September 3, 2013 by David K. Sutton
Lacking Compassion: Conservatives Cannot See Past Their Contempt
I’m actively engaged in what has evolved to become a “mostly” cordial conversation with a conservative via Facebook private message on the Left Call fan page. You’d be surprised that I even bothered to respond to this person given it did not start out cordially. This was his first message:
You left wing people are fucking idiots
But I did respond, and somehow this discussion has gone on for 10 or 11 days now, usually with one reply for each side every day. The main topic is the typical conservative worldview that posits they are working hard, paying their taxes and others are lazy, not working, and abusing the system. Conservatives with this viewpoint, who number in the tens of millions, say things like “my tax dollars,” forgetting that they aren’t the only ones paying taxes. May I remind all these conservatives that liberals, who truly care for people in economic distress, also pay taxes. Liberals also do not want to see our collective tax dollars go to waste.
So anyway, this conversation has gone back and forth and my position, as always, is that we don’t punish the dishonest by punishing the honest. We don’t scrap programs like unemployment insurance or SNAP (food stamps) because of a small amount of abuse in those programs. And the usual retort from this conservative is that fraud is widespread. So I ask him to show me the evidence. Finally today he did cite two numbers. He said, “Did a little research and welfare fraud cost taxpayers between 9 and 13.5 billion a year but I guess liberals will find an argument against that huh?” Why yes, I will.
I’ll accept these numbers for the sake of making my point. I’ll assume they are correct. And based on a Google search, I believe his source was the article [“How much is Welfare Fraud Costing Us? (Welfare Reform Part 12)“]. In this article, the author does state , “At the average rate of $11,500 per year [welfare benefits to families], this [welfare fraud] is costing the tax payers between $9.0 – $13.5 Billion dollars every year.” If you do a little math using federal budget expenditures and welfare expenditures in 2013, you will find that this “fraud” accounts for 0.3% of total federal spending and 3% of total welfare spending. Obviously upwards of $13.5 billion is not nothing. That’s a large sum of money. But in the context of total federal spending and total welfare spending, it’s a relatively small amount of money, and is likely not the biggest form of wasteful spending that we could find in the federal budget.
And if this was the source used by this conservative, I think he may have failed to read the entire article. Later on, the author says, “We must keep our emotions in check though. Certainly fraud and illegal activity is taking advantage of our mercy and goodwill. In our anger and desire to improve the operation of welfare programs, let’s not lose sight of the good that these programs do. Let’s also balance the emotional impact of immoral behaviors with the greater number of people who are legitimately and fairly receiving welfare benefits.” That sums up my take on welfare fraud. Do I think it’s a problem? Sure. Do I think we need to dismantle SNAP, unemployment benefits, etc. to fix the problem of fraud? Of course not. — Only a scornful, contemptuous reactionary would suggest imploding the 97% in welfare spending that is working, to combat the 3% that is subject to fraud. Or in other words, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Focus your effort on the fraud, not the people in economic distress.
And if you really care about reducing welfare spending, the first thing we could do is make sure people are paid a living wage by their employer. Nobody working a full-time job should have to rely on government assistance to get by. If that is happening, that means workers are being exploited. We must raise the minimum wage!