Someone named R.R. Reno responds
to the whole 47% kerfuffle in an odd way. First, is the classic dodge, "it's more complicated than that." People always deflect basic arguments that get the better of them by saying "it's complicated". In her quest to illustrate the complexity which will wash away the reality of single-minded, massive redistribution, Reno constructs or describes for us a typical lower/middle class American.
Someone working in a meat processing plant in Omaha, Nebraska makes
about $12 per hour. That’s $24,000 per year. Throw in some overtime, and
maybe he makes close to $30,000. ...
Okay, now our imaginary American who is working more than 40 hours a
week at a physically taxing job has $400 per month that isn’t spoken
Fine. This is reality, we get it - it's not just Steve Jobs vs. Peggy Joseph. But so what? On what basis does the government undertake to help this person? Certainly not a constitutional basis. It is nowhere spelled out in the constitution that we need to tax more prosperous citizens to assist this citizen with his wants or needs. Progressives, of course, have read the Constitution, aren't much enamored of it and have moved on - moved on to other arguments, such as compassion? It is compassionate to tax more prosperous citizens to help this citizen out. Perhaps. Sometimes our compassion backfires by creating dependence which destroys lives rather than edifies them. But not always. Sometimes compassion is needed and can help. Now we can unleash the fusillade of questions that ought to be asked: Who deserves this compassion? How much? For how long? Is the government the best vehicle to deliver that compassionate help? The answers are, of course, debatable and we've been debating them for decades. So we've also got alot of historical experience to draw on, so the questions come fast and furious again, if people need compassionate assistance desperately now, what did they do in the past? How did our meatpacking industry employees make it through the misery of a day without all the compassion that we now bestow on them? Was 1985 a compassionate year as compared to this year? How will people react if we tell them their compassion is going away in 2018?
OK, I'll stop, but you get the point. To declare that people need help is facile and absurd. The R.R. Renos are the facile and absurd actors in this drama and even admit to it.
The modern welfare and entitlement state is a mess. It is full of
perverse incentives, and it may not be fiscally sustainable. But it’s
historically, intellectually, and morally stultifying to imagine that
this mess is somehow unnecessary, that it is the result of the laziness
or irresponsibility of working people and the wicked plots of
Huh? Ill-conceived schemes that will bankrupt the nation and fail catastrophically wrecking millions of lives in the process is somehow necessary? That's, I don't know how to candy-cost it, insane. And why is it historically stultifying (?) to contemplate a world without Medicare, which is largely a creature of the 1960s? Why is it morally stultifying (again ?) to reassess Social Security now that we live in a world with 3 working age folks for every retiree versus 18 for every one? Reno doesn't ask and doesn't care, he/she is happy to do the easy part and say that people need help. We've been hearing from alot of R.R. Renos over the decades and for the most part we've listened to them and that is why we have the teetering structures
that we have today, which the Renos of the world are inexplicably comfortable with. To get admirable policy that contributes to a better society, we need to go much deeper and think alot harder than R.R. Reno.
As for "takers" and "makers", naturally I agree that we do not live in a 50/50 society of takers and makers engaged in an epic arm wrestle. But let's get with reality, there are raw, unadulterated, unashamed takers in society. What percent of us they represent, I do not know, but I do know that we can create alot more of them if we wanted to quite easily. Promise more, give more, create feelings of entitlement. We could take the numbers way up. But these have to be paid for by more "makers", which are harder to engineer. You don't just conjure the next Bessemer process, or iPhone, our automobile or jet engine. You can hope they come along, I guess. Or you can do things to create the conditions for them to emerge. Seems to me there is some deeper understanding of economics, political philosophy, history and human nature that is required to sort this all out. Yeah, it's complicated alright.