The Scary Stories Politicians Tell

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Those who regard government “entitlement” programs as sacrosanct, and regard those who want to cut them back as calloused or cruel, picture a world very different from the world of reality.

To listen to some of the defenders of entitlement programs, which are at the heart of the present financial crisis, you might think that anything the government fails to provide is something that people will be deprived of.

In other words, if you cut spending on school lunches, children will go hungry. If you fail to subsidize housing, people will be homeless. If you fail to subsidize prescription drugs, old people will have to eat dog food in order to be able to afford their meds.

This is the vision promoted by many politicians and much of the media. But, in the world of reality, it is not even true for most people who are living below the official poverty line.

Most Americans living below the official poverty line own a car or truck— and government entitlement programs seldom provide cars and trucks. Most people living below the official poverty line also have air conditioning, color television and a microwave oven—and these too are not usually handed out by government entitlement programs.

Cell phones and other electronic devices are by no means unheard of in low-income neighborhoods, where children would supposedly go hungry if there were no school lunch programs. In reality, low-income people are overweight even more often than other Americans.

As for housing and homelessness, housing prices are higher and homelessness a bigger problem in places where there has been massive government intervention, such as liberal bastions like New York City and San Francisco. As for the elderly, 80 percent are homeowners, whose monthly housing costs are less than $400, including property taxes, utilities, and maintenance.

The desperately poor elderly conjured up in political and media rhetoric are— in the world of reality— the wealthiest segment of the American population.

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  • marco

    Niclyl put. Most people can't see the forest for the trees. Mr. Sowell can do both.

  • marco

    Nicely put. Most can't see the forest for the trees. Mr. Sowell can do both

  • Bill

    Such wisdom need be shouted from the roof tops. Unfortunately, fools refuse to listen.

  • tanstaafl

    There are Makers, Takers and Fakers. The last two categories are unnecessary.

  • StephenD

    Who ever gets elected needs to have Mr. Sowell run the U.S. Treasury!!

  • Jim_C

    Concerning one of these entitlements:

    Before Medicare was enacted only 25% of seniors had medical insurance. It is not simply not profitable to cover this high risk group. Pre-existing conditions, arbitrary denial of coverage….Of course Sowell will of course gloss over this.

    Sowell will also gloss over record profits and executive compensation for private insurers. Yet costs haven't gone down; insurance has getting more expensive for quite some time.

  • Jhon

    Hmmm… Let me tell you what ironic, I am an Indonesian, I'm currently live in Jakarta, your American's Official Poverty Line sounds to me is the live of a upper middle class in Indonesia. Here in Indonesia, our poverty line consists of people who eat once every third day, people who live under bridge surrounded by stinky river, people who their kids as old as 3 years old would have to go begging for money at traffic light intersections. Even I, who considered myself a middle class don't have a microwave, have to pay for 3 years to earn the cheapest car I can get.