Wednesday, 29 November 2017

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

Perversely Stupid

Kiwiblog has a telling post, courtesy of The Federalist.  The article is quoting Tom Coburn, a former US Senator from Oklahoma. 

The Federalist reports Tom Coburn:
However, they are probably less inclined to concede that the constant growth of the welfare state produces inversely diminishing returns. “In 1966 when the massive means-tested entitlements to address the poor began, the overall poverty rate in the United States was 14.7 percent,” Coburn notes. “In 2013, and more than $15 trillion later, the poverty rate was measured at 14.5 percent. That could be a statistical error, rather than even this miniscule 0.2 percent decline.”
$15 trillion for 0.2% decline!
A question immediately begged is why this might be the case?  Is it something which is a perverse oddity?  Rather than a statistical aberration, we suggest that this is the perpetual reality.
  And it does not take a genius to work out why.  Rather, what it does indicate is the madcap ignorant folly of those who promote public spending as a way of combating government defined poverty. 

Why does state welfare spending never seem to achieve its goal of lifting people out of poverty?  Ah, the answer is so simple that even an NCEA maths student could work it out.  The definition of poverty is means tested and is constantly adjusted upwards.  The construct is entirely circular. 

To illustrate, in 1966 there were plenty of people living below the poverty line in New Zealand.  We are not certain, but would hazard a guess that it would have been around 15 percent of the population.  Poverty was defined as including those who had outside toilets and septic tanks for disposal of waste; those whose water supply came from house tanks filled with rainwater run off from roofs, etc. 

But as living standards rose, the definition of what constituted poverty also rose, so that, magically the same proportion of the population were declared to  be living below the poverty line.  We confidently predict that within one hundred years, assuming the same asinine approach is used, fifteen percent of the United States, or New Zealand, or Australia will be living in poverty. 

Meanwhile billions upon billions of tax will have been extorted from the population and spent upon the magical fifteen percent--with no net progress being made.  The only way that progress could be made would be to have a hard, fixed, invariable measure of poverty--a measure that would not adjust upwards to take account of rising living standards, nor downwards if living standards were to fall.  Moreover, the definition of poverty would need to focus upon measures that encapsulate survival-level existence.

If that were the case, we are inclined to think that the private charitable sector in New Zealand could easily take care of those who were genuinely, objectively, truly living in poverty.  We could then do away with one of the biggest rorts of our time--government run welfare to those living in "poverty". 

Can we have been this stupid over all these years?  Yes we can.  Playing this party trick ensures the careers of politicians and thousands upon thousands of bureaucrats, so the wool over eyes will remain.

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