Free Markets

Fix Family Poverty With Free Markets, For Once

The right and the left are ready to send fiscal conservatism off the rails.


It has been a strange month in the world of family policy. Since Sen. Mitt Romney (R–Utah) floated his child allowance plan, which would replace existing family assistance programs with a monthly payment of $350 for newborns to five year olds and $250 per child for kids between six to 17, the budding alliance between traditional conservatives and left-wing progressives has been startling to watch. The news that New York Times columnist Ezra Klein and our American Enterprise Institute (AEI) colleagues (including Ramesh Ponnuru, Brad Wilcox, and Yuval Levin) have found common ground on this idea is either a sign that great things are about to happen or that things are about to go completely off the rails. We think it's the latter.

Giving parents money with no strings attached in order to reduce child poverty is an idea that has been tried before. The results are hardly ancient history. These policies became part of the federal government's scope as a way to support the children of mostly widowed mothers, and successfully prevented severe destitution for many children. But these successes faded in the second half of the 20th century as the programs expanded and societal behaviors around marriage and childbearing began to change. Unconditional cash aid to poor families led to government dependency and non-contributing absent fathers, eventually becoming widely unpopular among policymakers on both the right and the left.

Advocates for a child allowance believe our situation calls for a return to this approach. Some proponents have tried portraying a child allowance as fiscally conservative. But it is hard to understand how the federal government sending monthly checks to almost every child in the country (except the top 5 percent), for a total cost of $229.5 billion per year, is fiscally prudent, even if that spending is replacing other welfare programs. This kind of top-down, redistributive plan seems antithetical to a free market, small government approach.

Even so, some supposed fiscal conservatives remain intrigued by using the federal government's power of the purse to enact a child allowance in the name of reducing poverty and supporting families. But it is useful to remember that as recently as 1992 almost 5 million, mostly single-mother families were receiving unconditional cash aid from the government, yet 60 percent of children in single parent homes were living in poverty. Even liberal proponents for the poor at the time recognized that the system of unconditional cash payments was harming children by discouraging parental employment and increasing dependency.

The passage of welfare reform in 1996 (along with tax credits that were tied to work) essentially ended the policy of distributing unrestricted cash payments to poor families. Welfare reform required work in exchange for assistance and established federal time limits on benefits. The result was an 18-year decline in the poverty rate for children in single-parent families—a trend that only ended with the Great Recession. In fact, by 2017, the overall child poverty rate declined by more than 40 percent and the gap in child poverty rates by race and ethnicity narrowed substantially.   

Given this history, it is incredible to see folks like Ezra Klein assert that the Romney "proposal would cut child poverty by a third, and the Biden plan by half." If we are to be unconcerned about returning to the pre-welfare reform days, why not eliminate child poverty altogether by just giving people even more money? The answer is because unconditional cash payments from the government have unintended consequences, and those consequences include reduced employment, more nonmarital childbearing, and ultimately higher poverty rates.

But the child allowance is not really just a plan to end child poverty as we know it. The fact that some proposals want the allowance to top out for single parents making $200,000 a year and married parents making $400,000 a year suggests that this is just as much a plan to simply subsidize child-bearing and rearing. The growing natalist movement on the right—which includes but is not limited to religious conservatives—says that it's time we do something about declining fertility rates in this country. Some conservatives are even praising proposals from think tanks with socialist ideas.

It's true that the number of children born in this country has dipped below replacement rate, which could have detrimental effects on both the country's dynamic economy and culture, especially if policies drive immigration rates lower too. It's not only that our entitlement programs will collapse under the weight of too many old people and not enough young ones. Business creation will slow too. If we think parents are too averse to letting kids take risks now, just wait until our families shrink even further.

Natalists assume people are not having more children because of financial constraints. They cite the gap between women's "ideal fertility"—they never ask how many children men want—and the actual number of children they have. Whereas during the 1950s and 1960s many women had more children than they wanted to, now they have fewer. As Lyman Stone (another one of our AEI colleagues) writes, "The share of women precisely achieving their goals has not changed in 40 years. We've swapped out unwanted childbearing for missing babies….Given the pent-up demand for childbearing, governments should target policy to address the preferred fertility rate." Of course, the availability of birth control (and abortion) is the obvious reason that women don't have more children than they want anymore, but the reasons that they have fewer can hardly be reduced to a simple lack of affordability.

One of the main reasons behind the failure to achieve "ideal fertility" is that women wait longer than years past to marry and have children so that they can pursue education and career goals. Add to that the increasing poor health among prime-age people, and there are simply not as many fertile years left. Another factor involves personal choices when people face economic constraints, a reality that will always exist. Instead of more children, families who already have children might prefer a bigger home or a home in a safer neighborhood with better schools. Perhaps both parents want to pursue a career instead of taking several years away from work (and less income) to raise multiple children. Or it may also simply be that children are a lot of work and parents don't have the energy for more children. (We say this lovingly, as the mothers of a combined seven.)

A comprehensive review by researchers at the United Nations supports the view that declining fertility is about much more than finances, and that the affordability problems that do exist are not necessarily solved by more money from the government. In fact, there is plenty of evidence from the international context that giving people more money does not reverse fertility declines. The research findings show that across numerous countries that have tried these policies, financial incentives push parents to have children earlier, but don't reverse overall fertility declines. The policy with the largest impact on completed fertility, meaning the total number of children women have, was actually publicly funded childcare. But that doesn't mean the U.S. should put every kid in daycare, and that's hardly the result natalists are looking for anyway. 

