itself as free.