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  1. #1
    Wounded Ronin's Avatar
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    Help me think through the politics of taxes and welfare in the US

    I've never fully understood why, but it's obvious that welfare has been a tool of political mobilization and manipulation for a long time in the US. The history goes back to Ronald Reagan talking about the Welfare Queen (who was an outlying specific individual not representative of a typical user of social services: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linda_Taylor ) and continues today with efforts to test beneficiaries of social services for drug use.

    I cannot help but wonder if this relates to the extreme reaction to the idea of taxes that is seen in US politics. It appears that many people get extremely angry and motivated over the idea of a "tax" and get irrationally happy over the idea of a "tax cut" however minuscule and symbolic.

    I don't have any evidence for this, but after thinking about this for a while, I wonder if this has to do with certain locales I haven't visited.

    What if there are some places in the US where there's a lot of poverty and economic depression, and yet many people don't qualify for social services ironically due to the stringent restrictions placed on said services due to aforementioned politics. Those individuals have trouble making ends meet, and so resent taxes in a disproportionate way, since if they had, say, just two thousand dollars more per year, it would significantly alleviate some of their hardships. (This would explain excitement over small tax cuts and resentment of taxation in general.)

    Then, those individuals look around and see that other individuals qualify for services that they themselves do not. If qualifying individuals hypothetically have a substance abuse problem, or otherwise exhibit antisocial or stigmatized behavior, this could engender resentment. The resentment would be on the basis of something seen on an individual basis, rather than based on any macro-level data or any longer term thinking about how costs to society might be shifted if these programs changed in certain ways. It could explain why some people support the idea of drug services for benefit recipients, even though such testing would cost more money than it would save and essentially would represent a government giveaway to diagnostic lab companies.

    In the context of such a location, it becomes more understandable the idea of combined resentment about taxation and social services.

    This is all hypothetical though. I've simply been trying to come up with an explanation as to why things might be this way.

    Does anyone have more information or experience with this, to help inform my thought process?
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    Man, you are making me work tonight. What with your thoughtful posts and legitimate questions and ****.

    Let's take my personal situation as a perfect example of WHY this is an issue.

    I make... roughly 40-45k a year. Now under the CURRENT income tax law, I have to pay 25% of my income to Federal income taxes, and because of my situation, one job, no kids, no other deductions, if work enough overtime and just claim standard deduction, I am STILL paying 25% of my income.

    Now, under the new tax law, I will immediately get a 3% tax cut, and be able to claim the standard deduction that will move me still further up the chart to only having to pay %12.

    This is not a trivial tax cut for me.

    Now, it is my opinion that there are a LOT of people like me, that make enough that we don't qualify for any sort of assistance, but NOT enough to afford to pay everything we need to pay. Because of this, anything that helps us is quite beneficial.

    Now to another part of your post. Before I bought my current house I lived in an area that would be described as "Ethnically diverse" and "Typical of inner city neighborhoods" and other such colorful euphemisms for a ghetto. The neighborhood I lived in was routinely on the news for violence or property crime.
    Now, while I was there, as I grew up there and lived there for over 25 years, I met MANY people on social services for the long term. The problem with them, at least as administered in this country, is they become a trap that encourages bad behavior. For example, there is a significant gap between an amount of income that will get you kicked off food stamps, and an amount of income needed to be able to afford food on a regular basis. Another individual that I met, drew a monthly disability check because he couldn't read. Not because he was dyslexic, or had vision issues, or anything like that. But because he had convinced the government he was illiterate so they sent him a check. He also worked under the table as a landscaper.
    Currently, one of my former neighbors uses some of her income to buy black market prescription pain killers.
    This is the sort of thing I saw every day. Not to mention the fact that if, at any given time, at least one of my neighbors WASN't a drug dealer by trade, I would have been pleasantly surprised.

    Coming from this background, how can I NOT support drug testing for those drawing such services, and not concern myself much with the reduction of services if it reduces the overall tax burden?

  3. #3
    Wounded Ronin's Avatar
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    Thanks very much for your detailed and heartfelt reply. I actually read it last night but felt that you deserved a longer response typed out at a computer and not mashed out on a phone.

    In the first place, 25% sounds high! What's funny is that thinking back on it for many years, I haven't always known what my effective tax rate was. I think I was so positive about the idea of paying taxes I wasn't counting. Give unto Cesar and all that. But I must have had a similar rate at certain points in time.