Many on the right defend the Romney plan by noting it would be deficit neutral and replace other anti-poverty programs. The Child Tax Credit, most of the Earned Income Tax Credit, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the state and local tax deduction would all be eliminated in order to pay for the allowance. But there is almost no precedent for such a tradeoff. Just as the idea floated by our colleague Charles Murray that a universal basic income (UBI) would replace all other safety net programs is political pie-in-the-sky, so is the idea that legislators would allow food stamps to disappear when a child allowance is phased in.

Of course, Romney's proposal did not come out of nowhere. There has been a growing sense on the right that the government is not doing enough to help economically strapped families and that the answer lies in more public benefits and greater government involvement. Whether it's a UBI, generous paid family leave policies, or more trade protectionism, the center of gravity on the right seems to have shifted away from the free market policies that used to define it. Many social conservatives and economic conservatives used to think free markets were a pro-family policy by giving families more autonomy from government power, ultimately leading to their ability to put more of their own money in their pockets. But no more.

The Trump years were both a cause and effect of this change. The former president's populist platform needed an intellectual framework to ground it and the folks on the right who were already more populist-leaning saw in these years their chance for political success. And we're told there's no going back. In a recent piece at The Federalist, Dave Marcus celebrates the turn of the Republican Party into one that combines the cultural impulses of Pat Buchanan and the economic aspirations of Ross Perot.

His analysis is true even if the celebration is misguided. Aside from a push for deregulation of certain industries and lowering some taxes, the past four years have not brought us the kind of free market reforms that economic conservatives and libertarians have long advocated (though even those reforms seemed to have fueled quite a bit of economic growth before the pandemic, especially for lower-income Americans). Instead, there seems to be a wide-ranging dismissal of these core ideals, with leaders on the right now echoing the liberal claim that the free market serves only wealthy corporate interests without benefiting families. What's irritating, though, is that many of the best free market ideas for helping working families have not been tried.

What would happen if we actually stopped providing tax incentives for employer-sponsored health insurance? Or if we allowed people to pick less expensive insurance plans that didn't cover chiropractic bills and dermatology visits but did provide the kind of coverage they were most likely to use and would most likely cause them financial strain if they didn't have? The annual savings for the average family from this type of policy change would likely surpass any child allowance.

What if we had occupational licensing reforms and allowed people to run small businesses out of their home without fear that the local health department will shut them down? These would give families another path to upward mobility.

What if we stopped making childcare more expensive through government regulations, such as demanding that daycare workers have unnecessary masters degrees and mandating child-to- staff ratios instead of just allowing parents to decide whom they trust with their children?

What if we changed zoning rules so that families could rent out extra rooms in their homes or allowed extended families to more easily live together? What if zoning rules didn't keep residential properties so far away from commercial properties, in turn requiring that children be driven everywhere?

What if—and here is an idea whose resonance has become even more apparent in recent months—we had real school choice? What if parents didn't have to worry about buying a more expensive home in order to get their children access to a better school district? Or what if we allowed them to choose a charter school or private school when the public schools in their neighborhood didn't perform (or even open in person)?

What if instead of continuing to subsidize the bloated higher education industry, we simply offered flexible vouchers to low-income students, letting them spend the money in a way that would allow them to quickly and efficiently gain the job skills they wanted?

Maybe the alliance on the right between social conservatives and free market fans is over. (It is strange to watch social conservatives run into the arms of progressives if they really are concerned about the ability of American families to grow—such a trajectory, according to the left, would only result in environmental destruction and limits on women's freedom.) Given the political environment, perhaps natalists feel as if they have no choice but to look for other allies. But genuine free market reforms could address poverty and make it easier to raise a family in this country. Just give them a chance.

NEXT: ‘Ghost Gun’ Bans Are Doomed from the Start

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  1. Why not $10k/month/child?

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  2. “Fix Family Poverty With Free Markets”

    Indeed. And as we Koch / Reason libertarians know, the most important aspect of “free markets” is unlimited, unrestricted immigration.


    1. Speaking of free markets… there was a story on the radio this morning about a lady who has jumped in to the free market in a big way.

      This 44 year old California Woman has been posting to FansOnly. She does the HotWife fantasy bit. She made like $15k her first month…. and now she’s pulling down $150k per month.

      The reason this made the news…. a bunch of moms in the neighborhood printed out pictures from the site and sent them to the principle of the school…. and her two kids were promptly kicked out of school.

      At almost $2 million per year…. I think they’ll be fine.

      1. But what about all the “Your Momma” jokes?

        1. Like “your momma bought you a 45 foot boat”. And “your momma got you an M3 for your first car”. And “your momma is so smoking hot that people pay millions to see her 44 year old carcass”.

      2. Those Karens feel good about themselves for this…until their midday bag in box runs dry.

      3. Is there a print version of that story anywhere? I’m curious what legal basis there was for the principal to expel the kids for the parent‘s misdeeds (assuming for the sake of argument that they actually were misdeeds). Does the principal similarly expel the kids of every drug dealer, thief or other criminal? Does he similarly do so before the parent is even charged, much less convicted?

