Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The “Market” Is Not Coming To Save Us: How Welfare Law Reform Might Be The U.S.’s Best Chance For Economic Growth!

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The Basics: While the U.S. government has been looking out for business interests, citizens in the country have suffered for decades; to turn the tide, greater social welfare programs are needed.

It is long-past time in the United States for the Federal and State governments to stand up for the citizens they supposedly represent. It is easy to write that because the nation has a long history of siding with business interest over the interests of the citizens. As I observed in my recent article on how the Affordable Care Act is Unconstitutional (check that out here!), health insurance does not equal health care, especially for the poor people who need health care the most; government sided with protecting big business interests (mandating compulsory health insurance purchases) as opposed to siding with the citizens of the United States (mandating employer-provided full health care coverage or State-provided universal health care).

In the wake of such spectacular public policy failures and political blunders that have resulted from the government siding with big business interests – the net result of which has been a weakening of the U.S. dollar, higher unemployment, vastly higher underemployment, and a staggering expansion in the income gap between those who control the vast majority of the nation’s wealth and the 98% of the rest of the nation – it is time for a thorough re-evaluation of the way government looks out for its citizens. To that end, one of the most sensible solutions is to dramatically increase the Welfare budget, raise the poverty line to accept more people onto the Welfare rolls, and thus force businesses to compete for workers from Welfare, as opposed to the other way around.

For almost twenty years, the U.S. economy has been floundering. The rise of “Right-to-work” laws and the tradition of at-will employment (which leaves workers utterly unprotected from firing by employers as they work without contracts or legal protections that require employers to give just cause for firing employees) have crushed the American middle class and making welfare more difficult to apply for and maintain has left tens of thousands in financial straits so dire that they are literally life-threatening (homelessness, starvation, and inability to get basic medical care all contribute to death). And the Federal Government has shown outright spite for the poor, instead of working to help them.

To wit, a few years back, several of the most corrupt companies in the United States were given government bail-outs. Loaned money for making payroll, investment, and other usages, the U.S. Government used public funds (even temporarily) to shore up companies whose executives were engaged in known criminal activities or outright corrupt scams. The victims of those scams lost everything. I know. I have a bankruptcy (for the next ten years) and a foreclosure (forever!) on my credit report as a result of the sub-prime loan scandal, which allowed my first wife and I to buy a house that I could not afford after she left. My point here is, the government did not help me and I bear incredible, lifelong consequences that will prevent me from probably every owning a house again (or, as I learned last week, getting a car loan for several more years!). And yet, the executives at the big businesses who managed the scams that cost me (and many others) our livelihood and long-term security continue to work making more money than they can reasonably spend in a lifetime, usually while avoiding paying a tax burden commensurate with their income.

So, why not upend the system?

Right now, the government protects business interests instead of citizens and people are starving, losing their houses and struggling more than they were two decades ago. That is not progress. It is hard (virtually impossible in some states!) to get welfare benefits even when one is unemployed, has no savings and no ability to move to an area to get a job. Social welfare should not be the enemy and while the Tea Party demonizes a helpful government, their approach only supports the demonization of the poor (many of whom vote against their financial interests when they vote for Tea Party candidates based on their marketed ideology) and the increase in conditions that allow bad business interests to run ram shod over the struggling citizenry.

The solution, then, is the exact opposite approach.

Welfare should be far easier to get on and should work as an indefinite social program with a livable wage. The first argument against this is that some people will abuse the system. There will always be abuse. But, you know what? After twenty years of being abused by bad employers, corrupt mortgage companies and a government that shows, at best, indifference to whether or not I live or die, I think any system that promises hope to the majority is worth instituting, despite the idea that a tiny fraction of people might abuse it. Social welfare should guarantee every living citizen’s right to life by providing enough money to cover food, clothing, living expenses and health care costs.

What is the difference and why should we make this change? 

Right now, the poor, working poor, and underemployed are kicked off welfare programs after a set amount of time. Basically, the government has declared a deadline after which they essentially say “go fuck yourself, you couldn’t make ends meet/find a job, you might as well die!” But that pool of poor people is out competing for jobs and most of them are the same, low-paying, low-skill, unsustainable (in the long term) jobs from which they could be fired at any moment. That does not build stability and it does not create financial growth for the economy. Moreover, it is a system that has utterly failed the poor because businesses have no real incentive to hire people. Despite making record profits, big businesses will try any tactic at their disposal to reduce labor costs. There is no mystical “Market;” it is made up of people, people whose greatest motivation is profit motive. Raw greed encourages bad big businesses to abrogate any sense of social responsibility in favor of keeping stockholders happy and pursing a financial agenda antithetical to the benefit of their workers.

By reversing the priority, by increasing social welfare programs, the poor and underemployed could easily survive . . . while the businesses compete for them. The difference is all the difference; encouraging poor people competing for survival should not be the way our government looks out for the citizens. Compelling businesses to compete for qualified candidates illustrates a priority for people over business interests.

The fundamentally, the difference promotes the human benefit over the business one and it inspires businesses to become better businesses. Instead of being a wage slave to employers with middle management that has an adversarial or indifferent view of the company's workers, employees could have a safety net to leave bad businesses. Coming off welfare, workers could establish conditions for their employment that create a better work/life balance, as opposed to working entirely around the demands of the business. Need Fridays off to pick your children up from school, you could make it a term of your employment right at the interview, as opposed to approaching a supervisor, hat in hand, later on. Worried about the ergonomic impact of your desk when you first see it? Employers would be much more accommodating if they were competing for workers at a living wage, as opposed to accepting competing workers for whatever scraps they are willing to pay. Regardless, the businesses that want to do business in the United States would be compelled to become better businesses.

Detractors are quick to complain about welfare costs. While the military budget could always use some trimming, there is a simple way to make this idea revenue neutral: tax the businesses. Not all businesses would be subject to a tax; good big businesses, ones that pay a living wage to all employees above whatever the new welfare income qualification is, would not be taxed. Businesses that underpay, underemploy, or otherwise abuse employees would be taxed heavily. It’s the cost of business. Period. That’s what the government should be noting; the cost of doing business is having workers and paying them a living wage. If you want to do business in the United States, if you want to sell your product in the United States, that should be the way businesses are treated. If you don’t want to pay fair wages? Fine, you can pay an incredible tax that will pay for the people on welfare and make up the difference in income for the wages you’re willing to pay vs. a living wage.

Government could, at no net cost to the administration, protect its citizens by expanding welfare. The net result, in the long run, is that businesses become better . . . or they die. Human beings should not be at the mercy of bad business practices for their basic survival. Isn’t it time that the citizens of the U.S. insist they have a government that is more willing to accept the death of business organizations over actual human lives?

For other economic articles, please check out my articles on:
It Is Time To Abolish The “Minimum Hourly Wages For Tipped Employees”
The U.S. Government Should Put Bank Of America Out Of Business
Why Shark Tank Might Be The Most Sociologically Destructive Show On Television Today

For other reviews, please visit my Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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