The Left’s Unhealthy Love for the Poor (Guest Post)

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As the Obama Presidency continues to unravel, he keeps looking for one distraction after another to take the focus off of the economy, foreign policy, etc. We have the Bowe Bergdahl scandal to distract from the VA scandal right now, but prior to this we started to see Obama sense another electoral shellacking in the upcoming midterm elections. Naturally he did the only thing he knows how to do, not govern of course, but revisit his successful “divide and hate” election strategy. We see it in the White House pushing its “Gender Pay Gap” myth that takes all of two minutes of research to blow away, their anointing the Koch brothers as the left’s hate du jour, and of course there is the minimum wage. This push to raise the minimum wage will probably be addressed in more detail by reviving my “Economics for Politicians” series as soon as I get the chance to pull it together.

One of the left’s arguments for raising the minimum wage, forcing Wal-Wart to unionize, etc. goes along the lines of, “By paying less than a living wage employees are forced onto public assistance (food stamps, welfare, etc.). This amounts to a massive subsidy for those corporations paid for by the taxpayer.” Believe it or not I find it to be an interesting argument, but I think it only works in a small, relatively homogenous society, as there are many arguments against raising the minimum wage (again, let’s hold off on them until I can write my follow up post).

What if we’re looking at this from the wrong direction? Instead of fretting over how much to force employers to pay their employees so that the left can meet that quantifiable, concrete measure of “whatever dollar amount makes leftist elites feel good about themselves”, why not look at what we can do to make necessities less expensive so that workers have a better shot at providing for themselves even if they lack the skills to command a higher wage? Café Hayek did a fun series of posts that compared the goods in old Sears catalogs to what they would cost today. By taking into account not only price inflation and wage inflation the post figured out how many hours need to be worked to obtain the various products, Two examples are here and here. To make a long story short, most of the goods we enjoy today are higher quality and cost a lot less, but check out the links.

However much we might long for the good old labor market days of the 1950’s the many changes to society have made goods a lot cheaper. The best part of this is cheaper goods disproportionately help the poor, since their lower incomes mean that any basic goods bought take up a greater portion of their income. In terms of the basic necessity of clothing we’ve taken care of one of the needs – care to go shopping at Wal-Mart, anyone?

How about food? In “The World Is Flat” Tom Friedman gives a surprisingly balanced look at Wal-Mart. He cites the leftist argument of their wages pushing employees onto government assistance, but also mentions that their lower food prices disproportionately help to feed the poor. What else can we do about high food prices? How about if we stop wasting corn on producing ethanol fuel? It’s not like it’s helping with the intended purpose of reducing “greenhouse gas” emissions. Or how about opening sugar markets, as our combination of market distorting subsidies and tariffs hurt consumers? Again, as the poorest spend a far larger percentage of their income on sugar (or any food) than do those hated one percenters, is this not the compassionate thing to do? Of course, resisting this reform enjoys strong bipartisan support. As I wrote a few years ago:

Phase out market-distorting subsidies and tariffs. The more drastic the change the more resistance there will be, so this needs to be done slowly over several years. We all know there’s a reason that no politician who wants to be president will call for ending corn subsidies before the Iowa caucus during the primaries or call for ending sugar subsidies (Florida) before the general election. While it will hurt targeted industries in the short run we can offset it by lowering our corporate tax rates across the board – flatter taxes, anyone?

Health care costs are another popular cause of the left, and the leftist argument is that a fully implemented Obamacare is the answer. Their premise seems to go like this:

  • Force all Americans to buy health insurance
  • Limit choice, and force them to buy plenty of extras they don’t want as gift to Big Pharma and the biggest insurance companies
  • Which of course, makes health insurance more expensive to buy
  • Help people too poor to afford their new policies by taking more money from the people who can afford it

This is the part where the Underpants Gnomes take us to the final step: Affordable, quality health care for all! Of course, to jump to this final stage one has to ignore that evil, biased, phenomena known as “reality”. Oddly enough, the same people who cheerlead any government spending labeled “stimulus” get really prickly when you point out that Obamacare has become the perfect example of a “Negative stimulus”.

How about energy? In the Obama administration’s never ending war on prosperity the EPA is using fraudulent data to push through a law that will achieve not only a regressive tax in higher electricity costs, but also serve to destroy jobs as well.

What about housing? Rent controls are ironically, a great means to make housing more expensive. In general housing will also be more expensive in left-leaning cities that tend to favor rent control. Granted, rent control isn’t a perfect “correlation = causality” analogy that suggests that voting for Democrats equates voting for higher housing costs. There are other factors to consider, such as the geographic location of these cities immediately coming to mind. But instead of interfering with the transactions between landlords and tenants maybe giving the incentive to increase the supply of available housing could better bring down costs? Shouldn’t the people who like to use platitudes like “Think globally, act locally”, actually… do so?

And although this isn’t one of the more pressing needs of the poor, addressing the college tuition bubble will help to decrease the number of poor we see in the future. Back in 2012 I had a number of ideas that are two lengthy to go into here, but to make a long story short I argued that we should give students better options as well as far more data to help them make those choices. You’ll have to read the whole thing if you want to find out more. I’ll close out this point with two more nuggets to try to entice you to read my education post – it will be hated by higher education bureaucrats and it will probably destroy the more radical courses of study on many campuses.

There you have it – if we want to help the poor why not take steps to meaningfully help the poor? Of course, I still fully support every leftist minimum wage Chickenhawk who wants to start their own business and pay their interns or their unskilled entry level employees $15 per hour. It will never be possible to lift every person out of poverty, but at the very least we can start taking a hard look at the laws that are feeding it. Sadly, taking a stand and fighting against the various entrenched interests that benefit from each of these items is not a simple thing to do. And fighting the status quo doesn’t make you popular, especially in Washington, DC. It’s a lot tougher than showing “compassion” by passing laws that take other people’s money. So I put it to those of you who are demanding higher minimum wages and aren’t putting up any of your own money – are you ready to personally take action to help the poor? You say you love them by offering them government assistance while they’re poor, but do you love them enough to help them get out of poverty on their own?

@freddoso does a great job to summarize these points:

Follow Brother Bob on Twitter @brother_bob

Crossposted from Brother Bob’s Blog

Blogging by the credo of "Making the world a more offensive place, one blog post at a time", Brother Bob started writing posts around the beginning of the Obama presidency over at Brother Bob's Blog. A born-again Existentialist and self-professed libertarian with conservative tendencies, he has ironically chosen to live in the Washington, DC area - deep behind enemy lines. He has always loved history, and spent eight years volunteering as a tour guide on weekends, giving over 200 tours to roughly 2,500 mostly foreign guests. His tours were highlighted by stories generally not found in the history books or most other tours, such as the importance of the Battle if Antietam, the origins or Arlington Cemetery, and dispelling the myths of FDR's New Deal. Although his favorite subject to blog about is Economics, as seen in his Economics for Politicians series, his posts try to address angles that other conservative writers and the mainstream media (naturally!) miss. "There's no point in putting up a post on a subject that someone smarter than me has already written". He believes in the "Happy Warrior" approach, and tries to inject humor in his posts, sometimes successfully. Two such examples are his posts comparing the modern left to the horrible Star Wars prequels, and analyzing the laments of a DC woman in search of a feminist boyfriend. Brother Bob lives with his very patient wife known as Sister Babe, and their fantastic son. Little Bob. Little Bob is also the reason that being a tour guide came to an end, as spending Saturdays raising a son takes priority over giving lectures to foreign visitors on the folly of Keynesian economics. BB is also grateful for the opportunity to take his place among the outstanding writers at Flopping Aces, appreciates every person who takes the time to read his posts, and especially those who join him in the conversation in the comments.

15 Responses to “The Left’s Unhealthy Love for the Poor (Guest Post)”

  1. 1


    Aren’t we really lucky to have a president that doesn’t mind breaking the law to do what he thinks is good for the country? Or at least takes away attention from his ineptness? Yep, just plain lucky.

  2. 2


    the poor DO seem to vote left, don’t they ?
    perhaps we should return to the wishes of our founding fathers Washington was elected by 38000 total votes, the poor didn’t get to vote then maybe some think that change was a mistake

  3. 4


    The left don’t give a rat’s patootie for the poor. In many Democratically held cities, their Democratic leadership have passed all kinds of anti-homeless laws to starve and drive-out the homeless rather than trying to help them. It’s often common for them to be bussed to other cities.

    Any leftist who support’s Obama’s energy policies might as well be directly stealing from the poor and handing the money over to all their crony alternative energy capitalists most of who haven’t a clue how to operated a business because the majority of them end up going belly-up.

    Meanwhile, at the same time the schizophrenic left is clambering to raise the minimum wage, they are supporting floods of unskilled illegal immigrants, to work at those jobs that they claim “Americans wont do,” ignoring the fact that most of those Scrooge bosses hire illegal aliens under the table for far below typical wages, and let the rest of us pay for the social programs that try to make up the difference. They also ignore the fact that the reason big business want’s floods of illegal aliens is to keep wages depressed and the minimum wage low. If you check, you will likely find these haughty hypocrites don’t pay their illegal immigrant landscapers, nannys, and the day workers they hire off the street anywhere near a living wage.

    Clearly the reason why the lefties are selecting fast food restaurants and discount priced department stores such as Walmart as targets, is that they are establishments that the uppity mobile left already detests and disdains. And who is most likely to frequent these establishments? That’s right, the poor, some of whom consider it a treat to be able to take the kids out for a weekend fun meal.

  4. 6

    Nanny G

    Speaking of ”the poor,” who the Left supposedly cares about so much, what ever happened to those 300 kidnapped Christian girls that Boko Haram converted to Islam, raped and married off for small bride prices?
    Those are worse than ”poor” they are slaves.
    Last I heard we had decided NOT to try to rescue them.
    Now, the Left does ”care” about those phony poor in the USA who have cell phones, electricity, running water, heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, even TV and music media. But that’s only because their votes can be bought.

  5. 8


    @Nanny G:

    There are the poor and there are the “poor,” and very big differences between them.

    I was raised in a poor household by a hard working divorced mother who pulled ten-hour night shifts as a bartender to try to keep food in the home and a roof over our heads, while our biological father paid little more than two years of child support and lived a lavish lifestyle, after moving to Florida, only to be let off the hook by a Florida judge who couldn’t understand why our mother could not afford to attend his court, as she was given a full two weeks notice.

    The only government programs our mother “collected” from, were the government cheese, milk and eggs. She did accept some local charity aid in school clothing for her children, as well as one Christmas gift each from the Marine’s Toys For Tots program. She did not get food stamps or other government hand-outs, because she felt that was for the truly destitute. This is a woman who from the age of 8 into her early teens, worked on the poor farm that her grandparents operated, (until a corrupt sheriff stole the property out from under them and evicted all the residents). As soon as we were old enough, I and my brother took part time jobs and eventually obtained full time minimum wage jobs to help. Even then our mother often refused to accept money from us, so we would have to sneak off with some of the utility bills, and pay them while she was sleeping.

    Only some of the “poor” are gaming the system. There are other poor who really need what help they can get, as well as a good many who will struggle along independently and try to get along without being a burden on the system unless they are truly in dire straights. Simply because someone is poor or even worse destitute, doesn’t mean that they are freeloaders, that they lack good work ethics, or that they are deserving of the disrespect and disdain of those in society who are better off.

  6. 10


    @Brother Bob:

    You are very welcome Brother Bob. Perhaps I get a bit oversensitive at times when I think someone might be disparaging the poor, but I thought that my friends here on FA should know that I have good reason for feeling the way I do.

  7. 11

    Nanny G

    Ditto, thanks, for that.
    Our family adopted a 14 year old girl from a family like yours.
    She met our family when she lied about her age to get work and send the money back home.
    Her mom was the best cook you could imagine!
    Her rabbit stew with dumplings ….even the memory of it makes me wish I could go back to that night.

  8. 12


    @Nanny G:

    Her mom was the best cook you could imagine!

    Oh, I don’t have to imagine Nan. My mother was also an excellent cook of the old-fashioned farm mother type. Self-sufficiency and simple common sense were her main lessons. We lived most of my first decade of life on small farms.

  9. 14


    @Ditto: your early life sounds very similar in many ways to a lot of people born in the rural south back in the 30’s and 40’s. It’s a different world today.

  10. 15


    Except my personal childhood experiences were in the North during the 1960-70’s.

    It’s a different world today.

    Is that intended as a condescending personal shot against me for having been raised in rural America? Do you think that those brought up in poor rural families are all rubes, ignorant of the changes in America and elsewhere in the world? I thought about your words, and I have to conclude it must be so or why else would you decide to add that?

    Do you know how to trouble-shoot a ground-based spacecraft communications system to component level? Do you know how to order a malfunctioning satellite to change out to a back-up transponder, or how to use a command and control console to remotely maneuver a spy satellite? Do you understand orbital mechanics well enough, to plot the orbital path of a sun-synchronous spacecraft, to determine exactly what portions of the earth it will be passing over, at specific segments of it’s orbit a month in advance? Do you know how to perform computer forensics and recover data from a failed hard drive? Do you know how to interconnect and operate the equipment in a video broadcast studio?

    Heck, I know how to do all that, and I’m just a hick from the sticks. Nor am I alone, as there are a good many of us out there that know a whole lot more about this modern world, and are actually a lot more up to date on the current levels of our high-technology, than some big city folks give us credit for.

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