        Or is the mom about to supplement her rather substantial income (yes, I’m jealous) with a whopping great settlement against the School Board?

        1. There are several. Just search “california woman onlyfans”

        2. It is a private catholic school

          1. Ah, thank you. That’s an important detail. Disappointing that the original author didn’t see fit to include it. (And shame on me for not figuring out how to look that up before ranting.)

  3. This article needs to be read in conjunction with Stossel’s new video about Rhinoceros poaching. Both arguments hinge heavily on unintended consequences…..

    Wait for it….

    … and both involve Rinos.

    1. Mitt Romney is the loyal GOP opposition that the American people deserve.

      1. As was discussed a couple days ago, you’re not as good a parody account as you think you are, RHW. Give it up.

        That’s not to say you should stop contributing. You’re clearly smart and have something to say. Just say it straight. Give up these weak attempts at parody, please.

        1. And you are not a good critic.

        2. I think they’re cute, especially if you hear them as that crustacean from Futurama cartoons. Keep it up. The other sarcastic posters I’m tired of, but the crustacean is fresh.

    2. NICE SHOT!!!!!!

      and thanks for the belly laugh.

  4. Mitt Romney is a right-wing conservative now? I’d suggest the architect of Romneycare might not be as conservative as you think, except in the sense of conserving whatever the latest Democratic boondoggle is. Remember how Republicans ran for years on the promise to repeal Obamacare as soon as they got the chance but failed to do so because they didn’t have a scheme for national healthcare with which to replace it and it was simply unthinkable that we repeal Obamacare and replace it with nothing? Yeah, that’s not really conservative.

    1. Republicans are just Democrats from 10 years ago. Why else do you think we call them racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic?

    2. While Governor of Mass, Romney signed into law an assault weapons ban. When he ran for POTUS, the NRA called asking me to support him. I mentioned his anti 2A record and asked the caller why they didn’t support Ron Paul. Crickets.

    3. Wasn’t that Reasons’ writers specific complaint?

      When you cannot get assumed Libertarians on board with “replace bad policy with no policy”, you’re kinda fucked as a fiscal conservative.

  5. Conservatives have never believed in limited government as a matter of principle. Their other interests for a period of time happened to lead to free market conclusions by coincidence. The second their preferred outcomes deviate from free market outcomes they rush to the Nanny State, begging for interference.

  6. This article needs to be read in conjunction with Stossel’s new video about Rhinoceros poaching bihar news

  7. But it is useful to remember that as recently as 1992 almost 5 million, mostly single-mother families were receiving unconditional cash aid from the government, yet 60 percent of children in single parent homes were living in poverty.

    1. they define poverty relative to median income, Guaranteeing that economic growth can’t reduce poverty. A rising tide may lift all boats, but when it comes to poverty, it also lifts the goalposts.

    2. Their definition of poverty categorically excludes government transfer payments, This means no amount of welfare payments can ever reduce poverty levels by any measurable amount.

    1. This was something I learned only recently, and it was a real surprise. One of the many things I have always despised about government is how it defines its own limits, with government judges singing the government line. But to define poverty as merely the lower quintile or whatever it is, well, that’s even more arrogant. I should stop being amazed at all these stupid government tricks, but the government fanbois are more numerous and greedy than even the worst capitalist pig.

    2. 1) is not true, at least for the census bureau’s measurement.

      2) is partially true, some welfare benefits are counted, others aren’t.

      Another point though is that capital gains and existing assets are not considered at all. So an untold number of comfortably retired people with a house and capital gains retirement income are counted as being in poverty.

      1. re: 1) – The poverty thresholds used by the Census Bureau are derivative of the poverty guidelines published by the Department of Health and Human Services. And while those guidelines are a lot more complex than “x% of median income”, they are still primarily measures of relative poverty, not absolute poverty*.

        * “Absolute poverty” is a measure that attempts to compare income to the ‘basket of goods necessary for survival’. In theory, the poverty level floats with the cost of those goods rather than with the total income. In practice, the contents of the basket change rather dramatically over time which can invalidate the comparison. To illustrate that last point, consider the level of medical care that your great grandparents considered “necessary” and compare it to what we consider necessary today.

    3. “unconditional”
      You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

      I’m calling BS on this article’s repeated use of “unconditional”.

      Case in point: “unconditional cash aid to poor families”. If there are income limits, it’s *not* unconditional, and not unconditional *precisely* in the *relevant* sense of inducing perverse incentives to earn more. But “hur hur hur, unconditional money makes perverse incentives, …”

      I don’t come to Reason too often anymore because it’s a cesspool of intellectually bankrupt, ideologically driven articles. It’s all bumper sticker formulas indifferent to the facts, and *transparently* so. They’re not even trying to pretend they’re not full of shit.

  8. Why is my money being stolen from me to give to some irresponsible idiot who has kids when they can not afford them?

    1. Well yes, that!

      Also this: When is the last time that you heard of the public schools, in any way, teaching kids that having kids that you can NOT support, is NOT “socially responsible”? Teaching THAT sort of thing would be RACIST, sexist, speciesist, and-or some other malarkey, would it not?

