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Equal Outcomes or Equal Oppotunity? What is the common good?

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Local Rebel
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0 posted 09-21-2003 01:01 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

quote:

Let's begin with the common good. We can trace that concept back to the earliest foundations of political theory. Anyone who went to a good college knows that it all comes from Aristotle's Politics which is surprisingly timely in many ways. In Politics, which is pretty subtle and complex, the main problem is how to achieve what Aristotle calls, "the Common Good of All." Per Aristotle, "the state is a community of equals." It's aiming at the best life possible for all of them. The people must be supreme and they must participate fully and equally. (A qualification: "people" is a narrow category for Aristotle. We've at least learned something in 2,000 years.) But among those he considered the people, they have to be equal, free, participatory. And the government must not only be democratic and participatory, but also a welfare state, which provides, as he put it, "lasting prosperity to the poor by distribution of public revenues" in a variety of ways that he discusses.

The point being that an essential feature of a decent society, and an almost defining feature of a democratic society, is relative equality of outcome-not opportunity, but outcome. Without that you can't seriously talk about a democratic state.

These concepts of the common good have a long life. They lie right at the core of classical liberalism, of enlightenment thinking. Adam Smith, as everyone knows, advocated free markets, but if you look at the argument for free markets, it was based on his belief that free markets ought to lead to a perfect equality, which is a desideratum in a decent society. Like Aristotle, Smith understood that the common good will require substantial intervention to assure lasting prosperity of the poor by distribution of public revenues.

So Adam Smith's praise of the division of labor is well known, but less known is his condemnation of the division of labor for its inhuman effects which, as he said, "will turn working people into objects as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to be" and therefore must be prevented in any improved or civilized society by government action to overcome the devastating market forces.

Other leading contributors to classical liberalism went much further than this, condemning wage labor itself, for the reason that it deprives people of their humanity. When the laborer works under external control, we may admire what he does but we despise what he is-a classic liberal slogan. deToqueville said that the art advances, the artisan declines. He was, of course, also a great figure of the classical liberal pantheon and he agreed with Smith, Thomas Jefferson and many others, that equality of outcome is an important feature-a crucial feature in fact-of a free and just society. And he warned of the dangers of a permanent inequality of condition and an end to democracy if the manufacturing aristocracy (which is growing up under our eyes in the United States in the 1830s, remember, one of the harshest that has ever existed in the world) should escape its confines, as it later did beyond his worst nightmares.

That's classical liberalism, way back to Aristotle.

--Noam Chomsky





Even Ronald Reagan said that government exists for the convenience of the people governed -- not the other way around.

TR knew that in order to save capitalism he had to gut it.

Has the pendulum swung too far in America?  The world?  Do we need to be about equal outcomes or equal opportunity?  What is the common good?

The text is from http://www.flora.org/library/mai/chomsky2.html

[This message has been edited by Local Rebel (09-21-2003 01:04 PM).]

Denise
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1 posted 09-21-2003 03:14 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

I believe that we need to be about equal opportunity. What people do with equal opportunity should decide individual outcome, as I think it should. I don't see that the common good can be served by divorcing outcome from personal responsibility which equal outcome really mandates.

I don't believe in public revenues. All revenues come from private people. Redistribution of revenue from one group to another does not serve the good of the ones it is confiscated from nor of the ones to whom it is resdistributed . It will only depress the industriousness of the former group eventually when they realize that all their hard work is not producing the desired goal of bettering their condition, and it will further entrench the recipients of the benefits freely bestowed on them on the backs of the labor of others of an entitlement mentality. Neither serves the common good of the society.

A very good example of this can be found in our large cities. Tax bases are being eroded as middle class workers flee the cities in response to the government's housing program, which seems to be based on equal outcome reasoning.

Basically people who qualify for the program are being told by the government that they can live anywhere they choose to live regardless of their income. Economics doesn't enter into the equation since the government subsidizes their economic deficiency.

The large cities, are in effect, increasingly being replaced with people who don't work and pay taxes and by those who work at lower paying jobs and thereby pay fewer taxes than did the previous residents who have chosen to leave to live in communities where the work ethic is honored since the quality of life declines in communities where equal outcome thinking and an entitlement mentality takes hold. It does not serve the common good at all, but destroys it. It can't sustain itself, but must increasingly impose higher tax rates on those businesses and workers that remain to recoup its loses, thus leading to more flight.

