Nanny States of America?

Hillary Clinton said something very interesting on January 3rd after she finished third in the Iowa Democratic caucus:

You know, I wrote a book some years ago called “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child,” and in it I have a chapter that I titled “Every Child Needs a Champion.” Well, I think that the American people need a president who is their champion, and that is what I intend to be. (Transcript)

So, children need champions and Hillary intends to be the American people’s champion. Ergo, she thinks of us as children. Perhaps she doesn’t want to be President of the United States of America so much as she wants to be Champion of the Nanny States of America. Trouble is, there aren’t any such states. American adults are just that, adults.

We are looking for a president who will defend our freedoms while we go our own ways, pursuing our own individual hopes and dreams. We don’t need a nanny.


Steve Buckstein is the founder of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free-market think tank.

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  • Jerry

    I do not look to the president – any president – to help me in any way whatsoever.
    I am not alone.
    Hence, the implosion of her campaign.

  • DMF

    I do not the president or any politician to help me live my life. That is not their job. There’s is to run the country not the citizens

  • dean

    Steve,

    I think you are reading a lot more into Hillary’s brief statement than she meant. The former Clinton Administration was generally considered moderate, and Bill signed the welfare reform act and balanced the budget after 12 years of Reagan-Bush fiscal irresponsibility.

    Every major democrat in the race is advocating a more active role for the feds on 3 key issues:
    1) Health insurance & cost control
    2) Speeding up the transition to conservation and renewable energy
    3) Worker rights to organize

    They will all be if anything LESS statist with respect to military intervention abroad, and LESS statist with respect to people’s private sex lives and reproductive rights. As an added benefit they will weaken the Patriot Act provisions that run roughshod over civil rights, AND they will stop the CIA from torturing people.

    On every one of these issues they are in the mainstream of American politics. If you think the majority of Americans truly want less government, then why did the Republican Party, in total power from 2000-06, not give that to them (i.e. eliminate medicaid, medicare, SSI, federal school funding, and repeal the clean air act, clean water act, etc.)?

    Also Jerry, if Hillary has imploded (I don’t think we can really say until February 5th,) its not because Obama and Edwards are any less liberal or statist than she is. They are probably more so.

    • Steve Buckstein

      Dean, I agree that she didn’t mean to say openly that she thinks of us as children, but that’s how it came across when watching her that night. And one can reasonably conclude that from reading her statement.

      I also agree that if she implodes (your word) it won’t be because her opponents are any less liberal or statist. It’s just that she is the one most explicitly inferring that she wants to take care of us like children. As one reader conveyed to me off line, her opponents promote paternalism; she promotes maternalism. Which, if either, Americans prefer is yet to be seen.

  • Margaret Goodwin

    Steve, you’re singing my song. (Mind if I sing along?) The problem is, we already do have a nanny state in many respects. The basic premise underlying the argument for big government is that we can’t expect people to be responsible for themselves, so the government has to take care of them.

    The Democrats do believe that we’re a nation of children and, if we aren’t already, it’s not because they haven’t done their best to “lead” us there. We can certainly condition people to become so dependent on government that they no longer see the need to exercise their own judgement or take responsibility for their own lives, and we’ve come a long way down that path already. But is that a good thing? I’d rather live in the America you describe, where the government defends our freedoms while we go our own ways, pursuing our own individual hopes and dreams.

    Government is not your Daddy! (http://notyourdaddy.wordpress.com)

    • Steve Buckstein

      Margaret, I appreciate you signing along. You make some very good points.

      • dean

        I think though that you had it more right earlier. The R’s also treat us like children, but want to slap us into shape and protect us from evil doers (real or imaginary,) while the D’s want to nurture us along and stick bandaids on where we don’t really need them just to make us feel better for a little while. Neither actually thinks we can manage on our own.

        To stretch the metaphor beyond all hope, I see us as an extended family where we bicker and laugh and maybe form businesses together (as my family did) and occasionally smack each other in the nose (as I had to do with an uncle when he tried to hit my aunt in our family store). Think My Big Fat Greek Wedding and you get the picture.

        Anyway…as a big extended family we all have different luck, capabilities, interests, and faults, but in the end we are stuck with each other and need to get along.

        • Steve Buckstein

          Dean, when I agreed with you earlier that Hillary’s democratic opponents are probably just as liberal or statist as she is, that didn’t rule out many R’s also wanting to treat us like children, just perhaps in different ways.

          Thinking of America as one big dysfunctional family is rather unsettling. Aren’t we often stuck with extended family members much more than we’re stuck with other disagreeable countrymen? I prefer to think of your example as a big exaggeration for now.

          • dean

            Quite the opposite from my perch. I managed to move 3000 miles from my uncles but would have to move a lot further and learn a new lingo to escape my countrymen. Libertarians, conservatives, liberals, neocons, environmentalists, theocrats, aetheists, and a few remaining true socialists, we are all in this ship of state together for the long haul and have to work it out as best as we can Steve.

            Fortunately we are better at it than the Iraqis.

            And for the next several years, our ship of state is likely going to be steered to port. I’m looking forward to that, though I wish we had not run into that iceberg first.

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean, I’ll accept your portrayal of the ship of state for purposes of this discussion. But I predict more icebergs to the left (and also some to the right). The ship may have already taken on too much water to stay afloat unless we pump it out and make the burden of government much lighter on all the passengers.

          • dean

            Steve…your last statement is where we disagree. Poor and working class people with no health insurance, lousy schools, and unaffordable college tuition don’t need less government. If global warming is real (and caused in large part by fossil fuel burning) we all need a more active government that takes the necessary steps to help our energy transition. We all need BETTER government more tuned into reality than the present one.

            The tax burden, as we have discussed before, is at present lighter on the wealthiest 1% than it has been in this country since the 1920s. So some of the passengers can handle a bigger load.

            But now I sound like I am making a speech.

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean, I’m not sure where you get the data that lead you to believe that the wealthiest 1% of households can “handle a bigger load.”

            A recent report by the Congressional Budget Office shows that the top 1 percent of households, are now paying a record 27.6 percent of federal taxes and a record 38.8 percent of income taxes. By contrast, the bottom 80 percent of households—representing 90 million households—pay 31.1 percent of federal taxes and just 13.7 percent of income taxes. Source: http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/88xx/doc8885/12-11-HistoricalTaxRates.pdf

          • dean

            Steve…first, you are describing federal taxes. State and local taxes are far more regressive. Second, there has been a huge shift in income to the upper 1%, and particularly to the upper.1%. The latter are 7 times more wealthy than they were in 1973, yet we have cut their tax rate by more than half.

            So yes, they pay a lot because they have so much. And they can easily afford to pay a lot more.

            Source: Paul Krugman, the Conscience of a Liberal. He is a Princeton economist, and used multiple sources.

          • Margaret Goodwin

            Dean, what percentage of a rich person’s income do you think they should they be allowed to keep, and how much should be lifted out of their pocket just because they have more than the rest of us? The money they’re paid doesn’t come out of the pockets of the poor. Yet you seem to think it’s unfair that they should be capable of earning so much more. Generally, highly compensated people are compensated highly for a reason. They provide some extraordinary value to whoever pays them that’s sufficiently unique to command the rewards they reap.

            The problem with redistribution of wealth is that it penalizes the most productive members of society and rewards the least productive. From a purely Pavlovian perspective, that would seem to be counterproductive…

          • dean

            Margaret…I don’t have a specific amount in mind, and don’t view high taxes on the richest among us as a penalty. At times when our nation’s economy was quire healthy we had upper marginal tax rates of 70% and higher. We still had very rich people.