      1. Good Point.

    2. Sir, stop being so arrogant and selfish. Or in Coca Cola language, be less white.

      1. I was just in the process of re-quoting you,

        February.19.2021 at 8:44 am
        Heaven forbid people actually produce something other than a vote to put food on their own table.

        Fit’s so well on this subject.

    3. Well, they say it’s not yours, and that you have it unfairly, and that it’s their job to fairly distribute it. They feel that goods and services simply appear, as if by magic, and only need some wise and benevolent elite persons (like themselves) to distribute it to the unwashed masses properly.

    4. Because someone has to support the Social Security welfare state for better-off oldsters.

    5. Why is the free market failing by not setting prices for everything required to reproduce at a level that enough people can fucking afford??

      1. you have been duped into buying the concept that we actually HAVE a free market.
        Once you dig underneath the fusty old cockroach infested carpet, or what’s left of it, you will plainly see that we’ve not had anything resembling a “free market” in very close to a century, if not well beyond. I cite a rather disgusting and unconstitutipnally derived SUpreme Court decision, Filburn I believe it is, back about 1936 or so.

        Seems the man was a wheat farmer, Iowa of some such place. ran his family farm the way HE thought best. He grew the maximum quantiy of wheat “allowed” by USDA one year, sold it all at the regulated price….. on the side, in a different part of his ground, more a backyard garden area, he grew what he thought was enough MORE wheat to supply his family for the year/s baking needs. Hardscrabble and all, he did not have much cash to BUY his own family some wheat to eat. He grew that , harvested, processed, keeping it separate from his “money crop” he had to sell at a forced price.

        Someone in da gummit took exception to his thrift, went ahd “had a talk” wiht the man, He stod by his right to grow for his own familiy on his own farmstead. TAken to court he lost at every step along the way. SCOTUS decreed that even though the wheat he grew on his dirt did not move in interstate commerce, first crime was that it COULD have done. Second crime, the wheat HE grew to feed his famiy and that never left his own property, precluded his BUYING wheat that may have or did move in interstate commerce, and thus was illegal.

        You call that a “free market”? When a man cannot grow in his own garden what his family will eat that same year, and no more, and get hideously fined and punished for it?

  9. The concept of free markets is not new. Albeit, it was initiated a while ago. Only kids born in the 90s or before know and understand this in a broader sense.

    1. Way-old saying from way back when:

      “I participate in an anti-poverty program. I work!”

      1. ^THIS +1000000000 🙂

  10. The growing natalist movement on the right—which includes but is not limited to religious conservatives—says that it’s time we do something about declining fertility rates in this country.

    Similar groundless fears back in the 1800s led to anti-abortion laws out of fears that the Irish and Italian papist immigrants would outbreed white Protestants. Before then, abortion before the quickening (first trimester) was accepted.

    These papist fears also led to government indoctrination centers, aka public schools, to make sure the papist kids got the white Anglo Saxon Protestant message, not that horrid subversive Catholic one.

    1. Another interesting bit of history… Protestant countries, more or less, used to have the social norm of both male and female youths getting jobs and saving up enough money to furnish their home when they married in the mid to late 20s. Catholic ones used to have more young marriages, arranged more than not, whose sole purpose was to breed as much as possible, usually resulting in a lot of women dying young in childbirth, then their widowers remarrying, which pulled the rug out from under young me who couldn’t compete financially with the widowers, leading to more crime, especially rape.

      Unintended consequences!

      1. Yes; National Religious Tyranny ain’t much better than Today’s Nazi Tyranny. However; Do I need even point out how hard you have to dig deep to make a case for National Religious Tyranny while Lefty-Nazi tyranny is everywhere today in the USA?

        1. You don’t have to dig very hard if you’re not Christian. You’ll get slapped upside the head with it all the time.

          1. Examples?

      2. Only YOU can control your pecker.

  11. “The right and the left are ready to send fiscal conservatism off the rails.”

    Who writes the subheads around here? They are an unending source of scorn for our editors..

    “Ready to”? As in “going to soon, but has not yet”?

    Are you kidding me? We are passing trillion dollar appropriations on basically a voice vote without anyone even reading the things, left, right and sideways.

    We left any pretense at fiscal conservatism in the rear view mirror with Y2K.

    1. Who writes your comments for you? This has been going on long before Y2K. Clinton/Gingrich combined for a short semi-reprieve, but it didn’t pause the trend long enough to split it into two trends.

      1. Do you really think that the budget was actually balanced during the Gingrich / Clinton era? Its not as though there is a solid factual basis to support such a claim. Key word being solid.

  12. Even liberal proponents for the poor at the time recognized that the system of unconditional cash payments was harming children by discouraging parental employment and increasing dependency.

    I like how things like “self-respect” and “pride” never enter into the calculus. Part of the value of a “shameless” culture, I suppose, is never having to justify your selfishness to anyone.

  13. “What would happen if we actually stopped providing tax incentives for employer-sponsored health insurance? Or if we allowed people to pick less expensive insurance plans that didn’t cover chiropractic bills and dermatology visits but did provide the kind of coverage they were most likely to use and would most likely cause them financial strain if they didn’t have? The annual savings for the average family from this type of policy change would likely surpass any child allowance.”

