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June 29, 2013


The Oxford Dictionary defines welfare as follows: “1. Well-being; happiness; health and prosperity.  2 a.  the maintenance of persons in such a condition esp. by statutory procedure or social effort. b. financial support given for this purpose.”

We in this country tend to ignore the primary definition of welfare in favor of its tertiary definition. We are less concerned with the “well-being, happiness, health and prosperity” of our fellow citizens than we are that they might want a share of the tax money we pay into our treasury, money which should go instead to tax and other breaks given to the rich and corporate class for the latter’s “well being, happiness, health and ESPECIALLY prosperity.” We are under the mistaken impression that we are saving money as a result, but we are instead losing money and the nation’s future, as will be seen.

Since the powers that be want to approach the so-called “welfare problem” from a purely economic view apart from humaneness and the lesson of the Good Samaritan, let’s talk economics.

First, welfare (defined as third in the dictionary as “financial support given for this purpose”), like education, is not now and has never been an “expense;” it is rather an “investment,” and just as we encourage corporate investment through tax and other laws for new plant and productive capacity, so we invest in our peoples’ education, well-being, health and prosperity. The term “welfare” has had some hard knocks over the years as something somehow bad – even immoral. If it is, then all of us are immoral and bad because there is no individual, corporation or any other such business that is not “on welfare.” From the individual’s birth in a federally supported hospital to a ride in a hearse on a federally supported highway, from power grids to disease control (the list is endless), all of us (businesses included) are “on welfare,” i.e., we are enjoying the fruits of what someone else has paid and/or is paying for), and what they paid for and/or are paying for was not an expense; it was an investment.

Donald Trump and others who tell us that they earned every penny they have and owe nothing to anybody have a narrow vision of success. With their enterprises and the loads such enterprises place on publicly supported facilities, indeed it could be argued that such successful people and businesses should be additionally taxed for the near-freebies they are  enjoying (e.g., a trucking company with a fleet of 5,000 trucks uses the highways, streets, police services etc. a lot more than the average person who paid for and/or is paying for transportation upkeep and police services, and greatly more than some welfare recipient in a Cleveland ghetto). Perhaps such welfare truckers should pay a wealth tax.

Trucking companies are quick to sponsor ALEC legislation calling for the public to invest in fixing streets and roads; they do not agitate for the public to make investments in food, rent subsidies and education for the chronically unemployed, or, increasingly (as corporate America continues to pay even poorer wages), even those who are working under minimum wage conditions. One startling example of corporate welfare in such connection is Wal-Mart. When that company hires an employee (and it is the number one employer in this country), its human resources contingent routinely acquaints the putative employee with information on Medicaid and food stamps, a clear admission that it is not and will not be paying a living wage to such employee. I will write more soon on how we are losing and not saving money by NOT having a robust welfare investment system. Think prison costs. Stay tuned.  GERALD  E

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