            What motivates my thinking is that we presently have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income that we have had in the United States since the gilded age of the 1920s. The poor and lower middle class, actually well up into the middle class, are working longer hours, and are paying far more for essentials (housing, health insurance if they can get it, transportation, etc.)

            We have serious unmet needs, and I don’t mean wants, including environmental, social, educational, and health care. We are stuck in traffic, have deteriorating infrastructure, our national parks and forests are a disgrace. Some shift of resources away from the wealthiest to reinvest in goods and services that everyone uses would be good for our nation.

            I’m not convinced that the wealthiest are “more productive” than the rest of us. Some are wealthy because they worked hard, or were smart and created or expanded on something new (Gates, Buffett, Soros,) Others are wealthy because they are well connected and exploited opportunities unique to their position (Dick Cheney and Bill Clinton come to mind). Others inherited their wealth or their dad’s friends invested in them (Kennedy and Bush Jr.). Others caught a lucky break (Powerball or a slot in Vegas). Some are even criminals (a deceased relative of mine comes to mind).

            I look at our nation’s high crime and imprisonment rates, low health rates, high dropout rates, and see people working harder than ever to stay in place. The advantages of the great game we play have shifted too far in favor of the privledged, and I think this is leading us down a bad road. A modest shift in the other direction is overdue. Remember, Bill Clinton raised taxes at the upper end and teh economy boomed while we balanced the budget.

            I don’t expect to convince you, but those are my reasons.

          • Chris McMullen

            Dean, your reasons are pure class envy, nothing more.

            Every year, tons of people, both legally and illegally, immigrate to this country. Not just for opportunity, but for a superior quality of life. There are first-generation immigrants who own homes, cars and are raising families. The reason? Hard work and motivation.

            Moreover, our ‘poor’ are better off than almost all other so-called poor in Europe and Asia. No one in the U.S. goes without health care or food. If they do, it’s of their own volition.

            Achievement comes from individual motivation and achievement. The government doesn’t provide these things, much to your chagrin. What has our current welfare system done? It’s done nothing but exacerbate our lower-classes’ problems and self destructive behavior. Government in action.

            It’s obvious you love the idea of growing the government class and the continuous feeding of your union buddies. Talk about an unfair advantage: pensions, gold-standard health-care and bennies up the ass, all on the taxpayers dime.

            You must be so proud.

          • CRAWDUDE

            You can take all the wealth of the top 1% in this country and you could run this country for approximately 6 months. The lions share of the income tax is paid by the middle class and always will be. The definition of middle class is the only real question anymore.

            All personal income taxes are regressive, which is why the founding fathers made them unconstitutional. The more everyone has to spend the better the economy.

            The fact of the matter is that the richer people will invest into vehicles with which to make themselves more money e.g. investing and increasing economic growth. Their overall total buying habits are miniscule compared to the middle class. Taxing them more may make some people feel good but its a facade and of no real use unless you subscribe to class envy.

            Middle class will buy needed and sometimes luxury items that create and sustain our market driven economy.

            Taxes on services and goods would is the best way to fund a government but that means getting rid of the income tax as a whole not decreasing it. The combination of the 2 merely amplifies the regressive nature of the income tax.

            Well, theres my 2.5 cents on the matter.

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean, I agree state and local taxes (especially in Oregon) are more regressive than the federal income tax. But the federal payroll tax (FICA) hits lower income people much harder than do federal income taxes.

            Saying that the “wealthy” “can easily afford to pay a lot more” is subjective. Without opening up a whole new discussion here, I’ll simply suggest that a more productive debate might be finding ways to reduce federal payroll taxes and state and local regressive taxes on those you define as below the “wealthy” level.

          • CRAWDUDE

            One thing I think I’d like to see changed though is the SS tax rate applied at the same level without an earning cap. I personally don’t agree with the SS tax but if it is to be than it’s a social tax and everyone should pay the same percentage on all their income.

          • Bina Patel, Cascade Policy

            This misses the point of poverty and what actually helps: Opportunity. This is very different from providing more government. Poor people need access to credit, good schools, etc etc. It could be government, business, church, a non-profit, etc that provides it. We need to start thinking creatively about the roles various sectors play, and not just blindly turn to government for all the answers.

  • Margaret Goodwin

    Good points, Chris. Except for the homeless, which are a very small percentage of the poor, poverty in America comes with plumbing, electricity, television, medical care, and various forms of government subsidies. I’ve visited third world countries where the vast majority of people didn’t have any of these amenities. The poorest of the poor in this country would be well to do by their standards.

    If you’re interested in my opinion why poverty is increasing in our country, and what we can do about it, you can read it here. http://notyourdaddy.wordpress.com/2007/12/18/poverty-is-increasing-and-its-our-fault

  • Sybella

    It appears to me, our society has become one of ‘gimmee’. People now expect to have it legislated to be given to them, In my day we were expected to work for it.

    As an employer, I see the motivated workers rising in their jobs. I see unmotivated (love that word. Great description of lazy) with their hands out.

    My big objection with deans argument is that he wants government to be their motivator, or giver. not encouraging people to stay in school, learn skills even if they do not go on to college and give a days work for a days pay. These motivators should be coming from us as parents and teachers, not government as helpers and givers. It isn’t the responsibility of the motivated to give to the unmotivated. It is for the unmotivated to get motivated.

    • Sybella

      I want to rephrase that last sentence. It is for the government to allow or encourage the unmotivated to get motivated.

      • dean

        Like I said…I’m not trying to convince you I am right.

        Chris is rught that for the most part, poor people in America are materially better off than poor people in the 3rd world. But this is not so when you compare poor in America with poor in Europe or Canada.

        No, I don’t love the idea of “growing the government class.” First, I don’t see government as a “class.” Mostly it is people doing shite and blue collar jobs for middle class pay.

        Acheivement comes from a lot of things, like I pointed out. Some is from motivation, but a lot is from what you are born into. Some is from luck.

        We don’t have much of a current welfare system. What we have are transfer payments from middle class working people to middle class retirees. Remember welfare reform?

        I don’t have any union buddies. Have never belonged to a union.

        I don’t want government to “motivate.” I want it to make good investments in education, infrastructure, and environment. And I want it to provide a good safety net for all of us.

        • Sybella

          I don’t disagree with you at all on that last statement. Unfortunately in my neighborhood I see adults riding their bicycle and sucking on their pop and or beer can and high on whatever getting upset because all they have is a bicycle and somebody else drives a car. I do not believe they should be told they deserve to have the car. They do not. This is what I see happening. We deal with these people every day. Many, many are really good people. Some just caught bad breaks. No problem. Many just want what I have and they don’t want to do anything to get it.

          I see young people with no more goals than to have fun. for example, I have a young woman working for me, good kid. Lives in subsidised housing where her rent is a percentage of her pay. No real problem. Good worker, Decent employee. I thought she should have more hours so she could have a larger paycheck. She turned me down because she was happy with the amount of money she was making and would rather enjoy the rest of the time she wasn’t working. I understand That’s where I see the problem though.I’ve talked to her about goals and where she was going and where she wanted to be. She didn’t want to go anywhere, didn’t want to be anything, didn’t want to arrive at any bench mark. Given that, I resent paying for her subsidised housing because she doesnt want to change her situation. She’s still a good kid, still a good employee, still not working very many hours. This is the lack of motivation I’m talking about. She is an example of so many I see, and especially when there are others working so hard to make something of themselves.