What is the incentive to work hard to improve one's situation in life when you don't have to, when you can have the same lifestyle as the schmoe who lives next door who works 40-50 hours a week?

Why get married and have children and take on the personal economic responsibility when the government will foot the bill if you have children without getting married?

I think the best thing a society can do is to provide for its citizens an environment of equal opportunity while also fostering a climate of individual responsibility regarding the use of that opportunity to enable everyone to realize their fullest potential.  
Local Rebel
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2 posted 09-21-2003 04:54 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Is the topic question even legitimate?  Or is it a fallacy that's been chased by the great thinkers of the last two millenia?

Here's the paradox Denise; if you want equal opportunity how does government provide that without intervening somehow?  Starting positions are not 'equal' in a system where wealth is allowed to accumulate.  (Ergo Teddy Roosevelt's inheritance tax)

All money is public.  (that ought to raise a few eyebrows) Just ask the treasury department.

Denise
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3 posted 09-21-2003 07:18 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

I see your point, L.R. I suppose an environment of opportunity is all that can be offered without government interference of some sort, and that the 'equal' qualifer is a fallacy.

So is the treasury department's position that the portion of the money that we earned that they allow us to keep is really their's too, and they allow us to keep even that much due to their magnamimous benevolence?    
Local Rebel
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4 posted 09-21-2003 07:37 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

The fallacy is broader than that really.  It's a false alternative to assume that we  have to choose either equal opportunity or equal outcome.  Where in fact we have to have both or neither.

Without government intervention we can't even have opportunity -- only Feudalism.

And, you're not going to like the answer much to your last question ... but, yes -- all 'money' that stuff you fold up and put in your wallet and any coins you may possess -- are goverment property.  You possess it at the will of the government and are allowed to keep it because of... due process....
Ron
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5 posted 09-21-2003 08:46 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Aren't you in danger of making the same either-or mistake, LR?

I'm guessing you are equating lack of intervention to lack of government? Do you really think a class-based society like Feudalism is the only alternative?
Local Rebel
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6 posted 09-21-2003 09:29 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Oh, I'm probably in danger of a lot of things Ron...

The fact remains though that our system is based on a fine balance between affording opportunity and managing outcome -- as was discussed in egoism -- it's in the best interest of the individual.

Depending on where the emphasis is placed on that balance may determine whether we call an economic system capitalism or socialism-- and how much control the government exercises in striking that balance may define the difference between democracy, communism, or facism.

I don't know that I would suggest that lack of intervention equates to lack of government -- but it certainly may be indicitive of a lack of democracy as Aristotle, Madison, and Jefferson pursued it.
And it is most definitely a cousin to feudalism in the sense that power concentrates with wealth.

Is it the only alternative?  Unless we can think of a new model for government and economics -- probably.  Unless you'd classify anarchy.
Midnitesun
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7 posted 09-22-2003 12:43 AM       View Profile for Midnitesun   Email Midnitesun   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Midnitesun

quote:
Redistribution of revenue from one group to another does not serve the good of the ones it is confiscated from nor of the ones to whom it is redistributed . It will only depress the industriousness of the former group eventually when they realize that all their hard work is not producing the desired goal of bettering their condition, and it will further entrench the recipients of the benefits freely bestowed on them on the backs of the labor of others of an entitlement mentality. Neither serves the common good of the society.

WHOA! I've heard that argument many times, but I have yet to see any 'industrious' people give up or quit reaching for their personal financial goals. And I've known too many families who struggled to get OFF welfare to buy that old entitlement mentality argument. It's true, there are some people who do fall into a comfortable 'trap' But the ones I've seen  stay there are largely uneducated, and often depressed souls who find little hope or encouragement.
To discuss this strictly in terms of opportunity vs outcome is an oversimplification. As for what kind of social structure works best for the good of the majority? I'm not sure there is only one model. I've lived and traveled in more than one country, and everywhere I've been I've seen happy well-fed prosperous people, and impoverished depressed people (whose faces I'll never forget.) And the governments and social structures were radically different.
I wish I had a simple answer, a model that would fit each situation ideally. But I don't, and neither does anyone else I've observed.
But it appears to me that equality of outcome is what we must keep our eyes on, not the method. Equal opportunity sounds great in theory, but even when it really exists, it often doesn't lead us to the desired end result, which should be equality of outcome if we truly believe that all men are created equal, and have certain inalienable rights to pursue freedom and happiness.  MHO

[This message has been edited by Midnitesun (09-22-2003 12:49 AM).]

