Don’t Feed the Monster!
By Patrick F. Cannon
It would be difficult to make the case that the more government we have, the better off we are. In Illinois, it would be impossible to make that case – indeed, you could make the case that Illinois is in the mess it is largely because it has more governmental units than any state in our debt-ridden Union.
But Illinois isn’t unique. Let’s face it; if they were corporations, the Federal government and most states would have to declare bankruptcy. The ability to find ever-new ways to tax us is the only way they can survive. And when they grab our cash, the inefficiency with which they spend it only compounds the problem.
U.S. Welfare Programs (that’s how they’re described on the government’s web site) total at least 13, not including Medicaid. All are designed to provide benefits to low-income families and individuals. I won’t list them all, but they include the negative income tax (also called the earned income tax credit), which provides cash to employed people who actually pay no income tax; the SNAP nutritional assistance program, often called “food stamps”; school nutrition programs, which provides free meals to low-income students; Pell Grants for college students; Head Start; and various housing assistance programs, one of which provides vouchers that lower rent payments.
Although I might not have them all, Federal agencies that administer them include the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and Labor; and the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, and Federal Communications Agency. Each of these departments and agencies have staffs dedicated to these programs. And, in almost every case, state and local agencies are created to assist the Federal government in deciding who qualifies, and for how much.
Most of the families and individuals who receive assistance probably deserve it (and when was the last time the government actually eliminated one?). Of course, there is fraud, human nature and greed being what they are. Because of the occasional report uncovering instances of chicanery, many of our fellow citizens think the poor should be made to shift for themselves. After all, “nobody ever gave me anything – I earned it all.” Nonsense. There is almost certainly more fraud in the commercial arena than in the public (again, with human nature and greed being what they are).
Since the programs are unlikely to be eliminated, why not at least try to make them more efficiently and economically administered?
I believe that all welfare-related programs should be consolidated into one department. Let’s say a family qualifies for income, food and housing assistance. Depending on where they live, a total dollar value would be decided. Then, instead of multiple agencies issuing checks and vouchers, and each deciding on eligibility, a single monthly check would be issued to the head of household. Simply put, a single agency would review your income tax return. The amount of the check would be based on the family’s income, the number of dependents, and the cost of living in the city or town of residence.
The argument I hear most against such a plan is that recipients can’t be trusted to spend the money properly. Really? Upon what evidence do they base this? I doubt if the number of people gaming the system would be any higher than currently. But think of the hundreds of thousands of Federal, state and local salaries we would no longer have to support with our tax dollars? I have no idea how much would be saved, but I do know that those savings would go back to the general economy, instead of disappearing into the insatiable maw of Leviathan.
Copyright 2019, Patrick F. Cannon