          The drug situation in my area is explosive. I believe it is largely because they have too much time on their hands and guess what, we still feed them. There is something wrong here and I do not believe more government hand me outs is the solution, but rather the problem

          • CRAWDUDE

            A lot of that can be attributed to the entitlement mentality which is instilled in these kids in school. I work with kids ( 19-30, they all act the same sadly) just like the person you’re referring to.

          • Sybella

            It is a reall loss for them and for out country to believe like that. I graduated from highschool and did not go on to college. I spent a lot of years doing menial and minimum wage jobs. I think I was an ok employee. My husband finished 11th grade. My husband and I always had goals and things we wanted to achieve, such as not working so hard and not gaining. For a long time we really struggled against it. We finally woke up and came to the party. It involved working long hard hours, putting our fun things aside, not buying things we wanted and eating beans, lots of beans. We are now successful business people and believe we earned everything we have. It feels good. I know for a fact if they really want to do something they can go somewhere. Maybe it would have been easier with an education. I’m not so sure. I’m more inclined to think common sense and desire are the winners.

            This should be instilled in all kids. Sure it takes a while to grow up and learn the way of living. So many never reach that point. It’s a terrible loss.

          • CRAWDUDE

            Yep, responsibilty starts with prioritizing ones goals. I can hardly wait for retirement so someone like Dean can tell me I should use the money I saved to fund the lifestyle of people who refuse to.

            Some people get rich or well off because they put their fun things aside and work hard to get there. There’s always liberals out there who think your reward should be giving what you’ve accumulated to the people who wasted their lives doing as little as possible.

            Oh well, what can we do about it anymore, I think this countries governmented is corrupted beyond repair and eventually something is going to have to give. The Balkanization of America will have a lot to do with it. That’s a book by the way, even my liberal friends agree on most of it.

          • Margaret Goodwin

            Remember the fable about the Grasshopper and the Ant? It’s not a fable, they just changed the names. It’s about the Liberal and the Conservative…

          • CRAWDUDE

            Unfortunately, the government would rather steal the results of hard work from the Ant and give it lazy grasshopper.

            Let the grasshopper deal with his own sloth and he just might figure the bright side and results of hard work and change his ways.

            All I know is that my first statement ain’t workin’! Might as well try the 2nd!

          • dean

            I’m not going to weigh in on what motivates who. We all know people who could do more for themselves, and we probably all know people born with a silver spoon who have never had to do anything.

            As far as investment income, it makes no difference if investments are through worker 401Ks and pension funds or through rich people’s inheritences. Either way investment brokers are going to seek the highest return, so capitalism can thrive if wealth is more concentrated in the middle than it is today.

            I don’t know if the statistics below are completely accurate, but I think they are close. The refer to the federal tax burden (income, capital gains, and payroll) combined.

            In 2001:
            the top 1% earned 14.8% of all income and paid 22.7% of all federal taxes.
            The next 4% earned 12.7% and paid 15.8%.
            The next 5% earned 10.1% and paid 11.5%.
            The next 10% earned 14.8% and paid 15.3%.
            That is the top 20% altogether

            The next 20% earned 20.7% of all income and paid 18.5%.
            The middle 20% earned 14.2% and paid 10%.
            The nest to lowest 20% earned 9.2% and paid 4.9%.
            The lowest 20% earned 4.2% and paid 1% of all federal taxes

            So basically, the middle class is paying about the same total rates as the upper class. The lowest 40% have a low federal tax burden, as they should.

            If we did what CD suggested above (and Barak Obama has also proposed) we would extend the payroll tax upward and that would make a huge difference. This is the way the United Kingdom does it.

            And to reiterate, most federal spending is NOT simply transferring income to non workers, unless you mean retirees. Very little is transferred to poor, non-working people (unless you mean kids).

            I agree with Steve Buckstein that reducing the tax burden on lower and middle class would be a good thing. But not at the cost of fewer services or a more rapidly deteriorating infrastructure and ecosystem.

          • Sybella

            Dean, please don’t keep trying to compare us to European countries. This is the USA, it was always a great country and stood on it’s own two feet. I agree there are major problems, but if I really wanted to be a european, I would move there. I don’t. I want to be an American. Lets deal with our own problems.

            The more you talk, the more me thinks you should move to Europe. Live there a few years. Then if you want to come back and compare us, ok. Then it might be a different comparison. Until you have walked it their mocassins, you don’t know first hand what you are talking about.

          • dean

            Syb…I was responding to Chris who said our poor are better off than those in the 3rd world. That is not a valid comparison to me.

            Yes…this is a great country. Whether we stand on our own feet is an interesting question. We seem to rely on others for oil (Saudis), unecessary plastic objects (China,) call center staffing (India,) cheap labor (illegal immigrants,) fuel efficient cars (Japan) and great cheese (France). Many of them rely on us as the world’s gendarmes.

            Comparing the results of our social and economic policies with the results of policies in other nations is a useful way to gage how well we are doing. You seem to resent that comparison when we don’t do so well. Why?

            CD & Syb…yes, some of the rich got there by saving and investing wisely. Some didn’t. Some poor people work very hard and get nowhere. Some are lazy. Do we really want to make our public policy decisions based on personal anecdotes?

          • CRAWDUDE

            Yes Dean, when you can come up with a way to garantee that my taxes are going to the truly needy and not the truly lazy, we may find a spot we can agree on.

            1/3rd of all wealth in this country is inherited and those people pay through the teeth in inheritance taxes. The rest earn their money over a life time, you advocate taking it from them after all their hard work. Then you want us to happily give it to our peers that didn’t raise a finger to take care of themselves.

          • Chris McMullen

            Dean, what difference does it make if someone inherits their money? Whoever handed it down most likely worked their hearts out for it. Why should trust-funders be punished?

            And there are very few ‘poor’ who work their butts off and get no where. As I said before, immigrants come to this country with nothing and make a good living. Some can even be called ‘rich.’ OTOH, Americans who have kids at 15, get hooked on drugs, don’t finish high school and hold up liquor stores deserve their fate. Bad decisions throughout life should not be rewarded.

            That’s why all the rhetoric you spew in here is nothing but class envy. It’s exactly the same crap coming out of all the Dem candidates: corporate America is out to get you, the rich are evil and pay no taxes, life will be better with socialized medicine, be dependent on the government for your livelihood, etc. etc. I’m always amazed how Dems demagogue victim-hood and pander to the lowest common denominator.

            That said, I would love to see an end to the two-party system. I’m sick of how our government is beholden to special interests. Republicans have blown it over the past 12 years because they haven’t acted as such. But I’ll always choose the candidate who’s fiscally conservative and libertarian minded. I don’t care which party he/she comes from.

          • Bina Patel, Cascade Policy

            I have to comment on the issue of comparing the US to the EU. I used to make the same points, until I lived in the Netherlands to study the social welfare system, and developed a better understand of why this comparison is inaccurate. Here it is: European citizens and governments operate under a social contract in which both parties are aware of benefits and expected losses should either side not fulfill its role. Europeans are willing to pay a huge amount in taxes because their governments tend (not universally) to deliver promised goods and services, and they can be measured. We do not have this contract — look at Social Security. Our very own Supreme Court took away rights to benefits. Second, communities are largely homogenous, which historically lead to a sense of social protection: save community interaction at any cost, even if everyone is poor. It was important to keep neighbors fed and healthy because the entire village depended each other. They focused their policies on maintaining stable social life, not individual liberty or mobility. This is clear in many of European Declarations, ei the French Declaration on the Rights of Man. All action, etc stems only from sovereignty of the nation. Third, Europeans are more than knowledgeable about their tax liabilities. Most Americans have no idea of what the acronyms on their paychecks mean, or how much they truly are paying. Fourth, earned income is viewed differently: Americans forget that taxes are a payment from their own hard earned income. Europeans are much more aware that their tax payments are similar to the bill we get from Target — it is an exchange, a trade.