Denise
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8 posted 09-22-2003 02:33 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Kacy,

A depression of industriousness is not the same as quitting or giving up. It's actually a decrease in productivity. Why work overtime, for instance, unless it’s mandatory, when between the city, state, federal, Medicare and F.I.C.A. taxes, a worker only gets a little more than half of the gross amount? Oppressive taxation, over time, has a dampening effect on productivity.

Yes, many people struggle to free themselves from the welfare system. Many things have to be taken into consideration when folks are weighing the decision regarding staying in or getting out. Getting out can mean giving up subsidized housing, subsidized childcare, subsidized utilities, free healthcare, free or subsidized education, food stamps, and monthly cash allotments.  It takes great courage to turn your back on such a great safety net to strike out on your own where there are no guarantees of success, and your lifestyle, at least in the short-term, will probably decline.

Of course not all people develop an entitlement mentality, but it is a struggle there, too, when the government tells you that you are entitled to certain benefits if you meet certain criteria. And I think that mentality takes deeper root with each succeeding generation when welfare is all that they have ever known. Hopefully the welfare reform currently underway will help to wean more and more people from that system and enable them to start along the path of self-respect through accomplishment.

When there is a decrease in taxation and fewer people dependent on tax funded social programs and fewer social programs dependent on tax revenues, productivity goes up.

Of course, we’ll always have the poor among us. I think this is where the churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and social organizations can certainly be doing more to alleviate suffering, and probably would be if the government wasn’t providing such a vast safety net. Voluntary contributions by members and programs administered and maintained by non-profits on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged would not have the detrimental effect on productivity and the economy that forced government aid does.

I can’t see that “outcome” based thinking can lead to anything other than full-blown socialism.

[This message has been edited by Denise (09-22-2003 02:41 PM).]

Brad
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9 posted 09-24-2003 07:53 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

quote:
A depression of industriousness is not the same as quitting or giving up. It's actually a decrease in productivity.


But what is the point of productivity?  One argument, of course, is that people generally want to consume more and yet if that's true, why is so much money spent on increasing consumption? Why do you have to convince people to buy more if that's what they want to do naturally?  

quote:
Why work overtime, for instance, unless it’s mandatory, when between the city, state, federal, Medicare and F.I.C.A. taxes, a worker only gets a little more than half of the gross amount? Oppressive taxation, over time, has a dampening effect on productivity.


I don't know, but people generally work overtime for a number of reasons, not least because it's half again what you would make if you hadn't already worked eight hours. Among my friends in America, I know nobody who works eight hours and goes home. This has nothing to do with taxation but with the nature of the job they do.

quote:
Yes, many people struggle to free themselves from the welfare system. Many things have to be taken into consideration when folks are weighing the decision regarding staying in or getting out. Getting out can mean giving up subsidized housing, subsidized childcare, subsidized utilities, free healthcare, free or subsidized education, food stamps, and monthly cash allotments.  It takes great courage to turn your back on such a great safety net to strike out on your own where there are no guarantees of success, and your lifestyle, at least in the short-term, will probably decline.


So why not move to a national salary?

quote:
Of course not all people develop an entitlement mentality, but it is a struggle there, too, when the government tells you that you are entitled to certain benefits if you meet certain criteria. And I think that mentality takes deeper root with each succeeding generation when welfare is all that they have ever known. Hopefully the welfare reform currently underway will help to wean more and more people from that system and enable them to start along the path of self-respect through accomplishment.


Here, I just think you're focusing on the wrong group. Entitlements go to the upper classes far more than they do the lower.  Get rid of all of them? What happens then?

quote:
When there is a decrease in taxation and fewer people dependent on tax funded social programs and fewer social programs dependent on tax revenues, productivity goes up.


And what else? Why were social programs initiated in the first place?

quote:
Of course, we’ll always have the poor among us.


I don't see why unless you mean a relative difference of value. Yes, that will be with us, but there's no reason, today, that people should be able to feed their children.

quote:
I think this is where the churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and social organizations can certainly be doing more to alleviate suffering, and probably would be if the government wasn’t providing such a vast safety net.


Frankly, I've never understood this argument. These organization, as far as I know are tax free, why aren't they doing more now?

quote:
Voluntary contributions by members and programs administered and maintained by non-profits on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged would not have the detrimental effect on productivity and the economy that forced government aid does.


