Race, Responsibility and the Welfare State

by Vic Nicholls

What is the justification for taxing people to provide healthcare? There is no mandate for it in the Constitution. The “general welfare” was never considered to include health care. The campaign slogans of the Founding Fathers never included, “Free leech treatments for all!”

Are all men “created equal”? No. Everyone has different talents. I can’t get on a football or basketball team. They can’t do what I do in Information Technology. Is it the job or responsibility of the United States government to make me equal to them or them equal to me? No. Are we equal in the sight of God? Yes.

Should people who sacrificed to made the personal choices to earn college degrees and delay having children until they were married be penalized for making those choices by forcing them to pay for others who didn’t? Would you expect to pay higher insurance because your neighbors’ kid wrecked two of his parents cars? Is it fair to discriminate against those with bad driving records? Should the government require equal insurance premiums for everyone?

If we institute Medicare/Medicaid for all, where would personal responsibility start and end? If there is a shortage of doctors, how do we determine who gets one and who doesn’t? Since we were given the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” how does freedom from the tyrant’s power to tax me to fund his armies and empire translate into the power of my fellow countrymen to tax me to provide them 21st-century medical care?

Nowadays, appeals to personal responsibility and initiative are described as justifications for white privilege. If you earned a B.A. degree, got a job in your field, married, and then had kids, would you expect your children to have a better start in life than one who’s parents didn’t? Of course! Does that make you “privileged”? Not at all.

Notice that in listing the essential requirements for success in life, I didn’t mention race. That’s because I know non-white spouses who followed the formula and live as well as I do.

Many assume that all differences between the races are due to racism. But once you factor out marriage, education, in-wedlock birth, age (whites are older on average than blacks and Hispanics and have had more time to climb the income scale), and inheritance from parents who made the same responsible choices, what difference is there left?

If it’s racism that keeps people down rather than hard work and grit that allow people to rise, how do we explain the career of the noted African-American economist Dr. Walter Williams? He grew up in the projects with his mother and sister, but no father. He earned a Ph.D. in 1972, and has been teaching at George Mason University since 1980, and he publishes a nationally syndicated column. Racism was worse back then than it is now. How do we explain his success?

Explain Mae Jemison. She was born in Alabama in 1956. Her mother was an elementary English/math school teacher and her father was a maintenance supervisor. Her family moved to Chicago to give her better educational opportunities. She graduated high school in 1973 and went to Stanford at age 16, graduating 4 years later with a B.S. in chemical engineering and B.A. in African/Afro-American studies. Engineering professors would pretend she wasn’t there. Her family was always encouraging, though. She got her M.D. in 1981 at Cornell.

Explain Dr. Ben Carson, Dr. Charles Drew, or countless others less famous. Explain my African-American next-door neighbors, both of whose kids have masters’ degrees. I can explain their success: My neighbors married before the kids were born and have lived in the same house since the ’80’s. They sacrificed a ton to make sure their kids got a solid start in life. 

It’s time we asked a different question: When government takes away from those who worked for their success and gives it to those who didn’t, does it subsidize failure? When government subsidizes failure, do we get more of it?

Vic Nicholls lives in Chesapeake. For more on the topic, she recommends viewing Walter Williams’ speech, “How much can discrimination explain?” on the video above.

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16 responses to “Race, Responsibility and the Welfare State

  1. The worst question is: does this foster GOVERNMENT CONTROL over people’s lives? Is that what the govt. is attempting to do? Sure looks like it.

  2. So maybe here’s a good question. What “entitles” anyone to employer-provided health insurance where the government forces the insurer to cover people they would not cover otherwise – and charge people a lot more according to their actual health status and age – than otherwise.

    what “entitles” people to benefit from those govt rules? Where in the Constitution does it say the govt should force insurers to cover people?

    Without govt rules – insurance companies would deny coverage to employees and their family members based on age and/or health status.

    so what exactly “entitles” people to insurance where the govt requires the insurer to cover?

  3. Work ethic in getting, having and keeping a job. Being responsible and paying taxes. Why should one who doesn’t work and who can but refuses to by not being responsible, should get benefits? The whole country was built on the foundation of go out there and work and get your own benefits from that. Even the Bible states if a man will not work, he doesn’t eat (II Thess. 3:10) and man should provide for his family (I Tim. 5:8).

    I have a list of resources to support this. Maybe LarryG you should start answering questions and giving resources besides trying to insert your own because you can’t answer and know that the system doesn’t work to get people into working for benefits.

    • None of that “entitles” one to special or disparate government treatment on health insurance.

      what entitles anyone to govt protection on insurance?

    • VN, you quote Paul and I will quote Jesus….shall we start? I can start to rummage through some Old Testament prophets for good measure. You will not come out on top in this argument. Our social welfare system is deeply Biblical (probably time to add the Jubilee and wipe out some debts!)

      • Steve, please do quote Jesus. I’d like to see what you come up with.

        Jesus called for people to give away all their wealth, give it to the poor, and join him. He did not call upon Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate to tax the people in order to create a welfare state.

