The website Gawkeron Tuesday featured a story with a grabby lead paragraph:
“A new study that traces the effect of government programs on poverty all the way back to 1967 finds unequivocally that the money the government spends to help the poor does, in fact, reduce poverty. Suck it, Republicans.”
The study from Columbia University only shows this, though, if we assume that welfare provision can allow and sometimes encourage people to behave irresponsibly, while having no effect on the total amount of irresponsible behavior.
For example, could it be that a system giving money to women and children when men abandon them encourages more abandonment? Could it be that a system giving money to men disabled by drugs or alcohol could lead some men to think such a disability isn’t so bad? Could it be that a system giving their own apartments to unmarried teen moms trapped in bad homes could encourage some to gain an independence of sorts by getting pregnant?
Nearly five decades of evidence shows that all those things have normally happened: See many books, including Charles Murray’s Losing Ground, my The Tragedy of American Compassion, and (on welfare-through-pregnancy) liberal Washington Post reporter Leon Dash’s When Children Want Children. Abnormal situations include parents drugging their children for cash: See my “Disabling Security” article from the Dec. 17, 2011, WORLD and the liberal Boston Globe reporting on which it’s based.
The Columbia study assumed that monetary incentives do not change conduct. It did not deal with the key question in assessing any attempts to provide effective compassion: How to help those truly in need without creating more need by encouraging some to waste God-given ability and become unnecessarily dependent.
Don’t suck it, Gawker: Analyze. Think. Learn.