Why not? If they were, in fact, to replace government programs, wouldn't that instill the same mentality as a government program?  Either there is a safety net or their isn't. Should there be? The argument is whether a safety net in and of itself decreases productivity. If so, this is just a smoke screen.

quote:
I can’t see that “outcome?based thinking can lead to anything other than full-blown socialism.


As if that were a bad thing. But, honestly, what is equality of opportunity and what does that entail to make it work.
Stephanos
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10 posted 09-24-2003 10:53 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Denise: "Voluntary contributions by members and programs administered and maintained by non-profits on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged would not have the detrimental effect on productivity and the economy that forced government aid does."

Brad: "Why not? If they were, in fact, to replace government programs, wouldn't that instill the same mentality as a government program?  Either there is a safety net or their isn't."


Brad, this is true.  But at the same time, voluntary help can be more discriminate in giving.  There's a difference between helping someone through a crunch, and enabling a lazy dependent lifestyle.  I'm not sure where I stand on the issue of welfare exactly, but some feel that big machinery is a lot easier to fool than smaller grass-roots helpers.  And there's some truth to that.


Stephen.
Jason Lyle
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11 posted 09-25-2003 01:03 AM       View Profile for Jason Lyle   Email Jason Lyle   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Jason Lyle

I wont give the same detailed argument some of you have.Entitlement? there is only one entitlement.The chance to get it right.The Idea that those that have owe something to those that have not is silly.with all of the many programs and chances our current system provides for one to get it right, there is seldom an excuse to not better oneself.Bill gates should not owe one single percentage point in taxes than any of us.He got it right, provided jobs, stimulated the economy, and as a reward is taxed at the highest bracket, to subsidize those who feel entitled.get it right, learn and better yourselves.Whine about lost chances and unfair systems all you like, you have not only not tried, you never contributed.people would love a free ride, as they complain about problems they perpetuate.My vote is equal oppurtunity.Outcomes are earned.

Jason
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12 posted 09-25-2003 10:19 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Jason,

But what about situations where people really aren't able to "get it right"?  There's more to it sometimes than just slackness.  There are people who really need help.  


Stephen.  
Midnitesun
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13 posted 09-25-2003 10:55 AM       View Profile for Midnitesun   Email Midnitesun   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Midnitesun

quote:
Outcomes are earned.

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
Sorry Jason, and Denise but I know too many, including myself, who often have not received anything close to a fair wage for the work done, and I've worked many jobs since age 17. Even a college degree hasn't provided me with adequate wages every year. I worked for a public school system for over eight years, and being a single parent, working fulltime AND getting child support has still left me in a negative cashflow situation more often than I care to admit.
For instance, right now, I actually work 50+ hours weekly, and also homeschool my high school teen. I have absolutely no medical coverage, because I make about $100 too much to qualify for medicaid, and the employer doesn't cover any insurance. The cheapest private policy is over $600 month, and all the carriers I've contacted want to exclude everything I persoanlly need the coverage for...such as high blood pressure and a potentially life-threatening heart condition.
I receive NO government support, not even for homeschooling. So, why is it that a single mom working this many hours cannot break even or get any health coverage? It is NOT because I don't try. That is an insult to me and all who struggle without the benefit of a safety net.
More importantly to me, what ever happened to the HUMAN concept of charity? In spite of what some say, there needs to be a safety net, and that net has traditionally been funded by the adequately paid and the wealthy of this country (and others)BTW, the wealthy have often made their wealth at the expense of the lower paid workers.
I don't begrudge Bill Gates or anyone else their money, especially if they made that money honestly and were therby rewarded for being smarter-than-the-average-bear, at least where money is concerned. But look at all the inequities with open eyes.
Please re-read Upton Sinclair for starters, and then maybe get a copy of a new book, Nickel and Dimed (on the very real trials and tribulations of a great majority of modern American working parents). And remember, not everyone is strong enough to climb  mountains or jump over all of life's hurdles.
Bill Gates actually does give a lot of money to charitable causes, and I say thank you, and kudos to him.
As for labels, I guess you could call me a liberal or even a socialist if you choose.
I prefer to call myself a humanitarian.


[This message has been edited by Midnitesun (09-25-2003 11:07 AM).]

hush
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14 posted 09-25-2003 01:02 PM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

'get it right, learn and better yourselves.Whine about lost chances and unfair systems all you like, you have not only not tried, you never contributed.'

What about people who worked for years, only to become disabled through not fault of their own? Never contributed? Check your facts (or, hey, try just looking around you) before you make blanket statements.
jbouder
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15 posted 09-25-2003 01:27 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

quote:
get it right, learn and better yourselves.Whine about lost chances and unfair systems all you like, you have not only not tried, you never contributed.


Then there are those who were born disabled, who require a significant, current investment in their lives now in order to acquire skills you and I take for granted that they will need to live independently in the future.

Surely there are those who abuse the "system."  But that does not mean that there shouldn't be effective systems for some populations based on their individual needs.  I personally have no problem with the fact that money is being spent for such cases ... my problems often lie with how the money is being spent.

Jim

[This message has been edited by jbouder (09-25-2003 01:28 PM).]

Jason Lyle
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16 posted 09-25-2003 01:34 PM       View Profile for Jason Lyle   Email Jason Lyle   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Jason Lyle

I wont change my opinion, but after rereading it I will apolgize.I delivered in it in a very uncaring and smartass way.There are no easy answers, and in spite of what I said, I do understand that in many cases it is not a case of not trying, but a case of overwhelming circumstances, and a stacked system.I am at a loss for an answer that is fair to every side.I will also state that I wrote this right wing, jerk like opinion, as I tried to figure out how not to get foreclosed on, paid my water bill one day before shutoff, tried to get financed for the second car we dont own, and spent my last dime on my daughters school clothes, while I own one pair of jeans.Forgive me my smartass tone, it was not intentional.In spite of all this, I still have to cast my vote for oppurtunity, and hope that those of us that struggle, get ours soon.

Jason
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17 posted 09-25-2003 01:50 PM       View Profile for Jason Lyle   Email Jason Lyle   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Jason Lyle

Jim,

My wife is a social worker, and works with individuals with mental retardation.I understand and agree with all you said.My blunt style often makes me cynical and uncaring.this is not true.I am still at a loss for a better system that is fair and compassionate to all sides.

Jason
jbouder
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18 posted 09-25-2003 01:57 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

A few solutions, Jason, include involvement stakeholders in the service planning process, blending funding streams to eliminate bureaucratic overlap, giving families affected by disabilities the opportunity to determine how their money is spent (i.e., cutting out the administrative "middle-man"), investing in research, promoting innovative pilot programs, and encouraging private sector involvement in worth-while community activities (education/health) through State corporate tax credit programs.

I think you have a right to be upset about how poorly much of your tax money is spent, particularly when it is difficult to make your own ends meet.  But I think you would agree that spending money now on a service that enables someone who currently cannot live independently or self-sufficiently, will reduce cost in the long run if such an individual no longer requires services after being habilitated.

Jim
jbouder
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19 posted 09-25-2003 02:11 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Don't sweat it Jason.  Five years ago, I think I probably would have written much the same thing you had.  Life has a funny way of broadening your perspective sometimes.

Jim
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20 posted 09-25-2003 02:21 PM       View Profile for Jason Lyle   Email Jason Lyle   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Jason Lyle

Jim,

These are the very things my wife fights for, she works in compliance, making sure that all state regulations are being followed in independant living programs.She is constantly challenged by budget restrictions, program restructuring, and levy votes.I admit I am an extremist, I would vote for a levy on special needs, and at the same time would vote on a law to force birth control on anyone recieving aid.
I believe that there has to be programs in place to help those that need help, but what about programs to prevent the need for more help?

Jason

Ps...this is why my vote never counts, me and the wife cancel each others vote...

[This message has been edited by Jason Lyle (09-25-2003 02:29 PM).]

Denise
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21 posted 09-25-2003 10:41 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Kacy,

Our economic situations are similar and I also never qualified for the government safety net because of being just a smidge over in the income department (just by .50 an hour at one point), and I only received child support after my divorce for three months (he quit his job and got one under the table so that he wouldn’t have to pay it). I did receive a box of food from a church one time, which came in very handy. Have you spoken with your doctor about your lack of healthcare insurance? My daughter's company recently discontinued their prescription benefit and whenever possible the doctor gives her "samples" for her and her children when they need medication. It's been a big help.