        I don’t see many people giving away all their money and giving it to the poor. Of course, not many people today believe, as Jesus did, that the kingdom of God was imminent, that the old order would be cast away, and that a new Godly order would miraculously appear in its place.

  4. Question for your LarryG.

    Northam said its “immoral” to force families to choose between food and medical care (check http://www.easternshorepost.com/content/north-addresses-health-care-forum/). So how is it not immoral to force families to choose well earned benefits and putting into the economy when people make bad choices and expect others to bail them out?

  5. re: ” So how is it not immoral to force families to choose well earned benefits and putting into the economy when people make bad choices and expect others to bail them out?”

    well WHO decides what is “well earned benefits”? is it the Government?

    why do you want the government to help you based on your own idea of what is right or not?

    why should the government “help” you if you “earned” your benefits especially if there is nothing in the Constitution that says it should?

  6. So what’s the issue here? Is it the argument over whether there should be any government transfer programs, using tax dollars to provide services to others? Because that argument is over and now we are just arguing where to draw the lines. This is no longer 1935 0r 1965.

    Or is it whether racism contributed to lingering poverty? Because of course slavery, racism and Jim Crow took their toll over centuries – the worst effects ending only in my lifetime and not really gone entirely – and it will take at least a couple of generations to build wealth and educational achievement in the families so damaged, even in a society that is eager to see that happen. I hope the author of that posting is not so deluded as to think that poverty and government dependence are exclusive to one demographic group or region (because I have roots in SW Virginia and know otherwise).

    There is a clear theme (which resonates with you, Jim, because you return to it often) that poverty is mainly the fault of the individual, individual effort and morality are the cure, and the rest of have no responsibility to help. Rejecting that thesis is the one tenet of Christianity (and also Islam, for that matter) that still has a deep hold on me.

    • When people are born into poverty, it’s not their fault. People born into poverty face longer odds in creating a decent life for themselves than people born into more fortunate circumstances. But some people climb out of poverty while others remain mired in it. Those who climb out invariably show certain character traits that the others do not.

      We live in a society in which poor people are counted as victims and held blameless for their self-defeating behavior. As Vic suggests, virtuous behavior is taxed and harmful behavior is subsidized. Why should we be surprised that, far from eradicating it, poverty seems intractable? No one is saying we should dismantle the welfare state. Vic is crying out — and I agree with her — that we need to understand clearly what is happening. If we approach the issue of poverty clouded with self-delusion, we have no hope of wiping it out.

  7. I see no delusion here on Vic’s part. I see clear thinking on her part. I also agree with Jim Bacon in full. I would add that the most debilitating and disrespectful action you can take against anyone is to declare them a victim.

  8. Nobody said the poor are all victims and nobody said that the help we owe them is a handout or a government transfer program. I often argue that government dependency is destructive. But it is also clear that one thing that can keep poor people from getting a leg up, or that can destroy their progress in a single event, is a major medical challenge without a way to pay the bills. For those of us with some resources, the tax code greatly magnifies our advantages (right, Larry?) Stop the subsidies for the well off (including greedy medical providers) and then I will listen to you whine about having to help your less fortunate neighbors. I recognize how I benefit from the former and I’ll willing to help with the latter.

    In other words, remove the log from your own eye…..

    • “Stop the subsidies for the well off (including greedy medical providers) and then I will listen to you whine about having to help your less fortunate neighbors. I recognize how I benefit from the former and I’ll willing to help with the latter.”

      I do not think you have the slightest idea about what other people are talking about. Either that, or you are setting up a straw man in order to show off. I am strongly inclined to think the latter is the case here.

  9. There is a big difference between working poor who get hit by a medical issue (but is that their own choice)? Is it an accident or is it diabetes and hypertension from diet? Lack of exercise? I don’t eat fast food. I buy stuff at Aldi’s and Walmart and eat/fix it at home. I eat sandwiches, no fries. I don’t drink sodas. What are the choices?

    The point is I grew up in what is considered the “hood”. I have 2 technical degrees and am working in a professional job, living in a decent neighborhood. I didn’t get there by whining about it, I got there by having invested in my own future by education. I know discrimination because I got it – all the way from being asked the year I got my college degree (to find my age) – as just one example. I still get it in several ways.

    In other words, I want to see effort to overcoming the other issues before I, as someone who has been there and know the game – should be asked to pay for those who won’t do. I have seen it, I’ve been present in several areas when ‘how to play the game/system’ was discussed. You are BS’ing the wrong person.

  10. Speaking of Jesus, instead of eisegesis use exegesis. The Bible is consistent. If you find it inconsistent, check your interpretation.

    The reason why Paul was a tentmaker was to support himself. In addition to not stealing, bearing false witness (gaming the system), and coveting what someone else has, what other items do you think the Bible says in support of paying for those who have made bad choices?

    Why did God have the Israelites wander for 40 years? Reprecussions for their actions? Didn’t David have reprecussions for what he did with Bathsheba? Solomon and all the wives?


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