Dear Thucky and Dang, It’s Really Not The Welfare


Posted by Bob Lord

Our two (??) most active conservative commenters both are the type who use screen names havng nothing to do with their real names. They go by NidanGoju and Thuccydides. Each of those is a mouthful, so I'll just call them Thucky and Dang. 

It's possible Thucky and Dang actually are one person with a split persoality. I don't think I've ever seen both comment to the same post. And Thucky became a frequent commenter about the same time Dang slowed down. But they're a bit different in their approach, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Dang is a more of a counter-puncher, always having some ludicrous argument to challenge what seems should be a given. Thucky is more the smug type, supremely confident in the knowledge he's obtained from memorizing conservative talking points. He reminds me of the old Will Rogers line about Herbert Hoover: "It's not what he doesn't know that troubles me, it's what he knows for sure that just ain't so."

And what Thucky knows seems to know for sure these days is that the primary cause of today's inequality is that "welfare is too comfortable." Sorry, Thucky, it just ain't so, for a gazillion reasons, most of which are intuitively obvious.

First, welfare is not very comfortable. In fact, making the median income in America today is not very comfortable. One sixth of Americans live in poverty, and many of them are working. When CEO pay has gone from 30 times worker pay to 400 times worker pay, what difference does it make that some workers are making zero? Even if the unemployment rate were 50% back then and 0% now, the ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay (taking into account the unemployed) still would have increased over five fold. 

Second, inequality has been growing worse for over thirty years. During that time, welfare has become less comfortable, especially after Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich modified the program at the beginning of Clinton's second term. Isn't that a bit counterintuitive to your theory on the relationship between cushy welfare laws and inequality?

Third, very little of today's inequality is attributable to people not working. Rather, today's inequality arises from the meager incomes of the majority of those who do work (other than those at the top). The Waltons have more wealth than over 100 million Americans. Most of the folks included in that 100 million live in households where at least one person is employed. Would that absurd level of wealth inequality really change much if a few more unemployed had jobs? Are you saying you would consider it an egalitarian society if the Walton family wealth were equal only to that of 90 million Americans?

Fourth, you need to make-up your mind whether it's Obamacare that is killing job creation or welfare causing jobs to go unfilled. It can't logically be both. Think about it. If welfare was so comfortable that capable people won't work, it wouldn't matter how many jobs are being created. Similarly, if Obamacare has caused there not to be enough jobs to go around, such that reliance on welfare was forced upon its beneficiaries, it hardly would make sense to blame welfare benefits for unemployment. 

Fifth, the rest of the developed world has far less inequality than does America, yet have laws and policies you would argue are more conducive to inequality. If your theories were correct, countries like Sweeden and Norway would have off the charts inequality. But they don't. 

Sorry, Thucky, but your arguments don't cut it. Maybe if scan your list of conservative talking points, you can find some that fit better the position you want to take. Or check with Dang. Maybe he can help you out. There is a silver lining to having a split personality, you know. 


  1. “danG”
    Let me first compliment you on your cleverness Bob. I may incorporate that into my screen name. Ni’danG’oju. Wonder how many people would catch on? Secondly, let me assure you that Thucydides and I are two different people. As to the “slow down”, life does get in the way at times.

  2. Three part model, not one part. Higher tax rates (1) plus more people on welfare(2) plus more burdensome regulation(3) have caused our economic mess. Inequality has absolutely nothing to do with our economic problems. Your measure, the gini coefficient, is a complete deception. Map the economic welfare of the bottom ten percent of each country in the assets they have and the calories they consume and you find a very strong corrrelation with the income and assets of the top ten percent, not the negatice correlation you are supposing.

    Obamacare is especially damaging because it is both welfare and regulation.

    These arent talking points. Read the work of Richard Rogerson one of the top ranked economists in the nation, Christine Romer the former president of Obamas Council of Economic advisors.