The road to insolvency is paved with good intentions.

2009 Budget Summary.indd

Listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM 600, Friday, January 11, 2013.

It’s 2.5 million light years from Earth’s spot in the Milky Way Galaxy to the Andromeda Galaxy. Thanks to Wikipedia, and not to my facility in multiplying the speed of light by the number of seconds in a year and then by 2.5 million, I know that the distance to Andromeda expressed as a linear value is 2.4 x 1019 kilometers.

I don’t know what that is in miles and I’m not going to try to figure it out. The number is  just so incomprehensibly huge that it quickly becomes an abstraction.

And that’s the point.

The same occurs in discussions of U.S. government spending. The sheer number of departments, agencies and programs of the federal government and the money involved is so massive in scale that any discussion quickly becomes abstract in the same way that discussion of the distance from Earth to Andromeda is abstract. You just can’t wrap your mind around it.

So rather than try discussion on such terms I’m going to zero in on just one government department, namely the Department of Housing & Urban Development, usually just called “HUD.” With a budget of $44 billion, HUD is the eighth-largest of the 15 cabinet-level departments.

We’ll stick to this one department to illustrate a very important concept that is projectable upon much of the rest of the U.S. government and particularly those parts of the government that are pushing the country to financial ruin.

That key concept is that one of the biggest drivers of America’s massive spending and debt problem is our inability to weigh the good intentions of programs that spend billions of dollars against the actual results that those programs produce.

HUD is a case in point. HUD was created in 1965 as one part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” initiatives in order to help poor people find housing better than the substandard dwellings in which they were currently living. It was all well-intended.

HUD went around the country acquiring property and building public housing. The residents quickly came to call their new homes “the projects.”

The projects soon became crime-ridden, blighted cesspools that were in many cases worse than the poor-quality dwellings they were intended to replace.

Faced with the unlivability of the projects, HUD then expanded Section 8 of a 1937 law to create the “Housing Choice Voucher Program.” The name “Section 8” stuck.

Section 8 gives rent vouchers, worth up to as much as $2,200 a month, to low-income recipients so that they might leave the projects and disperse into middle class neighborhoods. Proponents of the program believed that in addition to leaving the problems of the projects behind, residents would gain the additional benefit of having middle class values rub off on them by virtue of living among the middle class.

There’s no time limit on receiving Section 8 housing assistance and no work requirement. As a result, instead of being a bridge to a better life as was intended, for many of the 2.1 million Section 8 voucher recipients, the program has become a way of life. Many recipients either avoid seeking higher income jobs or they hide the proceeds from higher income jobs so as to not risk forfeiting their Section 8 benefits.

Such was never the intention of Section 8 housing. But it’s what actually happened.

This is but a single illustration of a single government program. Project the unintended consequences of this program upon programs ranging from Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, a.k.a. food stamps) to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF, a.k.a welfare) to the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and so on and so on and it’s not hard to see why America has a growing underclass even as the country spends itself into ruin trying to lift up the underclass.

All of these programs suffer from the enormous costs of their unintended consequences that will one day lead to the biggest unintended consequence of them all: a Greek-like financial collapse. Only this time on a massive scale. A scale comparable to the distances between galaxies.

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Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of ATW Media, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The TEAM FM in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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3 Responses

  1. bullish bob bagley says:

    A friend sent me this this morning: Police report–a woman said she noticed her purse was missing from her car just before 5 p.m. Sunday. The car was parked at her residence on Hornet Drive. The woman said the car had been locked, and the purse was in the back seat. The purse was valued at $400, her wallet was valued at $200 and she said there was $800 cash in the purse, according to the police report. Also missing were the woman’s food stamp cards.

  2. C M Solomon says:

    The Liberal, Socialist, Marxist philosophy that replaces genuine charity with a Government Entitlement Benefit is doomed from its inception to reduce or correct poverty. The purpose of such a scheme is immoral because it forcibly takes property (labor compensation) from those who earned it and gives it to those who didn’t earn it without ANY obligation to pay it back to the original owners of such property. This is legalized theft and is purposely designed to perpetuate dependency and creates a class of captives beholden to the “Govm’t” for basic necessities or even luxuries if they can get away with it.

    This form of reward (for NO effort) is never satisfied since the BIG Government tyrants continuously gain power via the “takers” at the expense of the “makers”. The so called “Poverty Class” can only explode in numbers when the EXPECTATION of benefits are advertised and taken without any shame or obligation to change life style or to be motivated to become self-sufficient. This has been the legacy of ALL of the diabolical “poverty” programs.

    I never believed that the Socialist Democrat wars on poverty were ever good-intentioned. They defied common sense and smelled of corruption from the very start. Were there unintended consequences? I don’t think so! These programs bought votes while suppressing normal human desires to escape poverty by “self improvement”: the history and legacy of most of our “dirt poor” ancestors who became successful members of society. I am constantly amazed at the number of families that I observe every day that are living tax-free from the taxes on my labor while they are given food, housing, medical care, etc., that I provide for myself AFTER paying my taxes.

    I KNEW this would happen from the beginning of Johnson’s War on Poverty since 1964. I rejected ANY good-intentioned motivations then, as I do now. The sorry Republicans and timid Conservatives did not challenge the viability of such a scheme for fear of being demonized as “selfish and uncaring”. This technique has been successfully used by the despicable Socialists for 80 years. Very few statesmen have risen to the floor to successfully expose and condemn it for the LIE that it is.

    After nearly 50 years of this nonsense, we are now faced with nearly half of the population that are willing to sell their votes and freedom for a “pot of porridge” while dragging the entire nation into bankruptcy. The would-be tyrants are in the wings to finally destroy the Constitution as they plot to take power. They smell the “blood in the water.” We need a miracle of fearless courage on the part of some Patriots to expose the Socialist LIE if this nation is to survive.

  3. PK Lewis says:

    Somewhere along the line, I thought: I understood that ALL projects had multiple studies done ; backward & forewards to determine their usability, viability, costs saved, costs intended,etc .
    It appears they do not.
    Why aren’t research projects done to find out answers to good( mathamatical numbers to “prove’ this fact), harm, unintended harm ,numbers of people helped, numbers of people hurt, etc.

    I was a research major in Graduate school.
    We had to do many projects tio determine the usefulness in this manor.
    I thought …maybe assumed, that ALL projects at any monetary level had to ‘prove’ the usefullness of their being .

    Where did this stop??
    Why did this this stop??
    How can anyone get funded without this to prove credibility??
    This seems slipshod to me.
    Can anyone answer this question??

    I often thought tat a study on the War Against Poverty could stand some actual studies.
    Could it be feasible??

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