    Because insurance companies wouldn’t let you pick a la carte because it makes no sense for their bottom line. Because many families would end up having unforeseen medical emergencies that put them into poverty or leave the government responsible for bailing them out (see Texas and their energy fiasco despite their “we don’t need no federal regs or help”).

    Ever think half the shit you advocate for doesn’t work because the idea is shit?

    Acting as if the free market is gonna solve everything is pure nonsense. Unless you like the idea of people being victim to unscrupulous companies and being forced to live a life of poverty after the inevitable happens and they fall on hard times. It’s expensive to be poor after all.

    But hey, if you don’t give a flying fuck if someone is destitute most of their life and in turn submits to a life of crime where they try to assault you and take your things or just foments a revolution, have at it hoss. It’s not like we can’t look at what other countries do with their programs and take the pros and leave the cons if we just thought about it- no, let’s just take your jackass ideas that are easily disproven and go with those.

    1. Free markets WOULD solve everything if dimwitted statists like you ever gave them a chance. You take anything markety, crippled it with regulations and oversight, and pretend that is a market failure justifying new regulations and more oversight.

      For you enlightenment, bub, failures are how markets work — those failures provide opportunities for entrepeneurs to fill the gaps, which is where innovation comes into play and creates progress.

      You clowns see any inequality as an excuse to smash the innovation which created the inequality. There’s an old saying that the genius of free markets is not in providing better stockings for the queen, but stockings for the queen’s maids. You idiots see stockings for the queen as inequal and cripple the stocking market before it ever gets a chance to make stockings for all women.

      If you idiots get your way, the economy will be reduced to almost-universal poverty, with the exception being the elites, which you are dumb enough to think will include you.

    2. Agree.

      I’m prolly never going to need the fire department but HOLY SHIT if I ever do, I’m glad they’ll be there.

      AND I don’t mind paying for them.

      1. Fire departments are an excellent example of something the government doesn’t need to supply, that would be better handled by fire insurance companies. They have the incentive to put out all fires, not just of their clients, because fire spreads. But statists only see it as an opportunity to grow government.

        1. Fire departments are an excellent example of something the government doesn’t need to supply, that would be better handled by fire insurance companies.

          And in CA, our local and state governments have made fire departments so expensive that we can barely afford them, and we routinely don’t have enough fire fighters when fire season comes around.

      2. Awe; The old deceptive and faulty cliche of pretending National Socialism is ‘good’ by painting city/county with a BIG-FAT brush of national. My community soccer team all pitched in for uniforms too; surely that’s an excuse to turn the USA into a Nazi (def; National Socialism) Regime.

  14. Quit trying to use Mitt “RINO” Romney’s much less egregious plan as evidence that “the Right is just as bad”. That’s the sort of thinking that led Reason to charge headlong into this mess by tacitly promoting Joe Biden’s election.

    If you want libertarian policy, you have to quit undermining the better options.

    1. You’d tell political prisoners to stop whining for freedom when the better option is to choose death by bullet over death by hanging.

      1. Brilliant. You sure nailed that syllogism.

        Or, maybe not.

    2. Is Senator Romney a RINO? I suggest he more in touch with the Republican Philosophy from it founding to about 2016. The real question is are the majority of today’s Republicans really the RINOs.

      1. You suggest a lot of things.

      2. Again, proof you are not a moderate nor centrist.

  15. Where to start with this article?

    First, we are not yet anywhere near the need to worry about fertility levels. The earth has a huge population of humans that strains the earth resources. Let leave worrying about fertility aside for a while.

    Second, the authors points about just giving people money is good. Yes, some people will likely spend it badly and it will not achieve the desired effect. Part of the problem is that their solutions have similar problems. Let’s just deregulate lower costs and let people decide. Did this work in Texas? Energy companies deregulated, spend less than needed , gave people lower electric bills, and were not prepared when a weather emergency happened.

    Here is my suggestion. There are not simple solutions to complex problems. Use data to better define problems instead of your personal philosophy. Work to give people the greatest freedom possible with fewest regulations. Accept that some regulations are necessary.

    1. Energy companies deregulated, spend less than needed , gave people lower electric bills, and were not prepared when a weather emergency happened.

      Now do California.

  16. Characterizing Mitt Romney as ‘the right’ is a REALLY LAME way to play “both sides.”

  17. How about we stop doing anything for those in poverty? Government already spends about 60k per family in poverty to no avail:

    1. That number includes the salaries of all the bureaucrats who make sure each poor person “deserves” the welfare. Probably the facilities budget also.
      If they cut welfare a lot of middle-class jobs would go. From the point of view of the poor, though, other people make a lot of money off the presence of poverty.

  18. The “free market” is the panacea. Bullshit.

    The “free market” is based on using money as leverage against those without. That doesn’t do anything for the poor.

    “The passage of welfare reform in 1996 (along with tax credits that were tied to work) essentially ended the policy of distributing unrestricted cash payments to poor families. Welfare reform required work in exchange for assistance and established federal time limits on benefits. The result was an 18-year decline in the poverty rate for children in single-parent families”

    That isn’t the free market.

    1. The free market allows individuals to make their own buying and employment decisions, and companies to make their own purchasing and hiring decisions. It leads to inequality, since some people and some companies make better decisions or are more productive than others, but leads to the greatest good for the greatest number (as proven throughout human history.)

