Liddick: America’s failing welfare system alike to serfdom (column)
Mark Levchin, co-founder of PayPal, is starting another financial services firm. In Colorado, six schools won the “breakfast challenge” in 2013, just before it fell out of the public eye. More than one-third of young adults 18-35 are living in their parents’ homes in five states; 11others aren’t far behind.
Quick, what unites all these factlets?
The answer is alarming and tragic: Serfdom has reappeared. It is touted by the left of the political spectrum as proof that they care about the downtrodden, which is at best ignorance fueled by a kindhearted impulse to “do something” without considering either consequences or history. At worst, it is a lie of deliberate and malicious intent. Consider:
“Affirm,” Levchin’s digital-lending brainchild, provides loans with very simple forms and paperwork. According to Mr. Levchin, most Millennials and even late X’ers have trouble deciphering economic information; for example, they do not understand that when an “interest only” loan is paid off, there is still the principal to pay. A 2016 survey from “Forbes” magazine supports him, indicating that 45 percent of respondents didn’t know how much of their salary went to paying off their student loans. Thirty-seven percent didn’t know what the rate on those loans was.
When you don’t understand basic economics, you are walking around town wearing a “cheat me” sign, and there is no dearth of people willing to comply. Bernie Sanders, for example.
Then: The “breakfast challenge” awards schools who recruit the most students for a breakfast program paid for by government. In other words, what Progressives call “free.” Think about that: The school that most increases an entitlement is recognized for doing a great job. Nothing better illustrates the left’s inability to understand the reality that “more free stuff” marks failure, not success. When people are able to move themselves from public charity — like having their children’s breakfast paid for by others — to self-sufficiency, that’s success. To celebrate the opposite is to elevate failure.
When another controls your child’s ability to eat, you are not free. Which is why a certain portion of the political spectrum clings with a Vulcan Death Grip to this economic perversity: It offers the quickest route to control in a polity based on one citizen, one vote. It’s why they recoiled in horror when Treasury Secretary Mnuchin described the strategy behind such entitlements as a subsidy for failure while talking about the proposed 2018 budget: That thought is blasphemy which cannot be heard lest it spread, threatening their grip on the serfs.
And serfs they are. From Benjamin Franklin through Daniel Patrick Moynahan to Ruby Payne, authors have warned of the problem of allowing the poor to become “too comfortable in their circumstances,” to quote the first. But according to the Census Bureau, in four of the five states identified as “most liberal” politically by Gallup in 2015, more than a third of young adults 18-35 are living with their parents, unable or unwilling to advance. All of those states are also named by the International Business Times as having the most generous level of welfare payments. All but Connecticut saw the top level of per-capita welfare payment increases in the past five years. But their citizens’ misery has not subsided. That is the great indictment of the American welfare state as constituted: It has failed.
There is misery in this country, and there are many who would make it better. But doing so requires hard questions. Will repetition, only with more money over more time, bring improvement? Or do we need to demand evidence of effectiveness? Should we continue to support schools that produce “social justice warriors” who cannot balance a checkbook or make sense of an investment report? Who have a long-nurtured sense of self-worth and grievance, but know nothing of their nation’s history — or of the importance of showing up for work regularly? Who run screaming from facts not to their liking and seek “safe spaces” for protection against the defeats and insults that life inevitably presents? Or should we change that as well, lest parents’ basements continue to fill?
Shall we continue to support politicians who like our present situation because it offers them opportunities to enlarge their power and their purse, and who will attack anyone threatening change? Or shall we demand they address the enervation this country has suffered for years, and make concrete changes to repair the rot that affects both the Republic and its citizens?
Shall we put an end to serfdom, before it puts an end to us?
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily.
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