For People Who Think

December 20, 2011

Leave Bad Enough Alone…by Dan Lynch

Filed under: Uncategorized — 4peoplewhothink @ 10:06 pm

Everybody has the perfect solution. I love listening to it when they start in.

In this case, the guy was a friend of some years’ standing. He lives in Syracuse. He was complaining because Onondaga County was giving away clean needles to drug addicts.

“Why encourage them?” he was saying.

So, I asked him, “What do you pay in property taxes?”

“About nine grand a year.”

“About a third of that, I would guess, is the county’s share of Medicaid costs,” I told him. “A lot of that goes to care for formerly middle-class old people in nursing homes, but a lot of it also goes to care for junkies who get AIDS from dirty needles. AIDS treatment is enormously expensive, and it’s not as though they’ll stop shooting up. They’re addicted, remember? So, you can stop giving them the clean needles, and you can then watch your property taxes skyrocket to treat the junkies after they get AIDS.”

“You could let them die,” he pointed out. “They did it to themselves.”

“Yeah, but the hospitals will treat them whether you like it or not, and the hospitals will get reimbursed by the government. We have a policy in this country: We don’t let people just die without medical care, even the morons. We do that because we’re Americans.”

“I guess,” he said in resignation.

“There’s no perfect solution to any of these problems,” I said. “There are only solutions that aren’t as bad as some other solution and better than the problem. Clean needles for junkies isn’t a good idea. It’s just the best of a bunch of other bad ideas.”

That conversation took place a few years ago. I was reminded of it the other night when I was talking to somebody else about how annoying it is when women have out-of-wedlock babies to increase their welfare payments. Maybe, the person I was talking to suggested, these teenage welfare mothers shouldn’t get any more money from welfare when they have new kids.

“Well,” I said, “I had occasion to look up some of that stuff not all that long ago. First, it isn’t the kid’s fault that it was born and needs to eat and needs a roof over its head. Second, almost half of welfare mothers have only one kid. Ten per cent have four or more, but about a third of those welfare mothers have only two kids and only about 15 per cent have three. Also, three-quarters of welfare mothers are in their 20s or 30s. Teenage welfare mothers make up more like 8 per cent of that population.”

What is a problem, I said, is that the vast majority of these poor mothers never had a husband, but that problem was caused largely by a guy named Bob Byrd, who figured that he had the perfect solution to the welfare problem.

Bob Byrd died last year at 92. He’d spent more years in Congress – 57 of them — than any of the 10,000 men and women who’ve been elected to that job in the country’s history. He first got elected from West Virginia because he’d been a big wheel in the Klan down there. He once wrote, “Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.”

Byrd filibustered against the 1964 Civil Rights Act for 14 hours and voted against both Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, the only two black U. S. Supreme Court nominees in history. When he became head of the District of Columbia Committee in Congress, he pushed through the “Man in the House Rule.” That cut off welfare payments to any household with an able-bodied man in residence. Later, the courts threw out that rule on the ground that it violated the equal protection under the law clause of the U.S. Constitution.

By the time the courts did that, though, Byrd had pretty much destroyed marriage among the poor and had done enormous violence to the black family in America. Fathers who couldn’t find work had a choice: They could either get out or watch their kids starve.

What’s interesting is how the value system of the poor then spread to the rest of society. In 1960, only 5.3 per cent of births in this country were to single mothers. Now the out-of-wedlock birth rate is more like 40 per cent. And marriage is totally out of fashion these days. The number of married couples dropped five percent between 2009 and 2010 and has declined by more than 20 percent since 1960. Not that these people aren’t having kids, though. That’s what Bob Byrd wrought with his perfect solution to the welfare problem.

Moral of the story? Some problems just aren’t going away. Screw around with them too much, and you’ll only make things worse.

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