      The alternative is giving the government some degree of control, which eventually leads to the government deciding how much you get to keep and who the rest will go to, and creates poverty and misery for all (except those moving the money around), as history also shows.

      1. At every point in history, dipshits said things like “man will never fly, that’s what history shows”.

        Earth is a closed system. It’s resources belong to all humans equally.

        Maximizing profit for the 1% at the expense of the poor is not the purpose of human existence.

        Recognizing what is and working together to achieve it is. That requires civilization, which is not random but regulated.

        I will grant you though, in a zoo, the biggest monkey gets the most bananas.

        1. Human ingenuity is not fixed. In a free society, Humans continually come up with ways to use resources more efficiently and to use new resources.

          Only in the closed societies like the one you favor, do things become dark, bleak, and miserable.

          1. A closed system is a scientific designation “ A closed system is a type of thermodynamic system where mass is conserved within the boundaries of the system, but energy is allowed to freely enter or exit the system.”’

            As opposed to

            “A closed society is one in which an individual’s role and function can theoretically never be changed, as in the traditional Hindu caste system. ”

            Do you want to change your reply?

  19. This article makes exactly one reference to Universal Basic Income and largely relies on the assumption that all the bad things will happen and none of the good.

    They could have used many fewer words to simply insist that these payments be contingent upon the promised offsets. As in a single law that replaces current spending with the cash payments.

    A better counterargument to this plan would be a link to any number of Kevin Williamson articles on how creative people can be in converting food stamps to meth. We would have to trust society to let those people die. Or else we will be right back where we started.

  20. This debate centers on whether you believe poverty is the result of large numbers of human simply not being that useful in our modern economy. In which case, it is a just outcome to just give up the charade and subsidize their existence. The trade off is subsidizing people who simply make bad decisions. But maybe that’s a distinction without a difference.

    Or are people poor because they make bad choices. In which case we need highly controlled, but economically inefficient, methods to provide assistance to the unlucky without subsidizing the people who bad decisions.

    These world views are unlikely to be modified by “data.”

    1. These world views are unlikely to be modified by “data.”

      The question is are you more tied to your world view or are you willing to modify that view when presented with data that is not in agreement with that view?

  21. The author’s do realize that ideal female fertility metric is not about want but that women are the bottleneck for increased fertility as female capability for bearing children is the limiting factor. It is the way to discuss this in a scientifically rigorous way.

    It is good that the authors can at least acknowledge that declining fertility may be a human capital problem for our society.

    1. so go 3D-print some more kids

  22. Among your proposed reforms, I don’t see any proposals to cut existing transfer payment schemes. You deride the idea of replacing existing schemes with UBI-type schemes as “pie-in-the-sky”. If you’re OK with transfer payments, what is the argument against providing them directly to individuals?

    Later, you make the argument for vouchers:

    “What if instead of continuing to subsidize the bloated higher education industry, we simply offered flexible vouchers to low-income students, letting them spend the money in a way that would allow them to quickly and efficiently gain the job skills they wanted?”

    This is exactly the argument for paying UBI directly to individuals instead of through bloated government bureaucracies. In fact, you don’t need a separate voucher scheme, you just need to redirect education spending into UBI.

    This is why Romney’s plan is politically devious: it reverses the ratchet effect, which has hitherto worked in favor of the left. Once you’ve established a constituency for UBI and established that its funding comes from ending existing transfer schemes, you can build that constituency by offering it raises financed by continuous destruction of bureaucracies.

    What would most people rather have? Some inefficient alphabet program that mostly feeds bureaucrats? Or a $20 bump in their monthly check? WIC, LIHEAP, Head Start, Pell Grants – throw them all into the woodchipper and just hand out that money.

    There’s nothing a federal program can do that can’t be accomplished more efficiently by individuals making their own decisions.

    1. you said, woodchipper.

  23. What do you get when you cross a bunch of right wing religious zealots with left wing global utopian zealots: Plato’s republic.

    1. No, you get the cave.

  24. Why does everyone else have plans for MY LABOR against my will? Do I look like your ‘slave’? Do you think the USA is better served by ‘slavery’? Sure wish the USA citizens would wake-up from their ‘fiat’ funny money falling from the skies delusions.

    Where-ever that money is spent it’s spent to receive someone else’s LABOR and if the spender never *EARNED* that LABOR the received LABOR was STOLEN….. If that money was obtained through Gov-Guns it was GUNS used to ENSLAVE people.

  25. Along the same lines:
    Top 6 ideas for new constitutional amendments.

    1) Make government involvement in education & tuition lending illegal at all levels of government. Only direct financial assistance (cash/voucher) at state & local levels for those who qualify should be allowed. Separation of education & state.

    2) Abolish the Federal Reserve. Make government (even quasi-government) involvement in banking, money and interest rates illegal at all levels of government.

    3) Abolish the tax code. Make taxing income, assets and property, along with VATs and tariffs, illegal at all levels of government. Only sales tax should be allowed at any level of government.

    4) Make government run entitlements illegal at all levels of government. Only direct financial assistance (cash/voucher) at the state and local levels for those who qualify should be allowed.

    5) End the drug war. Make it illegal for government to regulate the personal consumption of products by adults at all levels of government.

