Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“A democracy is two wolves and a small lamb voting on what to have for dinner. Freedom under a constitutional republic is a well armed lamb contesting the vote.”     Benjamin Franklin

January 3, 2013

More Than One Class of Parasite

by Stephen Littau

The welfare state is a problem in America, there’s no question about it. When you have a country were nearly 49 million people are dependent on food stamps as of this writing, that is a problem. We libertarians as well as conservatives lament the growing welfare state because of what it is doing to the economic health of this country and the negative incentives (i.e. the moral hazard) to discourage people from working when it’s easier to get a check from the government. That being said, I think we libertarians could do a better job with the messaging on this particular issue.

Today’s episode of the Neal Boortz show is a perfect example of what I’m referring to. Boortz’s personality is that of a curmudgeon. Over the years he has referred to himself as the “High Priest of the Church of the Painful Truth.” I usually enjoy his blunt, non-P.C. style but sometimes I think he goes a little overboard when he calls people who are on one type of welfare or another “parasites” regardless of their individual circumstances. I missed the first part of his show (which is normal) but I tuned in about the time a caller who said the only government assistance he was receiving was food stamps called in. He went on to explain that he worked 3 minimum wage jobs at about 120 hours a week to support his 5 kids (I think that was the right number). After explaining his circumstances, he asked Boortz: “Do you think that I am a parasite?” Boortz responded “yes.” Boortz went on to criticize the man for having children he couldn’t afford to support and told him that perhaps since he still couldn’t support his children on his three jobs that perhaps he should give them up.

Taking the caller’s word at face value that he works 120 hours a week, I have to disagree somewhat on Boortz’s characterization that the man is a parasite. I also think that telling someone who really is trying to support his children but still coming up short and supplementing his income with food stamps to give up his kids is an unreasonable suggestion. How much would it cost taxpayers if every person who struggled with supporting their children put their children in the foster care system or an orphanage? We hear all the time from conservatives – especially social conservatives* that the ideal situation for raising children is a household with a mother and a father. I have heard some social conservatives say that the reason the state shouldn’t recognize gay marriage or civil unions is that the purpose of marriage is procreation. They also argue for the child tax credit and favorable tax treatment for married couples to encourage more people to have families**.

I don’t know to what extent Boortz agrees with these notions as he doesn’t seem to talk about these issues much. I do think there is something to say about children growing up in a stable environment, however. I haven’t done much research at all about the foster care system but from what I understand, it’s far from ideal. How many children in the foster care system find themselves in the criminal justice system whether on probation or incarceration versus those who are raised by at least one loving biological parent? I don’t happen to know the answer but I suspect that there are more of the former than the latter. Again I ask, how much would this man giving up his children possibly cost the taxpayers? I suspect it would be more than whatever he is getting in food stamps.

To some degree***, this man is a parasite but certainly not to the extent some people I have met are. There are the single dads who have too many children to too many baby mamas who don’t take responsibility for their children and have no shame about going on the dole. There are also far too many single moms out there who have made some very bad choices who basically marry the government. If anything, the caller is probably receiving less government support because he is working so many hours. Slacking is rewarded while trying to better oneself is punished – this in of itself is a major part of the problem, I think.

While I agree with Boortz in principle that one man’s need does not mean he has a claim on another’s money, there are more classes of parasites I think are even more offensive than poor people on welfare. I am much more offended by the corporate welfare and the welfare for the rich. I’m not talking about tax cuts or anything like that but subsidies. I’m talking about billionaire sports franchise owners who have their stadiums built by taxpayer dollars so they can pay millions more to their millionaire athletes. I’m talking about TARP, the auto bailouts, QE 1, QE2, QE 3 and other policies the Federal Reserve has used to make our dollars worth less and less every day. I’m talking about corporate lobbyists who write regulations in their favor to make it difficult for competitors to enter the market place. I’m talking about lawyers.

Yes there are more than one class of parasite bringing our economy down. When it comes to going after those who are using taxpayer money for their benefit, I think it’s high time we libertarians say women and children last.

Point of Clarification: It wasn’t fair to lump all lawyers together as parasites. Lawyers are necessary in our system to take out some of the parasites I mentioned above (the white blood cells, if you will). Like any profession, there are bad apples. When I think of parasitic lawyers, I think of the likes of John Edwards and the ambulance chasers on late night TV. There are plenty of heroic lawyers who truly fight for liberty and justice such as those at the Institute for Justice and The Innocence Project. I’m sure we can count fellow Liberty Papers contributor Doug Mataconis among them as well (though I know nothing about his work as an attorney, he’s a good person and I’m sure that’s reflected in his profession as well).


*Though I don’t consider Boortz as a social conservative; I doubt he would characterize himself that way either.

**Personally, I’m not in favor of using the tax code for social engineering.

***To some degree we all are. Have you enrolled your kids in government schools, received grants for college, or taken the earned income tax credit? Can you really say that you have never accepted any government aid of any kind? If so, you cast the first stone.

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4 Comments

  1. The man is a parasite. He could request money from relatives, friends, or charities instead of from the government. However, I have no problem with his parasitism. He likely paid income taxes before his current financial problems, and part of his taxes funded SNAP. He’s just getting back some of what he paid in.

    As a libertarian who hates the welfare/nanny state, I encourage everyone to suck as much milk as possible from our national government teats. That will reduce the time before the day of reckoning when the government cannot borrow any more and must drastically cut spending. (It will never reduce spending on its own, as the recent “fiscal cliff” legislation showed.)

    Comment by MingoV — January 3, 2013 @ 2:38 pm
  2. Not only that MingoV, he will probably get screwed over on S.S. and Medicare when it’s his turn to retire. In principle, I’m opposed to the government paying off/forgiving student loans. But would I accept such a bailout if it was offered? Your damn skippy I would! Perhaps that’s hypocritical but at some point your kind of a sucker if you don’t get yours even as immoral as it is.

    We need to focus more on the system as a whole as opposed to one person availing himself of the program.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — January 3, 2013 @ 3:01 pm
  3. Mr Littau, you are definitely correct that giving up one’s kids is in no way a solution to the problem. It’s not as though kids are some commodity that can just be sold (or given) to the next person in line who would be thrilled to take care of them.

    As for the big picture, there is no way to say whether this person is a parasite. The market is distorted from top to bottom — many interventions are probably depressing his wages and inflating his cost of living (e.g. licensing requirements). The people at the bottom, living on food stamps, are not the problem. They did not create the state and they do not run the state. Their benefits are an afterthought… just an attempt to mitigate the disastrous consequences of systematic theft by the ruling class.

    If this man is working, it’s most likely that he is the host, not the parasite…regardless of what his paycheck says his labor is worth. The real parasites are the CEOs of the banks and state-supported corporations, each of whom siphons off a million times more than the value of this man’s food stamps.

    Comment by ricketson — January 3, 2013 @ 10:25 pm
  4. [...] More Than One Class of Parasite [...]

    Pingback by theCL Report: War on the Young — January 15, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

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