A decade ago I would have claimed to have more in common with Republicans than with Democrats, therefore I was more likely to side with, and vote for, Republicans than with Democrats. After twelve years of Bush (four of Bush I and eight of Bush II) and Republican control of both houses of Congress for four and one-half years, during which Bush II and the Republicans proved Bryan Caplan correct that Republican self-interest and ideology run in opposite directions, I don't see myself voting for another Republican again.
So when I read junk like this written by Matt Miller, it leaves me with the same sensibilities expressed by Matt Stone and Trey Parker of South Park Fame. The two creators are reported to have said, "I hate conservatives, but I really ___________ hate liberals."
Miller notes of the Republican speeches at their convention last week, that,
But no family’s American dream was as moving or well told as Rubio’s, whose parents went to Florida from Cuba penniless in the 1950s and worked tirelessly to give their children the chances they never had. Rubio said his dad always told him, “You can do anything in America.” The father bar-tended endless hours in the back of banquet halls, Rubio said, so that one day his son would be able to stand at the podium in the front of the room.
Anyone listening to Rubio’s moving tale surely thought, “Yes! This is exactly what America is about!” But the stories were all we got. No Republican speakers offered any policies to renew upward mobility in the United States. In fact, nowhere did the Republicans acknowledge that upward mobility is now greater in many other countries with feudal or aristocratic histories.
Did Miller miss Rubio's message by that much? Did he really fail to understand that what Rubio was telling was a story of escape from a system of dependency that professed to take care of everyone from cradle to grave with no responsibility for one's self, and that that created such desperation that people are willing to sacrifice their lives fleeing from this in leaky rafts in shark-infested waters in order to reach a country where, from your own initiative, you could become anything you wanted? Did he fail to heed Rubio's caution that the United States was becoming more and more like Cuba, with more and more of our citizens dependent on government and that this was exactly from what his father chose to escape? Did he really fail that badly to understand Rubio's point that freedom is what empowers prosperity and mobility, not dependency?
I spend a good amount of time teaching the unintended consequences of government action, which is no more prevalent than with government programs that profess to assist the least advantaged. I could speak to people like Miller until I'm blue in the face, but to no avail; the left is bereft of any willingness to comprehend and acknowledge that maybe - just maybe - it's the policies they champion that keep poor and dependent the people for whose rights they profess to champion.
Poverty is caused by failing to produce value to others. If lessening the number of people currently in poverty, if not eradicating it altogether, is the objective, then you have to teach low skilled people how to create value for others. Handouts only create the incentive for the least skilled to remain in poverty and for more of those marginally above that to fall into the ranks of the dependent.
Here are some solutions for empowering the poor and assisting them to move up and out of poverty.
- Eliminate minimum wage legislation at both the state and federal levels. Not only do such laws prohibit firms from hiring the least skilled who are not able to create value sufficient to cover the costs of hiring them at that wage, they also keep the least skilled from entering the lower rungs of the employment ladder where they learn skills needed to move up that ladder. You learn to create value for others on the job, and minimum wage laws stifle opportunities to obtain lower level positions that lead to higher level positions.
- Get rid of the government school monopoly. (It's revealing of Miller that he discusses the education part of the Republican platform, giving short shrift to the school choice movement. I guess he did that in order to dismiss Obama's betrayal to the people of Washington, DC who were finding great success with the H.O.P.E. Scholarship program. Obama has terminated this program twice, immediately upon entering office in 2009, and more recently in his proposed budget for 2013.) It's not just school choice that matters, but accountability of the schools, the teachers, the parents and the students. Choice allows me to put my child with like-minded students and parents. This is what matters. It allows for greater flexibility and innovation on how to reach different students with disparate needs and talents. School choice is not choice if every student is still required by a bureaucracy to choose which black box they wish to attend. No, not every child is going to magically rise up and succeed in schools that do not meet their needs nor cater to their abilities. Allow schools to define their own curricula, serve specific niche needs, and be held accountable by the customer, not the suppliers, for achieving their own stipulated objective. Outside of that, we’re simply setting up day care centers and kids respond accordingly.
- Stop funding higher education and stop pushing every high school graduate to go to college. Not only have the subsidies simply resulted in escalating tuition for families and the government, many high school graduates are priced out of the market. In addition, and most importantly, the push for everyone to attend college even though more than half have no desire (i.e., a passion for learning) nor need to attend (most many jobs have no need for the skills developed - or not developed - from earning a bachelor's degree) creates serious adverse consequences for those unable to, or who choose not to, attend college. Too many olleges are now in the position of simply credentialing student attendance and not sufficiently improving human capital. Consequently, students unable to attend college (i.e., the poor and the least skilled) are stigmatized by not earning a college degree, which keeps them from better paying jobs that go only to those with the signaling credential of a college diploma, including jobs for which a college degree provides zero benefit.
- Eliminate (at least most) occupational licensing requirements and licenses to operate a business. These laws are notoriously intended to raise the cost of entry and exclude the poor and least skilled from labor markets and entrepreneurial ventures.
- Eliminate welfare altogether. A social safety net may be desirable, but that doesn't justify providing it publicly. Our current system creates too many perverse incentives for both the welfare bureaucracy and recipients, and politicizes the lives of poor people. Welfare bureaucrats have the perverse incentive to expand the rolls of aid recipients, not to assist them in getting off public assistance and develop skills needed to create value for others. Additionally, rather than providing a safety net, such aid becomes a hammock, encouraging the least skilled and the poor to engage in more self-destructive behavior rather than developing skills needed to escape poverty.
- Cut the size of government. If the left is truly concerned about rising income inequality, then they might start by looking at where the wealthy live and trying to figure out what they do. If the increased income of the wealthy is the product of more successfully serving the interests of others by creating more value to society, teach the poor to emulate such behavior. If instead their wealth is the product of rent-seeking behavior facilitated by the federal government that is socially destructive, then eliminate opportunities to engage in rent-seeking behavior. Is it any wonder that six of the ten richest counties in the U.S. are in the Washington, DC area? As more and more of our national income is filtered through Washington, DC, and as more and more of our lives and opportunities are regulated there as well, it is the politically connected who benefit, not the poor and least skilled (and middle class) who have never been proficient at manipulating the political system to their advantage.
My guess is that Mr. Miller would never consider any of the above viable options, having wedded himself to a party that sees only benefits from expanding and intrusive government, never the costs that swamp it.