    I feel like the US tax system kind of assumes that everyone is taking as many deductions as they can, for example mortgage or property deductions, which in turn might be subsidzed by something like a government FHA loan. Or that people will be maxing out government benefits at the same time, such as government backed student loans. It's kind of a needlessly complex system because so many different interest groups have been exerting influence on it. And it means some people lose out if for some reason they aren't in the position to seek specific large deductions, or get a lot of value from Federal programs.


    For the second part of your post, thanks for sharing that there indeed a lot of people who can't quite make ends meet, but don't qualify for government aid. I sort of suspected, but hadn't necessarily seen firsthand.

    Based on my observations, I do feel that many US government programs suffer from hyper-accountability. This means that basically, in order to appease conservatives, there is an unreasonable amount of costly monitoring of programs that costs more than whatever waste they would eliminate. Furthermore, eligibility is strict to the point where some people who arguably might deserve the assistance can't get it. The irony is that no matter how much hyper-accountability is written into a program, conservative groups will never be appeased because they don't really read the details. For example, on the internet, some people talk like the Clinton welfare reform never happened, and they just rail against whatever they remember from the 1970s. They just always call for cuts. So in that case, why even have the hyper-accountability? It might reduce costs and increase access to get rid of it, if it's not actually going to ward off hostile political acts.


    I have a friend who used to be on public assistance with some mental health issues. He actually got off of it. He made some huge strides in his life and overcame some big challenges and I have tremendous respect for him. He told me (and my research on the structure of these programs supports this) that public assistance programs are structured very poorly and make it hard to get off of them (which seems to be what you're saying too). However, he also told me that the problem is that no one wants to have a serious discussion about editing the programs to make them better. Basically, politically, it's always just a battle against angry people who want to cut the program, and not fix it.

    Again, the culprit seems to be the political anger and the recurring idea or theme of cuts in US political discourse.


    Regarding your point about people who get benefits and then use drugs or engage in other self-destructive behaviors, I agree that to see this must be frustrating indeed. Thanks again for confirming that this does indeed happen in a visible manner.

    My thinking on this is that for people in this situation, it's more about minimizing damage to the individual and to society. Consider your person who buys opioids using public assistance money. A person who behaves in this manner may very well be addicted to opioids and probably would attempt to obtain them with or without public assistance. If this person were hypothetically cut off from assistance, they would probably engage in riskier behaviors to obtain the opioids. Furthermore, the person would be more likely to "crash" in terms of their health and end up in a hospital emergency room.

    Under EMTALA, passed by Ronald Reagan, the hospital would be required to stabilize this person if the hospital gets medicare funding. While hospitalized, the individual would also receive a number of medications. The cost would be absorbed by the hospital and indirectly by the other patients.

    Likewise, if the person goes into the correctional system, the effective cost is transferred to society at that level instead.

    I feel like the problem with conservative thinking in regards to these kinds of social problems is the idea that if you don't address a problem, it goes away. But the reality is that the cost to society will be paid eventually, whether it's through the social program, or whether it's borne by the local hospital, at which time the cost to society is likely to be higher. The thinking should be, how can we minimize the long term harm to the individual and the long term cost to society? And that means addressing it at some point, usually earlier rather than later.

    I recently had a discussion like this about Federally funded programs to treat sexually transmitted diseases. Someone expressed to me their frustration that some people would engage in risky sexual behaviors, get diseases, and then repeatedly get treated through these programs. This is indeed frustrating. However, if these programs were cancelled and these individuals ended up developing very advanced disease states and ended up in hospital emergency rooms for stabilization, the cost would be much greater and might essentially be pushed onto private entities. Hopefully the federal program is absorbing and minimizing these costs early on.