          • Bina Patel, Cascade Policy

            “Do we really want to make our public policy decisions based on personal anecdotes?” YES! What kind of democracy would we be when anecdotes of personal experiences are not utilized to inform public policy decisions?
            Having worked directly with deeply impoverished people across the globe, and low-income folks in the US, I see that anecdotes are more than just singular experiences. These stories tell us that our policies have severe gaps, and anecdotes are representational of a bigger issue. Why would we allow for fraud, or incentives to stay on welfare in the US? Anecdotes are really indicators that we can do better, instead of dumbing down policies and programs. It is unbelievable that some support the current state of welfare that would create incentives as perverse as refusing a pay increase! These anecdotes are a clear call for welfare reform, even though it seems to fall on deaf ears.

          • Margaret Goodwin

            According to the Congressional Budget Office (see the link Steve posted earlier), these are the same figures for 2005.

            In 2005
            the top 1% earned 18.1% of all income and paid 38.8% of all federal taxes.
            The next 4% earned 13% and paid 21.9%.
            The next 5% earned 9.8% and paid 12%.
            The next 10% earned 14.2% and paid 13.6%.
            That is the top 20% altogether

            The next 20% earned 19.8% of all income and paid 13.1%.
            The middle 20% earned 13.2% and paid 4.4%.
            The nest to lowest 20% earned 8.5% and paid -0.9%.
            The lowest 20% earned 4.0% and paid -2.9% of all federal taxes.

            It makes an interesting comparison. Proportionally, the top 1% paid significantly more taxes in 2005 than in 2001. They only earned 3.3% more, but paid 16.1% more of the total taxes than they did four years previously, assuming your 2001 figures are accurate. The next 4% earned 0.3% more than in 2001, but paid 6.1% more of the total taxes.

            Altogether, the top 20% paid 65.3% of all federal income taxes in 2001, wile earning 52.4% of the total income, and they paid 86.3% in 2005, while earning 55.4% of the total income. That’s 21% greater share of taxes for only 3% greater share of income. Meanwhile, everybody from the middle 20% on down paid significantly less in taxes, while not earning significantly less.

            I’m not sure why the rich paid so much greater a percentage of total taxes in 2005 than in 2001, considering their share of income was only marginally higher, but it seems that this would make you happy, Dean. Does it?

  • Jerry

    I have concluded that not much makes Dean happy – except bigger government, fewer personal freedoms, stealing from the rich, and continuing as much class warfare as possible.

  • CRAWDUDE

    Get rid of Sam! Here is Sho’s site : http://shoformayor.com/

    • dean

      Fascinating exchange.
      Margaret…intuitively the rich should have paid a bit less in 05, not more, since their taxes were cut significantly. It may be my numbers were off. I used a secondary source. Yes, I’m glad the wealthy are paying more than others percentage wise. That is the way it is supposed to work. I’d be even happier if they were paying a bit more yet.

      Jerry…I’m not an uhappy guy by nature.

      Bina…I think your analysis of how the Europeans view their government and the taxes they pay is accurate. I just wish we would adopt the same attitude and begin to see us all in the same boat and see the government as a necessary service provider that we should hold accountable for doing a good job of it.

      Chris…I don’t particularly care if one inherits or earns. My point was that people like you seem to characterize every poor person as lazy or stupid. Yet people are poor for many reasons, as people are rich for many reasons. I don’t think we should make pulbic policy based on a few encounters with lazy or stupid people, nor should we make policy because we once met a rich person we did not like. We should make policy based on what is best for the whole within bounds.

      I’ll reiterate. A safety net is for all, not just the lazy, stupid, or shiftless. If any of us has a serious misfortune tomorrow, it could be us who needs help. If any of us got too sick or disabled to make our health insurance payments we would be kicked off the rolls in short order. Having a good safety net makes it easier to step out and take risks.

      • Margaret Goodwin

        Dean, I don’t believe everybody who’s poor is lazy or stupid. Some just have no ambition, like the employee Sybella mentioned. That’s fine; it’s a personal choice — except when the rest of us have to subsidize her lack of ambition. That’s not fine. OK, that’s anecdotal, as you say.

        I could cite a lot of anecdotal experience from when I was living in tenements in NYC nearly thirty years ago, when that was all I could afford. In one place, my neighbors were dope dealers, prostitutes, numbers runners, burglars, fences, and 3-card monte players. I was the only person not collecting food stamps and other government subsidies. Did you know you can buy _anything_ with food stamps — including dope? (Discounted significantly from face value, of course.) I could tell you stories of women whose kids had beeen removed by Child Protective Services who fought to get them back, because the welfare checks depended on them, and then neglected them disgracefully.

        Yes, that’s anecdotal too, and only representative of a particular segment of the population, though in large cities, that sort of “tenementality” is shockingly common. But even discounting all the abuse of government subsidies, I’m not sure that even those who don’t abuse the system wouldn’t be better off dealing with hardships on their own and overcoming them. A hundred years ago, people didn’t have the amenities they have today. Yet they survived. Most of the immigrants who have come to this country over the last two hundred years were dirt poor in the first generation. They worked and struggled and endured hardships. Their children endured hardships, and survived, and struggled to get an education because they knew that was the way to carve out a better life for themselves. And with each successive generation, they worked and saved and pulled themselves up further and instilled in their children a strong work ethic and a sense of pride in their own achievements. They didn’t have government subsidies then.

        Today, the people who get government subsidies don’t feel any sense of appreciation or obligation to repay the debt; they feel like it’s free money. Because they’re sheltered from hardship and struggle, they don’t develop the drive and the passion to overcome those hardships, and the values they pass on to their children, through their own example, are gimme values. No matter what they try to “teach” them, what the kids learn is, if you don’t take care of yourself, somebody else will. I don’t think that helps the poor, and I don’t think that helps America. Do you?

        • dean

          Margaret….the prosperity in our country, Europe, and other nations has happened for many reasons, a good work ethic among them. I’m from an uneducated immigrant family myself that managed to build a family business and help pay my way in college. But I would not romanticize the past. Life was difficult and short for most. One bad injury and you were toast from infections.

          The physical and societal infrastructure our parents, their parents and those before them built (including slaves, indentured servants, & conscripted labor) was hard won for sure.

          Most poor people are not on welfare or food stamps and many are kids. Can we generalize and say a hand up; through education, training, decent pay and benefits, good schools and health insurance are things poor people are not grateful for? I don’t know. Can we say many of us more privledged are not thankful for the national parks, the freeways, the railroads, and the general prosperity we inherited? Most of us don’t think about this much. We take it for granted, and if we get ahead we attribute it to our own briliance or hard work.

          I think much of what we all have rests on the shoulders of those who came before us. And if some of our neighbors need to rest on our shoulders for a bit we ought not begrudge that. Plus, as a purely practical matter, it is cheaper to pay for education than for prison beds.

          Just one liberals opinion.

