Newt Gingrich has created a really unnecessary stir for this observation:

"Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of “I do this and you give me cash”… unless it’s illegal."

I've said pretty much the same thing myself. Of course, there are exceptions: the people who lift themselves out of their circumstances through grit, willpower, determination, and of course we need to throw in a little luck and occasional help.

Now let me be clear about something: I'm a lifelong Democrat and the chance I might vote for Newt, should he be the Republican Presidential candidate, is pretty close to absolute zero.

At the same time, I can see the dysfunction involved in welfare programs which essentially pay people to stay home and watch TV. I feel that money needs to be tied to something done in return. Some sort of public service, for example, except in those cases of people who literally can't work.

When kids grow up in households with parents who don't set the example of getting up at a certain time in order to be at work on time and who work set work days (even if they are part time), what is the kid learning?

And in the poorest neighborhoods, the main way for a kid to make money is to break into cars or houses, engage in prostitution, or deal drugs. (At least accepting a monthly welfare check is relatively honest.)

If we react negatively to what Prof. Gingrich is saying, it's probably because we feel it's grist for the racist mill. The racist will wrongly read into what he's saying that it's because "those people are lazy and shiftless and don't deserve public money" whereas even Gingrich is saying that we need different incentives when we give people public money.

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There has always been and will always be "haves" and "have-nots". People are born equal . . . in their humanity -- but not in their genetic endowments or social status or familial advantages.

While I laud the desire to enrich the poor, what I REALLY admire is those who actually work and sacrifice to enrich the poor. If more people would walk the talk, the world would be a much better place.

Liberals are often willing to foot a larger tax bill in order to provide programs to assist the poor. This is admirable. But better than higher taxes would be increased charitable contributions. Government programs are bureaucratic, wasteful and, effectively, mandatory whether or not you agree with the program(s). Charities target needs you may or may not agree with but contributing to them is voluntary: entirely up to you. In effect, society would "vote", with their charitable dollars, on which causes have higher priorities.

Which leads us back to walking the talk. Charities can't do enough because people, overall, aren't willing to sacrifice enough. Most talk a good game but aren't really willing to do without the nicer things in life . . . like a new car every couple of years or bigger homes or the latest gadgets.

If you want to solve society's ills, there's nothing stopping you. If you want government to handle it for you, then just keep in mind: you get what you pay for (if you're lucky). A total solution would be very expensive and might just lead to ever-greater reliance on government dole.

I don't think charities are necessarily a better answer than government. They do nice, feel-good-about-ourselves work, but I don't feel they do serious work for the poor. Government is inefficient because it has checks and balances, laws and regulations to follow, and must be accountable with public money. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. It is the only entity with the size and scope to make a notable nationwide impact, and the only entity with the ability to make structural/political change. It's an unfortunate necessity. Asking people to vote with their charitable dollars would lead to "tyranny of the majority" situations. The rights of the disenfranchised and other minorities cannot be subject to public vote, and aid to the poor can't be subject to the mood swings of the general public.

That said, I would much prefer it if the government spent more on jobs programs/training, public works projects, and education, and less on welfare checks and food stamps. Welfare programs are a band-aid. They are intended as a safety net, as they should be, but because we don't do enough to address the causes of poverty, the programs are unnecessarily swelling with the ranks of the underclasses.

What? Nobody's going to step in here?


Government CAN administer aid as well as charities but they rarely do. If you've ever worked for the government (I have and so have many others here) you know why. To be honest, I think VA hospitals have really turned things around and are administered very well . . . better than many for-profit hospitals. But they're the exception to the rule.

All the reasons you cited for government inefficiency (laws, regulations and public accountability) apply equally well to charities. I would assert that charities, in general, work better than government because they have one thing that government doesn't . . . competition. Government doesn't have real competition to keep them on their toes and motivated to survive (much less excel).

But this is beside the point. The real question is: "How much are you willing to sacrifice to enrich the poor?" -- whether or not you pay the government or charities to do it. I have a reply to another one of your posts, below, covering this.

Competition?  But who are their customers?  Not the poor they help.  The donors are and that type of competition doesn't require better or more efficient service to the poor in order for a charity to be successful.  It isn't like they are making widgets and the better and cheaper widget will be more successful.  A lot of money intended for charitable work is eaten up by large administrative costs or just simply are ineffective. For example, if religious tithes weren't spent on cathedrals, salaries, and Bibles, there'd probably be a lot less hungry people in the world.

Donors are very concerned about what percentage of their donations actually go the the needy. I don't know about you, but I reference watchdog groups like Charity Watch or the American Institute of Philanthropy before saying yes to a charity I'm unfamiliar with.

I don't disagree.  I have utilized charity watchdog groups, too.  But, I have found that the watchdog groups need watchdog groups, too.  How they grade charities can vary greatly.