The very fact that the government steps in to give advantages to those whom it decides are disadvantaged creates a disadvantage to those who are slightly over the economic line, in my case by $20 per week. For that inconsequential amount I wasn’t eligible for food stamps, subsidized housing, subsidized childcare, free healthcare, free prescriptions, free schooling, help with utility bills, monthly cash assistance and legal aid. Someone who made $20.00 less per week than I did was eligible for all that, easily worth upwards of $10,000 per year, and that’s a conservative estimate. So advantages are given to some, improving their lifestyle, while others have to make it with no help whatsoever, and end up with a lifestyle significantly inferior to those who earn just a little bit less. And the newly “disadvantaged” continue to pay, through payroll taxes, for the newly improved lifestyle of the ones deemed disadvantaged, and who pay no taxes for their government supplied advantages. This doesn't sound like equal opportunity to me. Is it any wonder that you work such long hours and can’t make ends meet?

Life is a struggle for many, but I don't see that government charity is the answer. There is a place for charity and a definite need for charity. In my opinion it should be coming from the private and religious sectors of society. They should be the ones providing the safety net, not the government.

To touch on a point brought up by Brad, I think that perhaps they don’t fulfill this role to the extent that they should because the government is providing for most of the needs in our present day society, and doing it on the backs of the average working class people like you and me, who really can’t afford to be subsidizing other folks’ needs when our own are so urgent. We learn to deal with it, though. We do without, our kids do without. Maybe we don’t get that college degree. We shop at the discount grocery store. We have hand-me-down clothes and furniture. We manage.  We survive.  

As for the economic impact of government vs. private charity, I think that the private sector is able to accomplish the same results with far less bureaucracy, duplicated effort, and waste than government agencies. And giving on a voluntary level is usually done more in keeping with what people can actually afford as opposed to oppressive tax rates.

And also as Stephen pointed out, there is a difference between helping people through the rough patches in life and in providing ongoing lifestyle subsidization. The latter is much more expensive. And as Jim pointed out, some people need special care, such as the disabled who can’t work or care for themselves and government programs are needed in such cases.  

Some look at their own personal life situation in light of what others have who are better off than they are and see their situation as something unfair that needs to be corrected by society (even if the situation is of their own creation through unwise choices) and that such an “adjustment” is something to which they have a right, something to which they are entitled. Some look at the cards they’ve been dealt or a situation they find themselves in due to unwise choices and determine that they will do their best to provide for themselves and their families in their given situations to the best of their ability, and don’t see society as owing them anything.

Brad, maybe your friends don't mind slaving for the government. I personally would like to keep a bit more of the money that I earn. It might come in handy when I retire since Social Security will probably be bankrupted by then.  

Jason, I can empathize with your situation. Hang in there.


Local Rebel
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since 12-21-1999
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22 posted 09-27-2003 09:24 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

quote:

Of course, we’ll always have the poor among us


It's rather unfortunate that there are so few quotes directly attributable to Jesus and that this is probably one of the best known (and misunderstood) among them.

Was Jesus really dispassionate about the plight of the impoverished?  If so, what percentage of starving children do we think he thought was acceptable?  Ten percent?  Five?  Twenty?

Let's expand the paradigm of poverty for a moment to go beyond the lowest rung of Maslow and assume that the children are fed and have shelter.  

For some reason we think they are entitled to education.  (or at least most people do -- public schools have long been a reality of existence in the United States and attendance is compulsory through representative legislation)

Why then, do we not think health care is equally an entitlement -- and preventive health care compulsory?  Oh.. but, in a way it is -- we have to make sure the kids get their shots before they can go to public schools.

Are we entitled to public highways?  Why?  If not... why do we fund them?

Since so many want to drag Bill Gates' money into this it's appropriate to reference the words of William Gates Sr. ;

quote:

Like the "great man" theory of history, our dominant "great man" theory of wealth creation borders on mythology. Such folklore fills the pages of business magazines. In a recent interview, one chief of a global corporation was asked to justify his enormous compensation package. He responded, "I created over $300 billion in shareholder value last year, so I deserve to be greatly rewarded." The operative word here is "I." There was no mention of the share of wealth created by the company's other 180,000 employees. From this sort of thinking, it is a short distance to, "It's all mine" and, "Government has no business taking any part of it."

There is no question that some people accumulate great wealth through hard work, intelligence, creativity, and sacrifice. Individuals do make a difference, and it is important to recognize individual achievement. Yet it is equally important to acknowledge the influence of other factors, such as luck, privilege, other people's efforts, and society's investment in the creation of individual wealth.