          • Margaret Goodwin

            Dean, I’m not romanticizing the past. I’m saying, however hard it was, that hardship was necessary. People who are faced with obstacles, and overcome them, develop the habit of overcoming and striving for something better. People who are granted entitlements get in the habit of having what they need handed to them, and never develop the motivation or the capacity to demand more of themselves. Instead they keep demanding more from others. But you say you aren’t talking about those on welfare or food stamps. So can I take that to mean you’re in favor of cutting social welfare programs?

            I’m all for better education. But throwing money at the (obviously) failing public school system will not make it better. We need to throw out the entrenched bureaucracy and the comfortable teachers’ union that opposes merit pay and makes it impossible to either reward excellence or weed out incompetence. We need to allow parents and students _real_ choices. But the Democrats oppose that. The D’s just want to throw ever more money into the black hole of the public education system and hope it helps.

            I agree that much of what we have rests on the shoulders of those who came before us. But those people would never have accomplished what they left us if they had been conditioned to subsist on subsidies rather than working their butts off to overome hardships and strive for something better. You don’t build muscles by sitting in front of the TV eating cheetos, and you don’t build character by receiving handouts. People become stronger through struggle. And nations become stronger through the moral strength of their citizens.

      • CRAWDUDE

        If the lazy, criminal, illegal and worthless are subject to the benefits of your plann, then I could never agree with it. Either the are excluded or all are excluded and we have to survive on our own.

        Not filtering out the undeserving is lazy and costly……….which fits right in line with liberal views. Just throw money at it!

        Sorry Dean, if the liberals aren’t willing to do the leg work to make a plan work, I’m not willing to fund it. Make the openings in your safety net a little larger and let the trash fall through. Once again, just my opinion 🙂

  • Jerry

    Dean – then listen to your natural side more…you will then be happier…if I can be happy in light of the Ohio State game then anyone can be happy despite political differences, etc.
    Please support my poetry, too, on this site.
    I work hard on it.

    • CRAWDUDE

      Be happy you’re not a Gopher fan……………they sucked this year!

      • dean

        Jerry…I look forward to your poetry. Don’t let the critics discourage you.

        CD and Margaret….lets put aside any sense of obligation to help anyone else based on guilt, pity or ethics. Lets assume that all or most poor people deserve their fate for whatever reason.

        I would still support a strong social safety net that insures that everyone in our very wealthy society has *available to them* the following:
        1) enough healthy food to eat
        2) a healthy environment (air, water, low toxicity, less atmospheric carbon)
        3) health care
        4) shelter
        5) good education
        6) public transportation

        Why? Because it is in *all of our own best interests*. To take health care as one example, every other wealthy nation that has national health insurance, in whatever form they choos (multiple or single payer) has LOWER health care costs to the average person. We pay the highest of anyone, and in part this is because we leave too many people out of the insurance pool.

        Take education. Margaret, you resent the teacher unions and don’t want to send the schools more money that may only end up raising salaries or benefits rather than improving education. I agree this is a legitimate issue. But we have ways to hold public schools accountable for results. And attracting the best and brightest to teaching is one way to improve education results. No, I would not THROW money at anything in the blind hope of improving results. But there is a strong link between money and quality. If that were not true then rich people would not be sending THEIR kids to very expensive private schools with well paid teachers and very low class sizes would they?

        Based on comparison with our peer nations who are comparably wealthy and have better comprehensive social safety nets, MY OBJECTIVE CONCLUSION (liberal bias completely aside) is that we suffer from inordinately high crime, high costs of imprisonment, and high health costs, BECAUSE we have chosen the path of a skimpy social safety system.

        I don’t care if recipients of the above are made soft, or if they don’t appreciate it, or if they sit around and watch TV and eat cheetos. Fewer of them will be criminals and their kids will have a better chance to move up because they will at least be healthy and educated. I’m not into moralizing. I’m into results.

        Conservatives rightly worry about being taxed too high for lousy results. Liberals have the same concern believe it or not. I have first hand experience working in the federal bureaucracy, and I quit because I was frustrated by the inefficiencies and time wasting that goes on. I am fully behind any serious effort to do comprehensive civil service reform, meaning making it easier to get rid of low performers and reward high preformers who provide our services through our taxes. And severing the “lifetime” employment that too often goes along with a public job. We need much more flexibility to hire and fire across the board.

        I have waited my whole adult life for someone, anyone, Republican, Democrat, Independent, libertarian, I don’t care…to step up and run for office on a civil service reform platform. The Dems are handcuffed because they rely on public employee unions. The Reps are handcuffed by their constituency that sees tax cutting and the free market as the solution for everything with government (except prisons and police and a bloated military) as useless. Neither can ever be successful, the former because they have to accept gross inefficiencies with ever increasing taxes and the latter because they can’t cut deeply into needed public services (transportation, environment, social security, health care, education…etc…) without getting tossed out of office in the next election. So we roller coaster between two llousy scenarios and are temprarily ecstatic when “our side” is breifly “in control,’ then we get upset when they do not acomplish what we thought we elected them to do.

        All of which leads to deep frustration on OUR part, left right and center.

        We NEED professionally managed, well designed, well performed government services. Deteriorating infrastructure, unhealthy, uneducated people, more crime, more prisons, fires left to burn (litterally and figuratively), and a deteriorating environment will be the costs of cutting government to bathtub drowing proportions. Ever increasing taxes will result from adding money without addressing reform.

        So to return to Steve’s original post. No…we don’t want a nanny state. But yes, some of us want a social safety net and well managed government that works for all of us. At the moment we need a return to public investment more than we need additional neglect.

        • Margaret Goodwin

          Dean, the reason the wealthy send their kids to private schools is because they get a better education than is available in public schools. Part of this is because they hire and fire teachers based on merit. Public schools don’t enjoy that “luxury” because hiring and firing is subject to union regulations rather than the free market. Another part of it is because they’re free to develop their own curricula, rather than rely on the tried and failed one-size-fits-all curriculum mandated by the public education system. With a voucher system, every parent would have the options that only the wealthy have today. If you’re interested in how I think this could work, feel free to read this blog post. http://notyourdaddy.wordpress.com/2007/12/19/first-teach-them-to-think/

          I agree with you, it isn’t about moralizing. It’s about results. So take a look at the results of our social welfare programs today. You say you believe more social welfare programs will decrease crime and make future generations better educated. I believe the opposite. The reasons I believe this are outlined here. http://notyourdaddy.wordpress.com/2007/12/18/poverty-is-increasing-and-its-our-fault/

          Ghettos are breeding grounds for crime, and generation after generation grows up with an attitude of entitlement in a culture of crime and drug addiction, where education is not valued. We support this culture by permanently subsidizing it. Throwing more money at it will not change it. Parents who neglect their children and spend their food stamps on drugs will not suddenly start taking an interest in their kids’ education if you funnel more money to them. We need to stop subsidizing the poverty culture if we want it to go away. We need to stop paying people who can’t afford to have children to have more of them. When you reward someone for doing something you don’t think they ought to be doing, why would you be expect them to stop doing it?

          • dean

            Margaret…I’m agnostic on vouchers. When you say “take a look at results of our social welfare today…” that is what I am talking about. What i see is a failing system. But maybe we are simply reading the causes differently.

            I never said “more welfare programs” will decrease crime. I’m saying more funding, which could simply be for programs already in existence (i.e. Headstart) would help. Early childhood education benefits have been well tracked and shown to keep poor kids in school, increase success, and reduce prison rates. A long term study by I think the Perry Center made this point.