    The other thing that often doesn't get discussed is the idea that not everyone is able to control their behavior. This goes directly against the conservative idea of personal accountability. However, if someone has active addiction, or if someone has certain mental health conditions, they may not be able to fully control their behavior all the time. So any policy based on the idea that all people can fully control their behavior is based on an assumption which may be incorrect.
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  4. #4
    BKR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wounded Ronin View Post
    Thanks very much for your detailed and heartfelt reply. I actually read it last night but felt that you deserved a longer response typed out at a computer and not mashed out on a phone.In the first place, 25% sounds high! What's funny is that thinking back on it for many years, I haven't always known what my effective tax rate was. I think I was so positive about the idea of paying taxes I wasn't counting. Give unto Cesar and all that. But I must have had a similar rate at certain points in time.I feel like the US tax system kind of assumes that everyone is taking as many deductions as they can, for example mortgage or property deductions, which in turn might be subsidzed by something like a government FHA loan. Or that people will be maxing out government benefits at the same time, such as government backed student loans. It's kind of a needlessly complex system because so many different interest groups have been exerting influence on it. And it means some people lose out if for some reason they aren't in the position to seek specific large deductions, or get a lot of value from Federal programs.For the second part of your post, thanks for sharing that there indeed a lot of people who can't quite make ends meet, but don't qualify for government aid. I sort of suspected, but hadn't necessarily seen firsthand.Based on my observations, I do feel that many US government programs suffer from hyper-accountability. This means that basically, in order to appease conservatives, there is an unreasonable amount of costly monitoring of programs that costs more than whatever waste they would eliminate. Furthermore, eligibility is strict to the point where some people who arguably might deserve the assistance can't get it. The irony is that no matter how much hyper-accountability is written into a program, conservative groups will never be appeased because they don't really read the details. For example, on the internet, some people talk like the Clinton welfare reform never happened, and they just rail against whatever they remember from the 1970s. They just always call for cuts. So in that case, why even have the hyper-accountability? It might reduce costs and increase access to get rid of it, if it's not actually going to ward off hostile political acts.I have a friend who used to be on public assistance with some mental health issues. He actually got off of it. He made some huge strides in his life and overcame some big challenges and I have tremendous respect for him. He told me (and my research on the structure of these programs supports this) that public assistance programs are structured very poorly and make it hard to get off of them (which seems to be what you're saying too). However, he also told me that the problem is that no one wants to have a serious discussion about editing the programs to make them better. Basically, politically, it's always just a battle against angry people who want to cut the program, and not fix it.Again, the culprit seems to be the political anger and the recurring idea or theme of cuts in US political discourse.Regarding your point about people who get benefits and then use drugs or engage in other self-destructive behaviors, I agree that to see this must be frustrating indeed. Thanks again for confirming that this does indeed happen in a visible manner.My thinking on this is that for people in this situation, it's more about minimizing damage to the individual and to society. Consider your person who buys opioids using public assistance money. A person who behaves in this manner may very well be addicted to opioids and probably would attempt to obtain them with or without public assistance. If this person were hypothetically cut off from assistance, they would probably engage in riskier behaviors to obtain the opioids. Furthermore, the person would be more likely to "crash" in terms of their health and end up in a hospital emergency room. Under EMTALA, passed by Ronald Reagan, the hospital would be required to stabilize this person if the hospital gets medicare funding. While hospitalized, the individual would also receive a number of medications. The cost would be absorbed by the hospital and indirectly by the other patients.Likewise, if the person goes into the correctional system, the effective cost is transferred to society at that level instead.I feel like the problem with conservative thinking in regards to these kinds of social problems is the idea that if you don't address a problem, it goes away. But the reality is that the cost to society will be paid eventually, whether it's through the social program, or whether it's borne by the local hospital, at which time the cost to society is likely to be higher. The thinking should be, how can we minimize the long term harm to the individual and the long term cost to society? And that means addressing it at some point, usually earlier rather than later.I recently had a discussion like this about Federally funded programs to treat sexually transmitted diseases. Someone expressed to me their frustration that some people would engage in risky sexual behaviors, get diseases, and then repeatedly get treated through these programs. This is indeed frustrating. However, if these programs were cancelled and these individuals ended up developing very advanced disease states and ended up in hospital emergency rooms for stabilization, the cost would be much greater and might essentially be pushed onto private entities. Hopefully the federal program is absorbing and minimizing these costs early on.The other thing that often doesn't get discussed is the idea that not everyone is able to control their behavior. This goes directly against the conservative idea of personal accountability. However, if someone has active addiction, or if someone has certain mental health conditions, they may not be able to fully control their behavior all the time. So any policy based on the idea that all people can fully control their behavior is based on an assumption which may be incorrect.
    Vast majority of taxpayers do NOT itemize. Now that the new tax law is working, and the standard deduction is doubled, I suspect even fewer will be itemizing.https://taxfoundation.org/who-itemizes-deductions/
    Falling for Judo since 1980

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  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wounded Ronin View Post
    Thanks very much for your detailed and heartfelt reply. I actually read it last night but felt that you deserved a longer response typed out at a computer and not mashed out on a phone.