Consider the many components of the social framework that enable great wealth to be built in the United States. Among them are a patent system, enforceable contracts, open courts, property ownership records, protection against crime and external threats, and public education. Even the stock market is a form of socially created wealth that provides liquidity to enterprises. David Blitzer, the chief investment strategist at Standard and Poors, recently wrote, "Financial markets are as much a social contract as is democratic government." When faith in this social system is shaken, as it has been by recent breaches of trust, we see how quickly individual wealth evaporates.

Some potential beneficiaries of estate tax repeal are well aware of the dynamic relationship between individual wealth and the society in which it's produced. Last year, Responsible Wealth (an organization co-founded by co-author Chuck Collins) circulated a petition in support of reforming, but not eliminating, the tax. More than 1,100 business leaders and investors who will pay estate taxes in the future signed it, including George Soros, Ted Turner, and David Rockefeller Jr., as well as hundreds of small-business owners and "millionaires next door" whose wealth totals between $1 million and $10 million.
-----
Republican President Theodore Roosevelt also believed that society had a claim on the accumulated fortunes of the very wealthy, thanks to its role in creating those fortunes. In his 1906 State of the Union address, Roosevelt proposed the creation of a federal inheritance tax. He explained: "The man of great wealth owes a peculiar obligation to the State because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government." As Roosevelt further argued in a June 1907 speech: "Most great civilized countries have an income tax and an inheritance tax. In my judgment both should be part of our system of federal taxation." Such taxation, he noted, should "be aimed merely at the inheritance or transmission in their entirety of those fortunes swollen beyond all healthy limits."

No doubt Roosevelt would consider the great income and wealth inequalities of our second Gilded Age reason to increase rather than to eliminate the one tax we have that limits the buildup of hereditary concentrations of wealth. Roosevelt and others of his day understood that the American experiment was an attempt to balance economic liberty and free enterprise, on the one hand, with a traditional concern about democracy and the dangers of concentrated wealth and power, on the other. The estate tax, adopted in 1916, was one of the means by which Americans rejected the Old World, with its political and economic monarchies.



quoted from http://www.prospect.org/print/V13/11/gates-w.html

[This message has been edited by Local Rebel (09-27-2003 09:27 PM).]

Jason Lyle
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since 02-07-2003
Posts 1519
With my darkling


23 posted 09-27-2003 10:58 PM       View Profile for Jason Lyle   Email Jason Lyle   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Jason Lyle

I did not mean to make this a Bill Gates discussion, but the estate tax really sucks.Income is taxed as it is earned, then after invested it has its further earnings taxed.Any loopholes in this tax system are created by the fact that we do not have a just and fair flat tax.
Still using Gates as an example, he just donated 168 million to combat malaria, one on his many, many donations, is the state truly entitled to 60 percent of this mans fortune when he dies?
If I was in this situation, my money would be offshore.

Jason
Local Rebel
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since 12-21-1999
Posts 5742
Southern Abstentia


24 posted 09-27-2003 11:22 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

quote:

That problem confronting Madison-the same as Aristotle's problem-could be solved in one of two ways. One is by reducing poverty. The other is by reducing democracy. Aristotle's choice was the first. Madison's was the second. He recognized the problem, but since the prime responsibility of government is to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority, he therefore urged that political power be put in the hands of the more capable set of men, those who represent the wealth of the nation, with the public fragmented and disorganized.

And that's the Madisonian system, which has remained fairly stable over two centuries-although with outcomes that he very soon deplored, as I've indicated. The reason for his surprise, I think, is that Madison, like the rest of classical liberalism, was pre-capitalist and anti-capitalist in spirit. And he expected the leadership to be benevolent and enlightened and so on.

He learned differently very fast.

Chomsky -- from the referenced thread in the originating post



Is the state entitled to it?  Not anymore -- the Republican Senate, House, and President have rolled back the estate tax -- along with the myriad of other tax cuts.

America has opted to further reduce democracy -- and inso doing -- reduce the opportunity that others will have of producing the same kind of results Gates enjoyed.  

The rich will grow richer still and the poor will continue to grow ever poorer -- and have less opportunity to have upward mobility -- not just as a result of the estate tax repeal though -- there are multiple assualts that have been made against labor and the working classes over the last two decades -- and aren't really the thread topic.

My grandmother was always an advocate of voting republican -- not because she actually understood politics or economics -- but people -- her depression era theory; Republicans have money and they spend it when they are happy -- and they are happy when they get elected.


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