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Pennies From Heaven? Why the Government Fails at Playing Good Samaritan

Posted on December 9 2010 7:00 pm
Has been a computer programmer/consultant for 25 years. Now turning to writing -- author of "A Critical Inquiry into The Case Against Capital."

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Helicopter Dumping Money

Creating Prosperity

“They need it.”

That is becoming a well-nigh unanswerable argument in Washington today. Anytime programs are proposed that spend money on aid of some type, the final, clinching argument is usually to point to some individual or segment of society that is putatively in need, and whose need (it is implied) can only be met by government. The inference is, it would be cruel and heartless not to spend the money to help those people. “They need it” — case closed, Q.E.D.

Thus Jim McDermott could place extending unemployment benefits on a level with Christian charity, Christmas spirit, and the Good Samaritan:

This is Christmas-time. We talk about Good Samaritans, the poor, the little baby Jesus in the cradle and all this stuff. And then we say to the unemployed we won’t give you a check to feed your family.  That’s simply wrong.

In other words, if “they need it,” and if government doesn’t provide it, that’s simply wrong. No argument has yet been devised to convince the great mass of people that there’s something wrong with that argument; it is the all-conquering Moloch of political debate today.

Obama works on the same assumption:

I’m not willing to see 2 million Americans who stand to lose their unemployment insurance at the end of this month be put in a situation where they might lose their home or their car or suffer some additional economic catastrophe.

The “they need it” argument is one reason a 13-month extension of unemployment bennies became part of the tax deal now working in Congress; there was never a chance benefits wouldn’t be extended.

Stoking A Furnace With Money

Stoking The Economy

But there’s another rationale for extending benefits. Democrats say that extending unemployment benefits will boost the economy, by injecting demand into the system. MSNBC’s Richard Wolffe, just one of many talking heads making that claim, said this (on the CBS “Late Late Show,” Dec. 8):

And in the meantime, unemployed people get their benefits, another extra $400 billion goes into the economy — which everyone thinks is a good idea — tax credits come in, and the middle class don’t get screwed . . .

“Everyone” thinks it’s a good idea?

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