    In the first place, 25% sounds high! What's funny is that thinking back on it for many years, I haven't always known what my effective tax rate was. I think I was so positive about the idea of paying taxes I wasn't counting. Give unto Cesar and all that. But I must have had a similar rate at certain points in time.

    I feel like the US tax system kind of assumes that everyone is taking as many deductions as they can, for example mortgage or property deductions, which in turn might be subsidzed by something like a government FHA loan. Or that people will be maxing out government benefits at the same time, such as government backed student loans. It's kind of a needlessly complex system because so many different interest groups have been exerting influence on it. And it means some people lose out if for some reason they aren't in the position to seek specific large deductions, or get a lot of value from Federal programs.


    For the second part of your post, thanks for sharing that there indeed a lot of people who can't quite make ends meet, but don't qualify for government aid. I sort of suspected, but hadn't necessarily seen firsthand.

    Based on my observations, I do feel that many US government programs suffer from hyper-accountability. This means that basically, in order to appease conservatives, there is an unreasonable amount of costly monitoring of programs that costs more than whatever waste they would eliminate. Furthermore, eligibility is strict to the point where some people who arguably might deserve the assistance can't get it. The irony is that no matter how much hyper-accountability is written into a program, conservative groups will never be appeased because they don't really read the details. For example, on the internet, some people talk like the Clinton welfare reform never happened, and they just rail against whatever they remember from the 1970s. They just always call for cuts. So in that case, why even have the hyper-accountability? It might reduce costs and increase access to get rid of it, if it's not actually going to ward off hostile political acts.


    I have a friend who used to be on public assistance with some mental health issues. He actually got off of it. He made some huge strides in his life and overcame some big challenges and I have tremendous respect for him. He told me (and my research on the structure of these programs supports this) that public assistance programs are structured very poorly and make it hard to get off of them (which seems to be what you're saying too). However, he also told me that the problem is that no one wants to have a serious discussion about editing the programs to make them better. Basically, politically, it's always just a battle against angry people who want to cut the program, and not fix it.

    Again, the culprit seems to be the political anger and the recurring idea or theme of cuts in US political discourse.


    Regarding your point about people who get benefits and then use drugs or engage in other self-destructive behaviors, I agree that to see this must be frustrating indeed. Thanks again for confirming that this does indeed happen in a visible manner.

    My thinking on this is that for people in this situation, it's more about minimizing damage to the individual and to society. Consider your person who buys opioids using public assistance money. A person who behaves in this manner may very well be addicted to opioids and probably would attempt to obtain them with or without public assistance. If this person were hypothetically cut off from assistance, they would probably engage in riskier behaviors to obtain the opioids. Furthermore, the person would be more likely to "crash" in terms of their health and end up in a hospital emergency room.

    Under EMTALA, passed by Ronald Reagan, the hospital would be required to stabilize this person if the hospital gets medicare funding. While hospitalized, the individual would also receive a number of medications. The cost would be absorbed by the hospital and indirectly by the other patients.

    Likewise, if the person goes into the correctional system, the effective cost is transferred to society at that level instead.

    I feel like the problem with conservative thinking in regards to these kinds of social problems is the idea that if you don't address a problem, it goes away. But the reality is that the cost to society will be paid eventually, whether it's through the social program, or whether it's borne by the local hospital, at which time the cost to society is likely to be higher. The thinking should be, how can we minimize the long term harm to the individual and the long term cost to society? And that means addressing it at some point, usually earlier rather than later.

    I recently had a discussion like this about Federally funded programs to treat sexually transmitted diseases. Someone expressed to me their frustration that some people would engage in risky sexual behaviors, get diseases, and then repeatedly get treated through these programs. This is indeed frustrating. However, if these programs were cancelled and these individuals ended up developing very advanced disease states and ended up in hospital emergency rooms for stabilization, the cost would be much greater and might essentially be pushed onto private entities. Hopefully the federal program is absorbing and minimizing these costs early on.

    The other thing that often doesn't get discussed is the idea that not everyone is able to control their behavior. This goes directly against the conservative idea of personal accountability. However, if someone has active addiction, or if someone has certain mental health conditions, they may not be able to fully control their behavior all the time. So any policy based on the idea that all people can fully control their behavior is based on an assumption which may be incorrect.
    So, there are a lot of good points in here, and yes, we are in accord regarding the programs not being easy to get off of and no one wanting to fix it, though I would say that it is an argument between 2 people who keep yelling "MOAR cuts" vs "MOAR money" at each other while what is needed is a comprehensive overhaul of the entire system.

