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How To Win Elections: Make Zombies

The following appeared on this blog over a year ago. It is repeated because of its potential relevance in explaining the results of the most recent presidential election. We may have reached the point in terms of “zombies” where votes are cast purely on the basis of who is expected to provide the most goodies. There is no need to know issues or candidates plans for dealing with them. All you need is to know which candidate will keep the benefits coming and preferably growing. That candidate usually has a D immediately after his name.

Here is the piece as originally written:

Apparently our government has succeeded in making almost half of the population dependent upon it or others. Phil Izzo in the WSJ discussed a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research:

The survey asked a simple question, “If you were to face a $2,000 unexpected expense in the next month, how would you get the funds you need?” In the U.S., 24.9% of respondents reported being certainly able, 25.1% probably able, 22.2% probably unable and 27.9% certainly unable. The $2,000 figure “reflects the order of magnitude of the cost of an unanticipated major car repair, a large copayment on a medical expense, legal expenses, or a home repair,” the authors write. On a more concrete basis, the authors cite $2,000 as the cost of an auto transmission replacement and research that reported low-income families claim to need about $1500 in savings for emergencies.

These data are shocking and shameful. Governmental policies have reduced nearly half the population to economic zombies. Many of these people have been conditioned to have no sense of personal responsibility, believing that someone will take care of them. The idea of having a “nest egg,” planning for the future or having some funds for a “rainy day” appears to have been erased from their DNA.

I know the paragraph above is rather harsh and that not all people who have no or little savings fit into this category, at least on a permanent basis. Some are victims of circumstances resulting from the bad economy or misfortune. Yet too many have adopted a lifestyle unfamiliar with work, work habits or self-improvement. For many, it is all they know or have ever known. Their aspirations have been destroyed by a perverse welfare system.

Given the incentives placed before them, such behavior is rational. If you attend government schools and come out with no education, it may not pay to work. Your skills may not even command minimum wage, another barrier erected by the government. The minimum wage law makes it illegal for employers to hire folks at a lower rate, even though that would allow them to get on the escalator toward developing workplace skills. In other cases, the welfare system makes it uneconomic to work — you may have to take a “pay cut” to get a job. Both circumstances ensure that individuals stay in the dependency class. When a government check exceeds what you can make working 40 hours a week, is it rational to go to the trouble of working? Not if you grew up in a culture where that way of life was acceptable.

In the larger picture, these people represent a tragedy — hollow human beings with no goals or objectives other than today’s gratifications. Without the perverse incentives, how many would develop into successful and admired individuals? How many doctors, teachers or discoveries in science have been foregone? What is the opportunity cost of ruining this talent pool for the country and the world? On a personal level, what should be the penalty for ruining the life of a fellow human being?

Benjamin Franklin understood what would happen under such a system:

I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.

Our current intellectuals are so much smarter than old Ben. They have a “better way.” No idea, no matter how asinine, should not be tried on an unsuspecting public. To the elite, the rest of the country is composed of guinea pigs to be used in their noble experiments. They know how to improve all of our lives, whether we want it or not.

The so-called War on Poverty has cost trillions of dollars. Edgar Browning estimated the costs in 2005 as in excess of $1 Trillion. He commented:

Americans transfer more than a trillion dollars each year to low-income families through a bewildering variety of programs, all in the name of fighting poverty and inequality. That’s about seven times the cost of the Iraq war.

In another article, Browning attempted to put the 2005 spending level into perspective:

To put a trillion dollars in perspective, it’s more than twice our total spending on national defense.

It’s larger than the total revenue collected by the federal individual income tax.

It’s about ten times as much as we spent on redistributive policies in the 1950s (in inflation-adjusted dollars).

It’s equal to the total before-tax cash income of middle-income households. That’s right, we transfer to the low-income population an amount equal to the entire income of middle-income households, that is, households in the middle fifth (40th to 60th percentile) of the American income distribution.

Browning went on to add:

If a trillion dollars were simply given to those counted as poor by the federal government (37 million in 2005), it would amount to $27,000 per person. That’s $81,000 for a family of three, higher than the median income of all American families, and far greater than the poverty threshold of $15,577.

Of course, the costs of the poverty programs have only escalated since 2005. So have the damages.

http://www.economicnoise.com/2012/11/08/how-to-win-elections...

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We may have reached the point

We may have reached the point in terms of “zombies” where votes are cast purely on the basis of who is expected to provide the most goodies. There is no need to know issues or candidates plans for dealing with them. All you need is to know which candidate will keep the benefits coming and preferably growing. That candidate usually has a D immediately after his name.

Oh please. Let's not pretend the neocon GOP is any better. The only difference is that the Dems promise handouts to the working class, unemployed, and minorities, while the neocons promise handouts to old white people and the 1%.

I don't play, I commission the league.

The article said

the candidate promising to give out the most goodies "USUALLY" has a D immediately after his name. It was the Democrats that introduced and passed Social Security and the Great Society. Republicans at the time strongly opposed those programs. But, because they lost the PR battle, ever since then, they have had to play along with the goodie-handout game because if they don't the voters will reject them because the Democrats have convinced the majority of the population that people can have their handouts and not have to pay for them in any way.
Most grassroots Republican voters would like to rollback the Great Society and all the big-government crap that's followed it. The problem though, is that the leadership in the GOP does not sufficiently understand laissez-faire economics and/or is unwilling to do what it would take to launch a national PR campaign to change peoples' minds on economics. So, instead of fighting, they try to convince people that small government welfarism is superior to big-government welfarism. The problem with that strategy though, is that if people see both parties supporting the same thing, they're going go with the real thing rather than the tag-alongs.