            Yes, ghettos are breeding grounds for crime, as are prisons for even more crime. I have a cousin who did time and he said it was basically a training school for criminals. Do you really think we support ghettos by subsidizing them? Again, the evidence is that if you want to eliminate or reduce ghettos, you reduce poverty. Try to find a ghetto in Stockholm for example.

            If you improve school funding and function, sure, the parents may not get any better. But the kids will have a better chance. Who is advocating “throwing money?” Its like saying “throwing money’ at deteriorating bridges won’t repair them if we have ODOT workers sleeping in their trucks. No…but if you pay bridge engineers and repairmen then you will get the bridge fixed, while holding money back will result in a collapsed bridge. If you pay teachers you can educate.

            I’m not “rewarding” or “punishing.” I’m taking the morality play out of it. You write as if every poor person is on welfare, food stamps, and is strung out on drugs. Most are in fact working people with limited education and opportunities, like my own parents and grandparents.

            Did you miss the 90s welfare reform by the way?

          • Margaret Goodwin

            But did your parents and grandparents rely on social welfare programs? Or did they find a way to raise their family through their own determined efforts?

            I’m not saying we shouldn’t fund education. I’m saying we should take the money we spend today and use it to provide an opportunity for parents to send their kids to schools of their own choosing, rather than diploma factories that graduate functional illiterates. You say, if you pay teachers more, they’ll educate our kids better. Why do you suppose that? They get raises every year, and national test scores aren’t improving. That’s exactly what I mean by throwing money at the problem. If you give more money to the same teachers, under the same system, they’ll keep doing the same thing; they’ll just get paid more for it.

            We need wholesale reform. Private schools are doing a much better job, so let’s find a way to send more kids to private schools. And sometimes, they’re doing it at lower cost per child than the public education system. Here’s a very interesting 20/20 series on public education. It’s worth watching. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfRUMmTs0ZA

          • dean

            Margaret…yes, my grandparents on my father’s side were “on the dole” as they used to call it in the 1930s, along with millions of other Americans who were out of work for years, and they and lived in bare knuckle urban slums. My other grandparents were bankrupted when the bank closed and took their entire life savings, $9000, with which they had planned to buy a candy and ice cream shop. They had to start over from scratch. Those were the days before the FDIC by the way, when THE GOVERNMENT decided to interfere with private banking. Now all of our accounts are insured. Two cheers for socialism.

            So I guess you would say my family found a way to keep themselves together with the help of the government during hard times, and eventually they were able to find work and get ahead. All my family has gone to public schools, including myself and my son, who is now at a public university. I assure you we are all functionally litterate (though not great spellers or typists at times).

            It seems to me the success of private schools is at least in part because they can be selective about who they let in and keep in, like private health insurance companies. They high grade.
            I’m not saying if we pay more we will get better results. I’m saying that if we pay more we will attract better talent into the profession, and THAT will get better results, as any private business person knows. Teachers get raises every year that barely keep up with inflation.

            My son just completed his education at Portland public schools, and he and I agree that 80% of his teachers were first rate. He graduated high in his class, completed a big chunk of an international baccalaurette program, and won a partial academic scholarship (proud dad here). Our schools are not so bad Margaret. No doubt some of the parents need some work. Public schools are generally as good as the neighborhood they are located in, wth only a few exceptions. Cutting funding is not going to improve schools, I can assure you that.

          • Margaret Goodwin

            Congratulations to your son. It sounds like he’s a smart kid and I hope he grows up to be a conservative. (Just kiddding. : ) I agree that not all public schools are bad. But they are gradutating an awful lot of barely litereate students nationwide. Just dumping more money on them won’t fix that. Nevertheless, I never said cutting public funding would improve schools. I said redirecting the funding to provide more freedom of choice would improve schools.

            Your grandparents, like many others during the Depression, relied on temporary government assistance. They didn’t make it a lifestyle, like so many do today. Back then, people felt ashamed to have to rely on the government until they got back on their feet. But they got back on their feet and were glad when they were able to stop relying on government assistance. Times have changed. Today, we have generations after generation of people who live on the dole. I’ve seen it up close. And those people have abslutely no motivation to change because the money keeps coming in. That’s what needs to be fixed.

          • dean

            Margaret…my son is way to the left of me, like a big majority in his generation from what I hear. Hope for my side, trouble for yours ahead.

            Yes, it was temporary dole for my grandparents and my father, and left a stigma that haunted my father and helped make him a flaming conservative who convinced himself he was a “self made” man. He was capable, but managed to ignore all the support he had recieved, including a year in a make work CCC program. Cest la vis.

            But didn’t the federal welfare reform act passed during the Clinton Administration put time limits on welfare in order to break the “dependence cycle?” You write as if that did not happen.

            One final point. Ireland was a very poor nation for decades, with chronic high unemployment and a lot of people on the dole. There was no shame attached, and generations of people took government and church help to put potatoes on the table and keep a sod roof overhead. Now you would think if any nation had conditioned people to not work it would be Ireland. Their main export was their children. Yet over the past decade they have had an incredible economic boom, fueled by outside investment attracted to a European nation with an available work force, well educated (though poor Ireland always had good schools) and English speaking. Today they have one of the wealthiest economies in Europe and the world, with low unemployment. I’ll add that another important factor that led to their boom was infrastructure investment paid for by the wealthier nations of the European Union.

            Ireland’s experience makes a great case for strong community, good education, and infrastructure investment combined with private sector capitalism.

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean, I’m not an expert on European tax structures, but a quick Google search yields two very interesting points about the Irish tax structure:

            [Personal] “Income Tax levels in Ireland are amongst the lowest in the world…” Source: http://www.irishlinks.co.uk/income-tax-ireland.htm

            “The corporation tax in Ireland is quite low, and is often cited as an example of tax competition, as it is used as an incentive for foreign companies to invest in the Irish Republic.” Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_Ireland_corporation_tax

            If you are correct that, “Today they have one of the wealthiest economies in Europe and the world, with low unemployment,” could that be a function of low tax rates compared to its European neighbors?

          • dean

            Steve…I’m no expert either, and yes that is quite possible. Even probable in that they have been able to poach some companies from other European states. They do have appear to have a progresive income tax, a high VAT tax (sales tax on businesses,) free public education through university, universal health care, very low defense spending, very low cime or imprisonment, and a well funded capital program. They have been so successful they are now a Euro “donor” country, meaning they pay into the pool that helps poorer Euro countries (as they once were) catch up.

            Given the whole package, I might go for the low corporate tax for all the other goodies. Still it seems to be a Euro nanny state by our standards.

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean, you may be right that Ireland is a Euro nanny state. If so, then it’s a low-tax Euro nanny state, which is preferable to the high-tax variety.

          • Margaret Goodwin

            Dean, your father was a “flaming conservative” because he lived through hardship, and worked his way out of it, and knew what it takes to pull onesself up from abject poverty to proud self-reliance. You say the stigma of having been on the dole made him a “flaming conservative.” Shame can be a great motivator. Too bad more people don’t experience that today. That’s the difference between people like your father, who drove himself to become even more self-reliant to compensate for the shame of having once had to accept assistance, and people who feel entitled to assistance, and try to milk it as long as they can.

          • dean

            Margaret…since I am airing out the family laundry, my father was also a tax cheat, loved golf more than work, and was a lousy financial planner who died completely broke and would have been living on the street if not for Social Security and Medicare, which he also disdained to the end and was in complete denial about his situation. The VA paid for his burial. I inherited an old sweater and a putter.

