Missing the Point

On February 11, Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Gebeloff of the New York Times wrote an article, the thesis of which was this: “if you have ever taken one dime of federal money, you can never legitimately argue against shrinking government”. The title of the article says it all – Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It

They cite examples like this:

Ki Gulbranson owns a logo apparel shop, deals in jewelry on the side and referees youth soccer games. He makes about $39,000 a year and wants you to know that he does not need any help from the federal government.

He says that too many Americans lean on taxpayers rather than living within their means. He supports politicians who promise to cut government spending. In 2010, he printed T-shirts for the Tea Party campaign of a neighbor, Chip Cravaack, who ousted this region’s long-serving Democratic congressman.

Yet this year, as in each of the past three years, Mr. Gulbranson, 57, is counting on a payment of several thousand dollars from the federal government, a subsidy for working families called the earned-income tax credit. He has signed up his three school-age children to eat free breakfast and lunch at federal expense. And Medicare paid for his mother, 88, to have hip surgery twice.

So, because Mr. Gulbranson takes part in programs specifically designed by the government to “assist” people like him, policies that he personally had nothing to do with in enacting, he is somehow illegitimate. This is the same argument that is used on me that since I went to public colleges, my conservative stances are somehow illegitimate. My answer to that is that like Mr. Gulbranson, these systems are so pervasive in America that they are virtually impossible to avoid. This is like saying that if you have ever driven on an interstate highway, you can’t be a Tea Party member speaking out against government waste.

I have never criticized individuals for taking part in the EIC (earned income credit) tax provisions – I have attacked government for creating a perverse incentive to accept the redistribution of this money, I attacked the system. I blame no one for minimizing their tax exposure whether they make $15,000 a year or $15,000,000 a year.

In attempting to delegitimize criticism of government by saying, “you say you don’t want it – but you know you love it”, the authors make a more important point, one that was probably lost on them and isn’t contained in the article – but can be found by clicking on a great little infographic in the sidebar (direct link here). It opens with this:

The Geography of Government Benefits

The share of Americans’ income that comes from government benefit programs, like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, more than doubled over the last four decades, rising from 8 percent in 1969 to 18 percent in 2009.

I can’t bring it over to this page but it is well worth studying.

8% to 18% – that’s a 125% increase for those who are counting, the majority share coming from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

And where do Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security funding come from – taxes, taxes coming from a shrinking tax base.

I was stunned to see that 18% of income came from government benefit programs. Mr. Appelbaum and Mr. Gebeloff attempted to expose hypocrisy in the push for smaller government but missed and pointed out that government redistribution, the very thing that we are fighting against, has increased by 125% to a level of almost one-fifth of average national income.

3 thoughts on “Missing the Point

  1. @ Utah

    The first thing that came to mind while reading this was “at least Ki Gulbranson actually pays the taxes in to the system that he receives benefits from”. It could be argued that as such, he is buying a service from the federal government. I wonder how many receive benefits they do not contribute to?

    There is a reason the constitution enumerates powers in government. The notion that there is ever any ‘hypocrisy’ to consider while shrinking government is irrational, and a weak attempt to misdirect the labile mind away from the scope of government, and ultimately our liberty in general.

  2. Just because I use a govt service doesn’t mean I support it. As a contractor, I am always in and out of the “palace” that Bay Co. built on 11th st. I have no choice but to use this waste of taxpayer money but I would never have approved it if I had been asked.

  3. Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Gebeloff of the New York Times wrote an article, the thesis of which was this: “if you have ever taken one dime of federal money, you can never legitimately argue against shrinking government”

    They’re basically saying that if your house is robbed and the thief is then selling your stuff out of a truck at discount, you can’t go buy it.

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