How much should we spend for the poor?
I’m intrigued by Bart’s recent posts on the growth of entitlement spending. After a week hiking through the wilderness, I’m back at a keyboard and can tackle the question appropriately.
Bart notes that while some humanitarian floor is necessary for the very poor, the amount spent on various social programs has grown dramatically over the past fifty years. Bart notes that Progressives (such as myself) are reluctant to propose, or even discuss caps on such spending.
I want to pin down why Bart thinks this is a damning question to ask liberals while I think it is a silly and obviously unanswerable question. I think it has to do with how we prioritize helping the more vulnerable parts of society. Do we consider it optional? Or, to rephrase Bart’s question, at what point do we say, “Fuck it. Taking care of others is just too hard.”
To me, watching out for those who need it most is one of the great ends of society. It’s a duty we can’t ignore. (And this is one of the places where my politics are religiously informed. The whole loving of the neighbor and honoring of the fathers and mothers isn’t particularly negotiable). Maybe I can offer a clear answer to Bart’s question on how much we should be willing to spend to care for those who need it:
As much as it takes. Everything, if need be.
Look—I don’t think we need to keep dumping good money after bad on this one. There are better ways to do this that cost a lot less. Our current crop of social programs spends a lot of money on bandaids and not a lot of money on addressing the systemic causes of social injury. Alleviating poverty is a lot cheaper if we’re willing to take on the root causes. I’m all for doing this intelligently—and the dumptrucks-full-of-money approach is not intelligent. But even that is a more acceptable solution to the problem than throwing in the towel.