            I don’t think he worked his way out of poverty. Due to massive government spending the economy gradually improved, well paying jobs became available for uneducated blue collar men, and he was able to ride the war and post war economic wave.

            But he was my dad and we loved and tolerated each other in spite of our political differences.

          • CHris McMullen

            Dean, glad you mentioned Head Start. The program costs over $6 billion a year with less than stellar results. It barely has any effect on children’s grades later in life.

            Another example of a bloated gummint program that does nothing but waste money.

          • Jerry

            Margaret
            You are a breath of fresh air on this forum. Thanks for your great comments.
            You are 100% correct!!!
            100%

          • dean

            Jerry…how can Margaret be 100% correct when she is describing my father’s motivations based on her bias, not on my direct exerience?

            Chris…Most studies of head start show gains not only with respect to grades, but also lower dropout rates, lower prison rates, and other important social factors. How much do we spend on police and prisons? How much does that $6 billion investment pay off in better workers who can fend for themselves and do something useful? You have to look at the big picture.

            Steve…lets say my ideal would be a low tax, high prerformance nanny state with high paid, well educated workers, few poor people, a healthy environment, and not overly ambitious with respect to military intervention overseas, with a very high level of civil rights.

            What does that make me other than unrealistic?

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean, on Head Start, I’m not sure what studies you’re looking at, but according to the Brookings Instiution, “Unfortunately, most studies have…found that gains in children’s cognitive test scores are relatively short-lived, and begin to disappear by the time children reach third grade. Source: http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2001/03education_currie.aspx.

            In answer to your question about what it makes you to want a low tax, high performance nanny state, I try not to ascribe names to people, so I’ll accept your own characterization…unrealistic.

          • dean

            Steve, it was from a study of studies, 30 altogether, that determined the results I mentioned. All of these studies dated before 1991, so more recent studies may have different results.

            Okay…I’m unrealistic, probably on the low tax part. The rest is doable. But Steve, isn’t Cascade Research Institute unrealistic if it really thinks they are going to usher in a libertarian society in any of our lifetimes? Its not like any measurable progress is being made, particularly in Oregon and Portlnad. And isn’t the standard conservative rant that we can cut government and maintain services (i.e. good highways) also unrealistic? Maybe we should all start a club for dreamers, with no litmus test.

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean, speaking for myself, I don’t think it’s unrealistic at all to expect movement toward a lower-tax, less regulated, freer society in our lifetimes. When asked their opinion at the ballot box, Oregonians have turned down several of the recent big tax increases placed before them. Will we reach my ideal free society? Probably not; but I’m committed to trying.

            And, yes, we can cut government and not only maintain, but actually improve services that people actually value. Why services like good highways can’t be provided in the private sector is, in my view, primarily a function of political roadblocks, not economic ones.

            Finally, we don’t need to start a club for dreamers; I seem to recall that this state’s official slogan is “Oregon: We love dreamers.” There’s probably plenty of tax money available to subsidize the dreamers club, with predictably poor results.

          • Margaret Goodwin

            I thought Oregon’s state motto was “Road Work Ahead: Fines Double.” :]

            Steve, I completely agree with you. I respect Dean’s opinion, and his dedication to his ideal. But his ideal is not (IMHO) the ideal of the founding fathers, or aligned with the core principles on which this country was founded. I think it will eventually lead to a weakening of the social, cultural, and political fabric of our country.

            Natural selection is a universal principle, in which the strong survive and the weak gradually weed themselves out because they’re not able to compete. Liberals are very uncomfortable with that precept. They think the strong should always sacrifice for the weak, so no child is ever left behind. But what would happen if that universal principle were reversed and, instead of survival of the fittest, the least fit were artificially sustained while the fittest were held back to make evolution more “fair?” The result would be the eventual extinction of all species.

            The reason communism is unsustainable is because it’s against the law of nature. Socialism is sustainable for a longer period, because the trajectory isn’t as steep. but in the long run, socialism is not sustainable either.

          • Steve Buckstein

            “But what would happen if that universal principle were reversed and, instead of survival of the fittest, the least fit were artificially sustained while the fittest were held back to make evolution more “fair?” The result would be the eventual extinction of all species.”

            Margaret, you pose a fascinating thought experiment. I believe humans can help the “less fit” among us without holding back the rest of us, but government programs are often designed to produce winners and losers. This zero-sum game approach ends up hurting the entire society. When individuals interact and trade voluntarily, everyone can win.

          • Margaret Goodwin

            Perhaps I should clarify my position. I’m not suggesting that we let those who fall on hard times die in the streets. People can, and do, help one another. One of the curious features of human beings (sociopaths excepted) is empathy. Empathy is not only the root of conscience, but also of altruistic impulses. When we see someone in need, we have an instinctual impulse to help them. That’s part of human nature. People are different from other species in that we are capable of achieving more than just survival and propagation. There are many qualities that are orthogonal to survival that give individuals unique value. So we have an impulse to sustain those who might not survive if survival were the only thing that counted.

            Families, churches, charitable organizations, and other social institutions help those who fall on hard times and need assistance getting back on their feet. That’s a good thing. But an individual uses judgement in whom to offer assistance. Even the most altruistic among us doesn’t withdraw all his savings from the bank, go to the nearest slum, and start handing out money to every junkie and bum on the street who’s less fortunate than he is. Anybody would agree that would be foolhardy.

            So how do we determine whom to help and whom to pass by? Usually, we have an impulse to help those who help themselves. We want to see a return on our investment. Not necessarily a return to ourselves, but a positive result. We want to see that our “investment” in someone has effected a positive change in their lives, because it gives us a sense of gratification to know we’ve actually made a difference. If we keep giving money to someone and they just keep asking for more, eventually we feel like we’re just flushing money down the pipe, and we give up. And that’s the right thing to do because, if our support doesn’t help them get ahead, all it does is enable them to continue wallowing in their current circumstances. Some people are motivated by the shame of needing to accept charity, and feel compelled to prove that they’re worthy of it. Others just see it as a way to sustain their current level of existence without having to bother to change.

            When charity rests in the hands of individuals, or private charities that are not legally bound to treat everybody the same, the way a recipeint deals with the benefaction he has received is a type of natural selection. People who use it to good advantage are apt to receive more. Those who don’t are not.

            However, when the government extracts money from us and gives it to whoever signs up for it, the law of natural selection is turned on its head, and those who use it to sustain their status quo keep receiving more, while those who use it to pull themselves up and get ahead get less. The insidious aspect of this is the Pavlovian implication it has — government social welfare programs reward the very behavior that natural selection (even benevolent natural selection) would rule against.

            Regarding the win-win nature of free market interactions, that’s a given. If someone doesn’t think the value they receive is worth more (to them) than the value of what they exchange for it, the transaction doesn’t take place. Different people have different values, so everybody wins in every free market transaction (assuming it’s a truly free market).

          • Jerry

            Sorry – but what she said made sense. That is what I was trying to say.
            Oh, and Dean, did you see the Education Week report on the nation’s schools???
            Oregon came in 45th, in case you were wondering.
            45th!
            One of only 5 states to get a D grade.
            I guess you were right when you pointed out how great things were in the classrooms in Oregon.

          • dean

            Jerry…I was reflecting on my family’s specific experience with Portland public schools, not Oregon’s in general.

            I’ve lived here for 30 years. When I first moved here Oregon’s schools were ranked very high nationally, as were Californias. Prop 13 in California drove their schools from top or near top in the nation to last or near last. Oregon’s tax limitations went into place much later, but I would not be at all surprised if we are now having the same result. Generally, you get what you pay for. Our southern states have been great laboratories for low education funding, and their results have never been on any par with northern “liberal states” except in recent years where they have INCREASED their funding (i.e. Arkansas). How well funded are Lake Oswego schools Jerry, counting parental donations? What are their results?