My point is that competition to serve the poor better does not drive charities to be more efficient because the poor do not make the choices needed to effect such matters.  Donors do.  And donors can be more influenced by many other factors that have little to do with how effective a charity actually is because that is a widget they'll likely never see.   Also, I don't think charities are necessarily more effecient or that government is necessarily less efficient. It may be generally true, but in this case I think efficacy carries more weight than efficiency.  For example, government regulations to keep food safe may cause more inefficiencies for all, but the effect is that we have a much safer food supply. While many argue that free market principles will keep the food supply safe, the counter to that is that these regulations were borne out of unsafe conditions that thrived in a free market environment.

I see charities as the folks who bandage the wounds.  I see government as being those who prevent the wounds from being inflicted in the first place. And government's role to that effect is, among many things, to ensure that the populace is well educated and that infrastructure is developed and maintained. This allows an environment for thriving industry and where there is thriving industry that employs people, you have less reliance on charities and welfare.  Sadly, these are long term investments and our current culture and politicians see no use in such grand planning.  We want the quick and easy fix and anything short of that is decried as a failure.  

If I buy a car, maybe an autoworker keeps his job.  If I give the money to charity, maybe I'm supporting an out of work auto worker. I don't see either choice effecting systemic changes that are needed to reduce poverty.

Newt clearly misses the fact that trust-fund babies often lack the same familial laborer-role-model.  Who do these children see, working to earn their sustainance?  The maid, the driver, the pool boy...but how are they any different from the influnce of the bus driver, the cafeteria worker, or the traffic cop on the inner city child?  My only question is, do you think these trust fund children should be allowed to complete their education before their mandatory lavatory work-study programs?  I'm really torn.  We want to be democratic about child labor. 

If only we could have been trust-fund babies. I certainly wouldn't complain. But we're not. Neither should we covet or blame people for their inheritance. I was raised in a poor family. We actually got through our toughest time thanks to a grant from the Red Cross. My father became more successful later in life and has never forgotten the Red Cross. He gave, generously, to them until his death a few years ago. Anyway, he taught us personal responsibility. It's essential. It's part of adulthood. He never resented the "haves" for what they have. Their circumstances were irrelevant to his.

And that's the way, I believe, it should be. But please note that this is a separate issue from caring for the poor. Sure, there are people who get rich off the backs of the huddled masses but that doesn't mean every well-to-do person is a callous user of faceless victims. Most well-to-do people earned their wealth through hard work, sacrifice and smart moves. There is absolutely nothing wrong with their wealth. Many (most?) are Democrats, so wealth does not automatically many somebody is a Republican.

There's been a rise in resentment against the wealthy -- undoubtedly due to the hard times of recent years. I don't like prejudice or discrimination of any kind. Being wealthy is not a negative or a sin. That kind of loose talk is due to insecurity and envy. Insecurity about one's own future and envy that hides its covetousness behind cries of "spread the wealth".

Wealth is not the problem. Excessive greed is. In a capitalist system, the profit motive drives commerce. And commerce makes the world go 'round. There is not other system yet devised that is better able to meet the needs of a burgeoning world population. Money is King. It's an essentially flawed system because human beings are essentially flawed.

And it can't be fixed until people care more about others than for themselves. In other words: it can't be fixed.

Wikipedia: The Young Men's Christian Association, The Young Women's Christian Association, or one of their facilities.

The problem is not that some people have wealth.  Granted, much ire is directed their way and often times unjustifiably so.  The real problem is that the game is rigged in favor of the wealthy.  Picking yourself up by your bootstraps is only getting harder and harder to do.

I suspect the game IS rigged in favor of the wealthy -- though, without indulging conspiracy theories, I can't say exactly how. Tax breaks for the rich comes to mind but I don't think they got rich off their tax breaks.

Speaking of taxes, I'd like to see a flat rate tax (with exemptions/credits for number of dependents, education expense, etc.) for both individuals and businesses. Perhaps the threshold for tax liability should be pegged at some multiplier of the minimum wage or "poverty line". For instance, if you make twice minimum wage, you become liable for the flat-rate income tax.

Some of the tax advantages enjoyed by businesses are actually tax incentives (to encourage companies to venture where some particular need exists). That's a tough call. Abuses creep in through such programs.

I'd certainly be interested if anybody knows of specific tax codes or corporate laws that amount to clear-cut unfair advantages (considering the purpose of the codes or laws). Perhaps we could identify unfair or abusive policies/laws that need reforming.

Bootstrapping a better life was never exactly easy or assured. I'm all in favor of programs to assist those who need assistance to improve their professional options.

Well, for starters we (and by "we" I mean the United States, so forgive my American-centric views) have a very complicated tax code that contains many loopholes.  Those who can afford to pay talented accountants and lawyers to find and utilize those loopholes benefit.  

Another thing is that capital gains taxes carry a very low interest rate.  Someone who makes money merely by having money to invest pays tax rates as low as 15%. Someone who makes money by the sweat of their brow can expect to pay a rate of twice that on average.  

But, it is difficult to make general statements and remain true because it is all so complicated.  The general effect, I think, can be summarized but the details are horrendously messy.  Politifact checked out claims Warren Buffet made regarding tax rates and you can gain an appreciation for the complexity from their lengthy fact check.


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