Sunday, May 3, 2015

Government "Help" for the "Poor"? FAIL

...However, the devil is in the details. The only thing today's "poor" have in common (in the U.S.) are ill defined pathways to sustainability. Individual economic circumstance cannot be determined by governments, which make decisions based largely on numbers and statistics. Even though government "assistance" has gone completely off the rails, details regarding "what is" (for the painfully indefinite future) are what matter for public discussion.

Today's government welfare is ill fated, for it attempts to maintain lower income levels in the same basic consumption equilibrium that was crafted for everyone else. This unrealistic effort is responsible for much of the backlash against immigration, the marginalized and the benefits of globalization. Even so, policy makers are reluctant to allow the marginalized to utilize innovation and/or knowledge use...what if solutions meant existing special interest price points are ultimately questioned?

As a result of this carefully maintained status quo, populations now view immigrants as "takers" of what are slowly becoming scarce knowledge based services. At the same time, those international tradable goods which actually assist lower income levels, are believed to steal jobs supposedly capable of funding said scarce services. Only when knowledge use can be locally generated by everyone, will the growing backlash against immigration, globalization and the poor, have a chance to subside.

The fact that more active forms of knowledge use are not yet possible for the public, explains why services don't exist in a free market context. As a result - odd though it may seem - free marketers get the blame in terms of the marketplace which does work relatively efficiently. Even though I agree with many libertarians that government assistance for the poor is a lost cause, I part company with those who disregard the capacity of the poor to help themselves through sustained efforts over time. The refusal to consider economic context by which low income levels can generate a responsible life, is also a refusal to follow through on the implications of one's own beliefs.

Any government which gives up on citizens with little economic access, is a government which ultimately turns its back on the kinds of growth which includes more citizens over time. Like it or not, governments and central banks leave themselves open to the possibility of depressions with this non strategy. Brad Delong, in "An Even More Dismal Science", wrote:
Summers has more or less abandoned his view that central banks can, will, and perhaps even should attempt to prevent the return of depression economics...In Summer's view, with which I concur, governments need to assume greater responsibility for risk bearing, long term planning and investment.
Further government responsibility? In spite of recent government FAIL? I can only reply no, no and no. It is those who have been marginalized for whatever reason who need the chance to assume greater responsibility for risk bearing, long term planning and investment. Too hard? Fine. Make the process of economic engagement a bit simpler.

While he used harsh language in his Baltimore post, Steve Randy Waldman made a point that needed to be made: people are resorting to destruction because the elite do not consider it important to keep all of society economically engaged. It's always easy to get caught up in the particulars of the moment, but violence is not the origination of this problem. Everyone gets in on the drama and reaction chains, while solutions continue to fly away. Steve's frustration was with the fact that while people talk about poverty and violence endlessly, no one in power has a vested interest in getting to the root of these problems.

Instead, Democrats and Republicans mostly remain in their own corners, insisting on their versions of the "truth". In the meantime, hard won processes of socialization continue to spiral out of control. I have written about the police forces before in this regard. They are the ones who get stuck dealing with the marginalized and the forgotten, when no one else can do the hard work of making sure their neighbors don't end up economically and socially excluded.

Annie Lowrey tore into David Brooks' Baltimore discussion with this recent post, "David Brooks is not buying your excuses, poor people." After reading her post I read his ("The Nature of Poverty") - expecting perhaps to find the usual blame games- but instead found a not well thought through conclusion. Even as Brooks acknowledged that government efforts to help had failed, he still had an odd sort of top down reasoning with this:
The world is waiting for a thinker who can describe poverty through the lens of social psychology. Until the invisible bonds of relationships are repaired, life for too many will be nasty, brutish, solitary and short.
How can anyone imagine that the lives of the marginalized will be "miraculously" repaired, based on what someone in the "right places" deems important? No progress is going to be made until education becomes means for the poor to help themselves. Thus far, education is mostly an unreliable ticket to the supposed "good life". People will not regain hope until they have means to work with other individuals and resources so as to discover how to repair relationships and the fabric of their lives. Governments everywhere are reaching the limits of the seemingly non stop party they shared with special interests - a party funded by the proceeds of expensive signals and aspirational wealth.

No one among the marginalized will suddenly be "made whole" because someone figures out how to pay their bills and/or hide them out of sight. These individuals cannot become fully human until they have a daily chance to work on problem solving for themselves: one messy, temporary discovery at a time - day in and day out. Just like everyone else.

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