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Steve Kubby on Poverty

Nonaggressive Solutions to Poverty in California

"The more laws and restrictions there are, the poorer people become." -Lao-tsu Tao Te Ching

Since the politicians declared war on poverty, a greater proportion of our people -- millions more -- have fallen into poverty. The rich got richer; the poor got poorer. This income disparity grows as politicians pass more laws to "help" the poor. That's because all of the politicians' programs rely on force. That aggressive use of law, which many thought was for good purposes, worked to further disadvantage people in many ways.

It's too bad that politicians never admit it when they're wrong. Instead, they call for more programs to prop up the ones that have already failed. They demand more money from you and me, which worsens the problems they've already caused. Finally, you have an honest choice with Steve Kubby. If you use your power to vote for change, you will get somebody who shares your compassion. You've got the power to use a common sense approach in helping our neediest people escape the cycle of poverty.

Q. When is a safety net not a safety net?

A. When it's a trap that captures people, locking them into dependency.

California and the rest of the nation is plagued by programs that lure people into dependence on the government for a tiny income. Instead of serving as a safety net to help people during brief periods of misfortune, these programs have become a way of life. Like individuals who inherit family businesses, second and third generations follow their parents and grandparents in choosing public assistance as a career. To suggest that this is compassion is nothing short of a big lie. It's plantation thinking, keeping the poor and under-educated in their place where the politicians can look after them.

The cost of government poverty programs is astounding. But the really shocking fact is not how much money the government gives to the poor. It's how much they keep for themselves. Fully 74% of government dollars allocated to the poor go to the welfare bureaucracy instead. That's how much it costs to administer government welfare programs: 74 cents on the dollar. If a private charity spent that much on overhead, the IRS would immediately revoke its tax-exempt status.

If we want to reduce poverty -- and with the growing Asian financial crises, we'd better act now -- we have to recognize that government programs failed. We have to scrap these programs so that people are free to achieve a better life for themselves and their families. If we don't, our shrinking economy will be further crippled by higher taxes and more regulations.

We also have to make it easy for charitable organizations to step in to help those people who, because of disability or other uncontrollable factors, cannot work for themselves.

There are also those folks who believe they have to stay on these programs despite their abilities -- almost like addicts. Yet when you and I show them better ways, they break this cycle of dependency. Wisconsin's welfare reform provides a better example. Even before reforms took effect, poverty rolls shrank by 30% as people voluntarily chose to pursue a better life. This cannot happen when most politicians preach dependency. You and I can put those politicians out of business with our vote. That way struggling people will have a better chance to succeed.

You and I can elect leaders willing to leave people alone. Give the money back to the people by taking less away from them in the first place. That way they at least have a chance of making it on their own.

Some of the best-intentioned programs really hurt people. Minimum wage laws, for example, might sound like a good idea. Instead, they rob many people of entry-level jobs where young and unskilled workers can learn a career and gain valuable experience. If it's acceptable to charge tuition so wealthy students can learn, why does the government obstruct poor people trying to learn a trade and make money at the same time? People who take entry-level positions should be free to take less pay in exchange for learning valuable skills.

The last time the minimum wage was raised by the politicians, 100,000 people at the very bottom of the pay scale were thrown out of work because their employers could not afford to keep them. In addition, these laws drive up the cost of goods and services, making it harder for people in real need to get the things they have to have. You and I cannot allow this injustice to continue.

Another way the government destroys jobs is through licensing laws. The unintended end result of most of these laws benefit giant corporations by squeezing out small businesses. Yet 60% of all new jobs are created in companies with fewer than 21 employees. These same businesses provide 80% of all new minority positions.

Aggressive regulations that stifle small businesses destroy jobs, especially for disadvantaged workers. Meanwhile, large companies become monopolies, extracting higher prices for their goods and services. As these monopolies grow, workers have fewer places to market their skills. This drives wages down for working folks. No monopoly has ever been able to sustain itself without using government force to keep out the competitors. By using the power of our votes, you and I can throw out the politicians who do this to us.

Welfare payments destroy the incentive to work. By the end of the 1970s, the median family income was $1,500 lower than potential welfare benefits. If you give a person a fish, he eats for a day; teach him to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime. You and I have been stuck with a system that forces the poorest among us to stand in line, waiting for the government to throw them a fish. That's not compassion. That's cruelty. We have to reject the crocodile tears shed by politicians in expensive sound bites and take a hard look at the reality of poverty. We have to liberate the poor from government dependency. Only then will everybody have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.

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