In Jim Cook's Archive


By James R. Cook

They have intensive care units in hospitals now specifically for newborn babies that are having problems. It’s expensive. I know, because my new granddaughter spent three days there. It was over $30,000. There was another baby there born premature. He was a crack baby and weighed only two pounds. The nurse said he’d be there up to five months.

Later I thought about the bill for this tiny infant struggling for life. It would cost about $1,200,000 and the state would have to pay it. Then I thought some more about the kind of life he would have. With a drug-addicted mother, there was little chance he would get the love and nurturing necessary to be a well-adjusted and productive person. More likely he would be in trouble with the law and have his own problems with drugs and alcohol.

No doubt his mother would continue to rely on the government to pay for raising him. She would get aid to dependent children, public housing, health care and food stamps. When you add all the assistance up, it would probably run close to $25,000 a year for him. That would go on for twenty years or so until he began to get assistance directly. Then he would get the same benefits his mother received including free rent and a welfare check. If he wanted to claim that he suffered from depression, he could get another $1,000 a month from Social Security. Should he take the time to file a tax return, he could get another welfare payment at tax time. Chances are he’d be in and out of the court system. That’s also costly. He would need a public defender, court time, incarceration, a parole officer, and the continued attention of the police. As an adult he would probably require at least $50,000 a year in social expenditures. Should he live to age 70, that’s a total of $4,200,000 in social costs for him. These are rough estimates, but you get the picture.

There are million of dependent people in similar circumstances in America. Their numbers are growing dramatically. What you subsidize you get more of. In addition, the U.S. government imports poor immigrants, most of who immediately begin to rely on social programs. Once these expensive programs are in place they are almost impossible to stop. They change the culture. Look at the difference in how we handle old folks from just five or six decades ago. There’s no way to go back. Social programs are a slippery slope. Once they take root they grow until they are unaffordable and irreversible. Eventually their runaway costs ruin a nation.

Now comes an economic historian by the name of Peter Lindert who has written a new book that tells us not to worry about these social costs. We can always raise taxes. No surprise here. His book was reviewed positively by Newsweek, a liberal publication. The trouble with his analysis is that figures are hard to find on the number of people getting the various subsidies. I suspect, if we could analyze the true scope of the problem, it would take our breath away. As it stands, now we get more opinions than facts.

My opinion is that social costs will soon be unaffordable and the voters will put left-wing politicians into power who promise to keep the free money coming. The high taxes they force on us will deprive the private sector of capital and incentives. The economy will weaken further and the government will be forced to cut social spending all the more. It will be a mess as only the government can create.

There is something else even more important. When you give money to people that they didn’t earn, it weakens their character. Horrible things happen to little children every day in our country and it was not always so. We rarely read about the epidemic of addiction that afflicts the underclass. The liberal media doesn’t like to mention it. In fact, it’s become the liberal blind spot.

Recently I wrote a letter to Anna Quindlan, a Newsweek columnist, pointing this out. She had mentioned the positive charity work of the nuns. “How nicely you put it,” I wrote. “Touch the sick, the poor, the children, the powerless…” However, what you liberals forget is that you’ve taken charity out of private hands and turned it over to the government. That has engineered a social disaster. “As Peter Drucker pointed out a few years ago, “despite ever larger and constantly growing expenditures, the ‘welfare mess’ in the United States is getting steadily worse. In fact, a strong case can be made – and has been made – that the poor in America….. have become the poorer, the more helpless, the more disadvantaged, the more welfare money is being spent to help them. American welfare spending encourages dependence. It paralyzes rather than energizes.” Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. sums it up, “America’s 20th-century experiment with the welfare state desolated our cities, created a permanent underclass of promiscuity, illegitimacy, welfare and crime, and gave us children and adults full of race hatred instead of a social discipline and work ethic necessary to civilization.”

“How many hundreds of blocks in your city or mine are you afraid to walk through on a summer evening? Giving people money that they didn’t earn is the worst thing you can do to them. You have a blind spot about the sorry consequences of your social sympathy. You liberals refuse to see the horror and the magnitude of it because of your complicity.”

The consequences of social welfare need to be recognized as America’s greatest problem. Each day thousands of new infants are born who have no chance of being normal or productive. Their parents doom them from the start. Financial and economic problems can somehow be overcome. Social problems of the kind we have in America cannot be overcome. When a small child is ruined, they are generally ruined for life. Nobody’s addressing these problems. Government just keeps getting bigger, always spending more to keep the welfare advocates appeased. That’s why health care costs are going into orbit. Free health care for so many people increases demand and drives up the price. In time we will be swept into the vortex of a financial crisis brought on by the government’s deficits and the inflationary effect of the money created to pay the tab. Inevitably the bill for these snowballing social costs will go unpaid.

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