Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The High Cost of Good Intentions by John Cogan

“Entitlements grow over time because of a force called “the equally worthy claim,” where eligibility for benefits continually expands until programs no longer resemble their initial, honorable intentions.”

Entitlements don’t go just to the poor. The word doesn’t mean the same thing to all. Some think it’s a handout, unearned.  Others see it as a benefit than can’t be taken away because it is their right. It is a benefit under the law to anyone who qualifies.
I’m trying to get a copy of Cogan’s book from my public library, but I found a YouTube of Cogan explaining this thesis that any entitlement expands and usually during an election year. Shocked!
Cogan reports that the very first entitlement was a pension for men who had fought in the Continental Army during the War for Independence, but by 1830 (when most would have been dead) it had already expanded to many others, such as state militia, because they were also worthy to a claim.  Didn’t they bleed? I’d have to go through my genealogy files, but I found a copy (in an on-line data base) of the claim of a widow in my family tree who was claiming a Revolutionary War pension well into the 1800s. Then after the Civil War there were originally about 200,000 pensioners, and that grew to over a million by the 1890s.  There is still a woman getting a pension from that war who was born in 1930, and her mother had married a Civil War veteran when she was young.
The federal government spends $7,500 for every man woman and child on entitlements.  However, it was not until the New Deal that Americans began receiving assistance for not having provided any service. Now, about 55% of Americans receive some form of entitlement.  Cogan’s point is that these forms of assistance create a disincentive to work. The intentions of these programs were good, but can provide negative outcomes. The break up of the family is far worse today due to welfare than it was in 1965 when the alarm was first sounded.
The most successful reform of entitlements was in 1996 and the welfare reform when the money was pushed to the states to dispense. They will continue to grow, but will need a healthy growth of the economy to balance out. If Trump can get the growth he wants, perhaps he will turn to entitlement reform.

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