    Now as to your point about people controlling their behavior, this is not just a conservative viewpoint. It is the basis of our legal system and a fundamental requirement of our society. Because people who can't choose to control their behavior, at a basic level, are not people, they are animals.
    To give an example of this: The entire concept of the #MeToo movement is based on the idea that men are capable of controlling their sexual impulses at EVERY stage of EVERY interpersonal encounter, and that, because of our physical advantages we are, or should be, required by society to subject this control to the females with which we interact, at least until clear consent is established.
    The problem is, there is just as much evidence to suggest that this is both impossible and socially unreasonable as there is to suggest that addicts "Can't" control their behavior, at least enough to fit within societal bounds.

    The moment we try to state the fact that people "can't help it" as a valid excuse for behavior, is the moment we disregard the concept of law and order and instead embrace whatever political or sociological idea is popular regarding excusing otherwise unacceptable behavior.
    You CAN help it, if you believe you can and are properly incentivized. Now, if the threats of societal punishment are not enough incentive to desist the behavior or seek medical help, which in spite of media statements to the contrary is QUITE available in the overwhelming majority of places, then the consequences are squarely on your shoulders.
    Now I get that you are trying to state that it is actually still going to cost society either way, and you may be right, but not to the extent I believe you are thinking because of one very important factor.
    A certain percentage of the people who continue to engage in high risk behavior WITHOUT support or subsidization from society WILL hit rock bottom. At that point they will either get better or die. Overall, society is better off either way.

  6. #6
    Nutcracker, sweet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BKR View Post
    Vast majority of taxpayers do NOT itemize. Now that the new tax law is working, and the standard deduction is doubled, I suspect even fewer will be itemizing.https://taxfoundation.org/who-itemizes-deductions/
    We always have, but it remains to be seen if that will continue. For example, business use of home deduction I always grab, this will be the last year I can do so.

  7. #7
    BKR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by submessenger View Post
    We always have, but it remains to be seen if that will continue. For example, business use of home deduction I always grab, this will be the last year I can do so.
    I no longer own a home, and not self-employed, so there you go. But with standard deduction doubling and being married, would be a hell of a mortgage to qualify...

    I'm trying to work my w-4 to where I do not give Uncle Sam an interest free loan...
    Falling for Judo since 1980

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by AcerTempest View Post
    Coming from this background, how can I NOT support drug testing for those drawing such services, and not concern myself much with the reduction of services if it reduces the overall tax burden?
    How much of your taxes goes to these people?

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by DCS View Post
    How much of your taxes goes to these people?
    Directly? None. Our government hasn't operated off of tax revenue for years. It operates off of loans and debt, then pays them back, or at least the interest on them, with revenues.

    The issue is, collectively, we have decided that it somehow benefits us as a society to pay some portion of our operating funds to essentially keep people from falling below a certain rung of quality of life, BUT it also conveniently KEEPS them at this rung for a lot longer than they otherwise would be.

    I don't know that I have any simplistic answers for this problem. But I CAN tell you from direct experience that it DOES contribute to criminal behavior in a lot of places by encouraging generational poverty, which has been GLOBALLY linked to increased crime rates.

    The direct costs are not so much the issue. We spend ridiculous amounts on things all the time. But the indirect cost in human misery and societal decline that comes from having a system that seems designed to prolong poverty rather than alleviate it?
    THAT is a cost I object to. And to continue pouring more funding in to such a system without a comprehensive overhaul is something I can understand being objectionable to a LOT of people.

  10. #10

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    Tax situations worldwide will worsen when more **** becomes automated (for example driverless buses), more unemployment. Somone has to pick up the slack.

    Acertempest you are just above the poverty line in australia. The average wage is i think 70k here. Anything above i think 80k puts you on a high tax bracket where 40c per dollar you make goes to the man. In a country where toothpaste is $6 and local made beer is $55+ for a slab (24 bottles) and average home in melbourne costs 900k **** is getting ridiculous. Work slowed down so i went from full time to part time and pretty make the same you Ace. Ive decided for career change to make more cash.

    There was an idea to drug test people living in welfare housing/people on welfare here but it was met with alot of opposition. Cost being one but the biggest one was something about human rights or some ****.
    Last edited by Kravbizarre; 1/23/2018 4:38pm at .

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