Even if increased equity were to involve a slightly smaller pie, the resulting social order may be preferred. When poverty declines, the social costs of poverty fall, and despair is replaced by hope.
In March 1933, the United States stood on the brink of ruin. Twenty-five percent of the population was unemployed; many people had not worked for several years. The situation was even worse in cities with major industries, where unemployment surpassed the national average. Yet the real worry of the era cannot be captured by statistics alone.
Last week, Christian social justice activist Ron Sider declared that he is quitting AARP because it's opposing changes to Social Security and Medicare that he finds reasonable: proposals that would ask more from wealthier seniors. There are a lot of ideas out there for shoring up Medicare and Social Security, ideas that should be given serious consideration. And I agree with Sider on several points.
Politicians in Washington invariably use the term “entitlements” to refer to programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. On the face of it, it’s a neutral term: citizens are entitled to certain benefits if they fit a certain category of need, hence the benefits might reasonably be called “entitlements.” Yet the word carries ideological freight—an implication that people are lazy or self-indulgent to expect these things.
If we can put a man on the moon and then, 40 years later, persist in spending far more on spacecraft than on passenger trains, we ought to be able to distribute an income-tax receipt that says so.