            Steve…okay, then by your measure I am not such a dreamer. I believe that if we put our heads together, got serious about civil service reform, stopped trying to run government based on ideology and all became more results focused, we could successfully MOVE TOWARDS a relatively (by 1st world standards) low tax, high performance, high social service (including universal health insurance), healthy environment, alternative energy using, low crime, well educated, highly productive, respected by the world, state and nation.

            I’m all for privatizing service delivery where this can be done effectively. I’m not for blanket prescriptions or arm waving privatization. When I was with the Forest Service I proposed an experimental semi-privatization of national forest management with well balanced local boards being provided baseline stewardship budgets (baased on an acearage formula) and hire/fire authority over forest managers. They would have to adhere to ALL laws respecting forest management (endangered species, clean water, environmental policy acts) but would then be free to offer timber sales or not, build trails and campgrounds or not, and make local policy decisions as they saw fit. There would be a broader oversight authority to slap hands or revoke management authority if things went south.

            Needless to say my superiors at the FS were not interested. But “conservative” propsoals to simply sell off the national forests to timber companies are irresponsible and have no political traction.

            My bottom line is I have no interest in maintaining government programs or delivery systems for their own sake. But I am not interested in sacrificing people, our environment, or our hard won infrastructure to satisfy a right-wind ideology that hates taxes, cares nothing for the environment, and is disdainful of those among us who are less fortunate for whatever reason.

            In other words, show me the results before you strip away entire institutions that deliver important services. You prove results through well designed experiments or demonstration projects, not just ripping something down first because you don’t like teacher unions or public employees.

            The reason Americans are so frustrated with our 2 party political system is that both of the main parties have to play to their core supporters, thus neither can initiate useful reforms. This is why publicly funded campaign finance would be the single best thing we could do for ourselves, yet we can’t get there because those with the deep pockets know their influence would be toast.

            So we will continue to yo-yo or zigzag around a muddled middle.

            Yes Steve, Oregonians vote down taxes. But if you put a ballot measure in front of them that says lets cut social security, or close 25% of our public roads, or sell off 50% of our state parks, or eliminate our land use planning system, how would they vote on those? We have been conditioned by the Right, your organization included, to expect something for nothing, in the same way poor people are accused with respect to “handouts.” Wasn’t cutting “waste fraud and abuse” Reagan’s mantra? And who could be against that? So just cut budgets and let them figure out how to get the job done. Irresponsible.

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean, a quick note on school funding: Oregon’s property tax limitation (Measure 5 in 1990) required the state to replace lost property tax revenue for the first five years, which it did. It never slowed down funding after that, and now per pupil funding, adjusted for inflation, is roughly twice what is was in the 1970s (when you moved here?). So, it isn’t lack of funding causing performance problems in our public schools.

            I’m not surprised that your superiors at the Forest Service weren’t interested in what sounds like a sensible attempt by you to experimentally semi-privatize national forest management, but I applaud you for trying. It’s rare for those at the top of any organization, political or not, to embrace such threats to their power and control. In the case of public agencies, we all pay the price for the leaders’ failures. In the private sector, consumers can simply shop elsewhere.

            We can agree that experimentation is a good thing. I don’t advocate ‘sacrificing people, our environment, or our hard won infrastructure” as you seem to believe. But I also don’t advocate “sacrificing” those who pay the bills for poorly run, ineffective government programs either.

            We will have to disagree on publicly funded political campaigns. You see them as the answer to big money influencing politics; I see them as “sacrificing” (your word) those who are forced to fund the political speech of those they disagree with. The real big money in politics is all the tax money our elected representatives get to control. The bigger and more powerful the government, the more incentive “big money” interests have in trying to capture the levers of power.

            I agree that Oregonians would likely vote down attempts to simply cut government programs they like. That’s why my organization and others work so hard to show them how the services they want can be provided better and cheaper outside government control.

          • dean

            Steve…I’ll defer to your greater expertise on school funding levels over the years. But I’ll still argue the point that money does buy education. If not, suburban school districts would be funded at levels as low as poor inner urban or rural districts nationally. How much money is needed for quality education is an open question. Its not cheap apparently.

            On my forest service story, its true consumers can “shop” elsewhere, but they can’t shop for better managed forests without picking up and moving themselves. The land around us provides multiple ecosystem services that economists have yet to figure out how to put a dollar value on, and this is the root of the problem with privatizing nature’s goods. Timber companies can’t put a higher value on clean water or habitat if they are only paid for the logs, but public forests can be set aside for water and habitat based on policy decisions.

            We’ll agree that neither a trashed environment nor a bankrupted taxpayer is a desired outcome, and perhaps stay open minded to reform proposals based on merits regardless of their source.

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean, some poor inner city school districts are funded much higher than suburban districts. Washington, D.C and Newark, NJ are cases in point. Several years ago, now Newark Mayor Corey Booker came to Portland at Cascade’s request to speak about school choice. He told some fellow Black leaders here that Newark was spending $17,000 per student compared to about $9,000 in Portland at that time, and Newark’s schools were terrible at educating students. He asked those leaders why they would wait until Portland was spending $17,000 before realizing that more money would not improve education.

            Within the Portland district itself, the last time I looked arguably the worst high school, Jefferson, was spending more per public than arguably the best school, Lincoln. Of course money matters in education, but apparently above some minimal amount additional dollars don’t necessarily translate into better educational results.

            I agree that people may not be able to shop elsewhere for better managed forests without picking up and moving, but they also can’t shop for most government services even though many are amenable to competitive provision. Portland, for example, either monopolizes services such as fire protection, water, sewer, building permits, etc. or it franchises privately provided services and locks out competition in areas such as ambulances, electricity, residential garbage and cable TV. These are not natural monopolies but political ones.

            I defer to you on your knowledge of forest management, but I don’t think we are limited to just two options; full government ownership and control or selling them to timber companies just for cutting trees. Private management or ownership can be constrained with environmental concerns written into the contracts, can’t they? Cascade proposed a bill to do just that with the Elliot state forest since it currently yields a very low financial return for the Common School Fund.

  • Jerry

    Dean – let’s get behind Ralph. Maybe he can win this time.

    • dean

      Jerry…Ron Paul is more likely to be the spoiler in 08, this time advantage my way.

      Steve, yes, definitely more than one option for structuring forest management and we need several more options out there. The economics of public land forest management will be achallenge no matter what because the public expects more with respect to environmental services from public forests than they do from private ones.

      I don’t know any specifics on the Elliot forest. Possible variables include difficult terrain poor site class, past over harvest, and sensitive ecosystems. Any of these could make economic return problematic no matter who manages it.

      On Newark…the sociological problems in inner cities back east are so far beyond anything we have out here it is hard for us to appreciate the hole that schools are tying to fill. The Newark and DC cases, as well as Jefferson locally, expose the limits of school funding to make up for poverty, drug addicted parents, and high crime communities. That sends me back to earlier arguments that a broader anti-poverty effort, if successful, would be cheaper for us than the cost of police, prisons, and other defensive measures.

  • Jerry

    Forget about Ron. The spoiler will be Hillary. Half the country can’t stand her.

    • dean

      Okay…but 2/3-3/4 can’t stand Bush so that is a marked improvement mathematically at least.

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