    6) Make minimum wage laws illegal at all levels of government. Make it illegal for government to dictate terms of employment at all levels of government.

    1. Interesting ideas. About number 3, isn’t a VAT the same as a sales tax, just a fancier name? Also what is your sales tax going to be if it replaces all the other taxes? I am guessing in the range of 30% to 40%. That a pretty stiff taxes for a burger and fries at McDs.

      1. VAT is at multiple levels of sales, a very bad idea. Sales tax is transparent. Stiff taxes at McDs paid with a stiff boost to your paycheck, no taxes taken out.

        1. Maybe you mean to limit the sales tax to only retail sales of newly produced goods for consumption. In which case its impact is very close to that of income tax, just that the collection job is imposed only on retailers. Whether you tax the production or consumption end of the economy is just a matter of timing and who does the work of the taxing itself.

        2. Also, would you tax services as well as goods? Choices are distorted if you don’t, favoring custom manufacture and repair over mass manufacture and replacement.

      2. A VAT has more complicated math, akin to figuring income tax but in every detail, than sales tax. But it is imposed AS a sales tax if you tax sales at all levels, which is what discourages division of labor if you do it as a simple sales tax ad valorem. VAT doesn’t discourage division of labor, it just discourages labor (as all taxes do).

    2. Taxing land value should be part of the picture. Land value is directly related to government expenditures on security and infrastructure.

      1. True, although that’s not the only thing it’s related to.

    3. Sales tax discourages division of labor.

  26. I think back to the golden age of the libertarian economy in America. That would be the Gilded age in the last two decades of the 1800s. Did libertarian economics lift people out of poverty at that time? Certainly it was a great time for innovation with people like Tesla & Edison transforming our technology (the fact that conditions that led to our biggest economic boom: electrification, occurred primarily because Tesla gave up his patents & as a result, lived near poverty for most of the rest of his life is the subject of another discussion). The truth of the matter is that the economic growth of the Gilded age did not trickle down to the average working person. Just like any other reasonably stable “3rd world country,” the gilded age produced great wealth for the top 0.1% & the middle class constituted about 10% while 90% lived hand to mouth until disease or workplace injury destroyed their lives.

    The fact is that America only developed a growing middle class after WWII. It was largely as a result of the GI Bill, unionization & the unique conditions that existed for the two decades following WWII where America got rich rebuilding Europe & Japan. The fact that the growth of the middle class has stagnated since has little to do with government regulation & has much more to do with cheap overseas labor, greater automation, less leverage for labor & easy credit for people who probably shouldn’t have (or at least use) it.

    1. Good points but hard to sell to the public.

    2. You are brainwashed with leftist fiction. Markets and competition increased living standards, not government wars or government programs.

      1. ^THIS… Never-mind the details; Teach them to hate the cherry-picked Top 0.1% then use Gov-Guns to steal from them.

        It’s funny how these people are suppose to be so greedily ‘rich’ yet those not in “crony gov-socialism” (regulation circles) fall apart instantly every-time a recession hits and needs bailed out by Gov-Gods.

        That day popularized envy turned good people into criminal crooks.

      2. I don’t think you are really addressing ATCme statement. He is not suggesting that markets and competition are not good. Merely suggesting that the markets have changed. Following WWII, the United State was in a unique position, we had the manufacturing capacity while large parts of Europe and Asia were devastated by the war. We had access to cheap raw materials. Today the markets have shifted and we have to share those markets with other rising nations.

        Populists try to blame regulations, foreign competitor and immigrants. The reality is we are still top dog in the world markets but we are not as far up as we used to be or we will ever be again. There is a need to recalibrate our goals.

        1. There is a need to re-calibrate our goals.

          Re-Instate the U.S. Constitution…..! Which of the few limited powers they have one is to arrange treaties and another to repel invasions.

          The fact that you ignore what the USA even is and was founded on and what made it great; Will be the ignorance used to destroy it.

  27. People who come up with alternative ideas for programs that sound good but have not undergone sound research of past programs and their successes and failures are called good idea fairies. They them selves do not do the research and do not subject their ideas to analysis so they are operating out of ignorance to frequently ruin programs that are working well and probably are reducing costs already. Romney is a good idea fairy. Let’s hope he does not damage a program achieving positive results.

  28. Please stop living under the illusion that we have a free market system. A great example/proof of this is “Too big to fail”. We don’t have the stomach to live in a free market.

    We thrive on, and are addicted to, corporate and social welfare (for the wealthy and the poor) system(s)

    1. Ironically; Gov-God induced Social welfare has a mind-boggling historical consistency of creating the most unequal societies in history.

  29. The fastest, easiest way to get school choice for everone is to allow parents to enroll their kids in any public school they can reach. If my local school is lousy, let me send my kids — and my taxes — across town.

    1. If the B.O.E. wasn’t threatening the people with Gov-Guns and mandating their indoctrination be taught to ALL kids school “choice for everyone” (what every society claiming to be free cherishes) would be as easy to obtain as a cellphone.

