Fuck 'Em (Originally Published 12/10/12)

I once heard a conservative response to the question, "Well, if you want to get rid of welfare altogether, what would you replace it with?" This person said she believed that NGOs would be more effective than government checks and assistance. There was only negative data to back this up (ie the gov't is of course inefficient) but I think this could work if and only if it was a gradual transition. Which is to say, NGOs would have to be created before state assistance was phased out. But where would these NGOs suddenly come from, I wonder? And how on earth could we ensure we weren't just damning millions of people to death just to save money?

I think it's fair to say that welfare isn't really an efficient system as currently constructed. People abuse it (as people do with any government system) and it's inexact, and it's slow, and there are a lot of problems with it. I really don't buy the argument that it's not fair that we should have to help the less fortunate - when the alternative is their death - but because of how inefficient it currently is, I can see why people think their money is being pissed down the drain.

People are probably always going to think that people who don't manage to become upwardly mobile are lazy. Of course, plenty of folks with money don't work hard - anyone who went to an elite university like I did knows that firsthand - but, the argument goes, they aren't being subsidized, so whatever.

You need not listen to me argue how many impoverished folks work very hard. Fact is, it's very difficult to simply move up without luck, hard work, and timing. That's how everyone succeeds, those three things, BUT when you are privileged, you have a lot more luck and a lot more opportunities for timing to work out.

If we (on this page, or in this country on the whole) are going to have a productive discussion, though, one side of the argument cannot simply be, "fuck 'em, let them die." If we are going to change the system, we need to change it so that more people have food, shelter and education, not fewer. There is massive inefficiency, and it needs to be eliminated, but we cannot simply shrug and let our fellow humans die just because we want to save money. I would have absolutely no problem letting private companies take over aid if we could guarantee there would be enough of them to do so. I think a lot of the arguments that some conservative folks make leave out the fact that people are just going to die if we take away their lifelines.

So, let's talk about it. How can we make it more efficient and effective? How can we help more people eat, sleep comfortably, get educated? Where can the money come from? (For starters, how about ending the drug war and the other wars doing little to help us currently?)

Here are some answers that will be ignored:

1. "It's not our responsibility to watch out for the less fortunate." Go live in a cave, Kurtis.

2. "People don't deserve aid." Sure, not constitutionally. But, as George Costanza says, we're living in a society, and I think it's imperative that those without means be given some means. My question isn't "should they" but "how should they." Because they should, unless you really are that cold.

Now, if you want to bring up bootstraps, you're a fool. No one made it to the top without help somewhere along the line. No one even made it to the middle that way.

But if you want to hear what I think, I think you cut out some needless nonsense (why is the Department of Homeland Security separate from the Dept. of Defense? Roll them together, for example), and really look hard at education and how to improve it. You send emissaries to every corner of the globe to pick and choose the good and discard the bad (anyone who just simply says, like Obama sort of did, that SK's education is amazing is ignoring how stressed and miserable their students are) and then, here's the big thing, figure out how to apply it to such a large country. When we revolutionize education, people without means don't automatically get rich, no, but they get healthier. That drives down costs as well, and if those with little means are demanding healthier food, perhaps it gets cheaper, too.

Anyway, these are pipe dreams.

My bottom line is, we need to cut out idiocy and red tape, for sure. I don't care if it's the government or private companies who aid the less fortunate so long as the less fortunate are not screwed out of some principle of self-involved solipsism. And there are a lot of places from which we could get needed funding that are far less necessary than helping the poor and educating the youth. I'm not saying you can never take a dollar away from a flimsy education system. But I think you try to actually fix it and have it lead the way to prosperity before you just gut it and perpetuate suffering.

This is all over the place. But "fuck 'em" cannot be an answer for how you would address poverty. You can't be that cold.

Now let's talk.

Peace and love,

Justin PBG


Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality