Subsidizing Irresponsibility and Poverty for Votes

The best way to know what something costs is to pay for it. One of the first things a debt counselor will tell someone in debt is to cut up the credit cards and pay cash for everything. One of the reasons healthcare prices are out of control is because someone else is paying the bill. Few of us pay directly for our health care. Of course, it doesn’t help that the government mandates that insurance companies cover things that are not health related like contraceptives and pregnancies.

We can see the long-term effects of government mandated healthcare by looking at subsidized flood insurance. Government insurance has made it easier for people to take risks with other people’s money. For example, standard homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover losses due to floods. Many (most? all?) coastal cites participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, which makes it possible for property owners to obtain federally backed flood insurance at dirt cheap prices.

If there is minimal risk of loss because someone else is going to pay for the damage caused by a hurricane, then there is little property risk to build in a hazardous area prone to flooding and storm damage. If people could not get insurance, or insurance was too high, more people would live inland to avoid the risks. John Stossel writes:

“The insurance, of course, has encouraged more people to build on the edges of rivers and oceans. The National Flood Insurance Program is currently the biggest property insurance writer in the United States, putting taxpayers on the hook for more than $640 billion in property. Subsidized insurance goes to movie stars in Malibu, to rich people in Kennebunkport (where the Bush family has its vacation compound), to rich people in Hyannis (where the Kennedy family has its), and to all sorts of people like me who ought to be paying our own way.”1

Consider New Orleans. This is a bellow-sea-level city surrounded by water. Homes are built next to precarious looking levees. I have a question: Why should I, a taxpayer, have to pay for people to live in the biggest flood zone in the United States? Even the dead have better sense. They’re buried above ground.

Attempts to solve problems by declaring war on them by the national government has been an ongoing theme in politics since the mid-1960s.

Charles Murray wrote in his book Losing Ground that “Overall, civilian social welfare costs increased by twenty times from 1950 to 1980, in constant dollars. During the same period, the United States population increased by half.” When the Food Stamp Program began in 1965, 424,000 people participated in the program (that’s less than 9,000 people per state, a manageable number for private welfare agencies to handle). At the end of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency in 1968, participation increased to 2.2 million.

The number doubled during the first two years of Richard Nixon’s presidency (1969–70). By the end of Nixon’s first term in 1972, the number of food stamp recipients had increased five-fold. “By 1980, more than twenty-one million people were receiving food stamps, fifty times more people than were covered during the Johnson presidency.”2 The number of food-stamp recipients has doubled again. We’re now at the 45 million mark.

In the end, it’s not about helping people, whether it’s subsidized flood insurance, food stamps, low-cost student loans, keeping kids on their parents’ insurance until their 26, government-backed mortgages, it’s about creating a permanent dependent class of voters who will vote for more government and more power.

The latest example is the Obama administration running ads on Spanish-language stations to encourage Hispanics to sign up for food stamps. The ads made it clear that even non-citizens are eligible. By capturing their bellies, they’ll capture their votes. It’s that simple.

  1. John Stossel, “Confessions of a Welfare Queen: How rich bastards like me rip off taxpayers for millions of dollars,” ReasonOnLine (March 2004). []
  2. Ronald H. Nash, Poverty and Wealth: The Christian Debate Over Capitalism (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1986), 176. []
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