  30. I grew up in another state, and when I was 14 I had my own housepainting business.. I charged $2.50 per hour, they supplied the paint THEY wanted, I rode my bike to their houses, cleaned, prepped, repaired, then painted and cleaned up my mess. If I were to try that today, I’d be hauled off to Juvvie, and possibly charged as an adult for contracting without a state issued license, no training, no insurance or bond, and most likely busted by OSHA for not folloing all the idiotic “SAYFteeeeee” protocls. Further, I did not maintain a separate business bank account, nor did I keep records, file with the IRS or state, nor have a business license. And my CUSTOMERS would be slapped with criminal charges for reckless endangerment of a minor child, breaking labour laws by hiring such a young punk, and failing to report their expenditures to the State for income and sales tax collection (on my labour) and a grab bag full of other idiotic gummit speak. At 16 I hired myself out to a home remodel carpenter for Casn In Fist eachFriday. No workmens’ comp deductions, n insurance, I’m pretty certain we ignored some OSHA rules, and in the process I learned how to do every aspect of building a house.. wiring, plumbing, concrete, rebar, framing, roofing, stucco, (yes, that’s what was done in those days) and made decent pocket cash while learning. Today HE’d have his business license and contractors bond snaffled, be heavily fined, and probably serve time for abuse of a minor child. He had no employee benefits, enough to get him jailed today.

    Compare that to today….. and ya wonder WHY kids got nuttin ta DOOOO but hang around at the Mall, get stoned. The schools no longer have shop and trade classes Home Ec got canned cause its “sexist”, the kids don’t know how to do anything but play video games, install a condom on a banana, making sure it cannot reproduce, they get trophies for “showing up”, never mind whether they are on time or late, and we wonder why they’ve no future in mind, unless its becoming the next rap king or super stud. Meanwhile, small and startup businesses, along with those needing mindless menial tasks performed, cannot hire the know- and do-nothing “product” of da gummit skewls because they not only don’t even KNOW enough to be useful, but are now deemed “worth” the astronomical sum of fifteen bucks an hour PLUS bennies…… when they won’t even return sufficient value to the employer to jusstify five bucks the hour in wages…… why else does anyone think such “kids” were so well employed these past eight months or so looting, buring, riiting, destroying, in cities accross the nation?

    1. ^Well said; The biggest reason $15/hr THEFT by Gov-Guns is even a topic today is but a consequence of previous Socialist Government Policies.

  31. The free market created today’s poverty and economic inequality. Left to itself, it will only make the situation worse. Time for the big companies to pay for the system they exploit, by paying more taxes, so that this country of unparalleled wealth can give every citizen a decent living.

    1. The National Socialists (def; Nazism) market created today’s poverty and economic inequality. Left to tyrannical rulers, it will only make the situation worse. Time to stop STEALING from others to pay for their system of exploitation, by cutting tax theft, so that EVERY INDIVIDUAL in this country can *earn* the wealth required to make a decent living.

      Typical lefty; Holding onto the belief that POWER to STEAL = WEALTH; (Which is criminal). Instead of Individual VALUE = WEALTH. You DumbF*ck slavers will point Gov-Guns and STEAL everyone’s VALUE until there’s nothing left to STEAL. F-OFF!

  32. Simple, the pols can’t take credit for it if they let the free market work.

  33. Only 11 states, provide more money to OUR federal government than it receives in return. Why do these “FREE MARKET” CONSERVATIVES continue to ignore the mooching of these 39 states? The “small government” hypocrisy argument comes from the elected leaders of these mooching states; blame everyone else & and DON’T look at me or what I’m doing, because the pennies the poor is stealing is far more important than the quarters that is given to big business.

    These people should be calling for the elimination of medicare if the the “FREE MARKET & FOR-PROFIT HEALTHCARE solutions are so problematic for the working population, but they DO NOT! Why not? Could it because they now have no other audience except for angry seniors? I could go on and on but what’s the point?

    The conservative solution is a simple one, make your OWN states accountable to the NATION before mandating your version of accountability onto the citizens of our nation. Have each state file a federal income tax return in lieu of the 98.6% of the country who is earning less than our congressional employees. This will immediately eliminate the mooching of these 39 states, allowing the SUCCESSFUL states to continue with its mission by remembering #WEaretheGOVERNMENT!

    It belong to us, because it US; if it doesn’t work for US, it’s up to US to fix it!

    The greed of corporations is more important than people than they serve and even the people who work for them…that is the LAW! a corporation’s only responsibility is to its shareholders and YET, it will be the AMERICANS who live outside of TX, {A MOOCHING STATE (receives $1.06 for every $1.00 sent to DC), who will be responsible to ensure the TEXANS are provided with the help they need while the share holders continue counting their money.

    1. 1) Your blind assumption of the numbers is terribly misleading while the federal government ‘pretends’ it owns 50% of the Western U.S. ‘actual State Land’.
      2) Just make ALL UN-Constitutional items against the law. That eliminates ALL State “Mooching” as well as Free’s the Western U.S. from Federal Communism.

      The People who founded the USA made “The People’s” Supreme Law OVER their Federal Government and defined what this Nation IS. Fixing the destruction of this Nation by the ignorance of National Socialists (def; Nazism) and their PLANStation would be Step #1. Then and only then [WE] can talk about, “Up to us to fix it within the government level with the proper authority as defined by The People who founded this nation.”

      Your *ignorance* (and all those who carry the same ill ideology) of the very founding of this country is why we’re where we are today.

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