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January 08, 1983 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1983-01-08

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Page 4

Saturday, January 8, 1983

The Michigan Daily

., ,

Looking for ways to eliminate poverty


By Da n Aronoff
Indignation and alarm over poverty and suf-
fering is one thing; constructive criticism of
current policies and intelligent proposals for
change are quite another. Unfortunately, in
these troubled times we hear much of the fMr-
mer, but almost nothing of the latter.
Everybody is upset and concerned about
poverty, lbut many people seem intent on fin-
ding someone to blame, rather than looking for
The general existence of sin among human
beings virtually ensures that instances of bad
behavior can be found in abundance, but the
real question is: to what extent is that behavior
responsible for the desperate economic plight
of millions in our country today? Blaming
scapegoats may soothe the consciences of middle
and upper-class people who are on "guilt
trips," but it won't accomplish anything
toward- putting food in hungry mouths, or
providing jobs and livable housing for those in
The Facts
There is more than enough money currently
being spent on anti-poverty programs to lift
every man, woman, and child in America far

above the poverty level income. For example,
in 1976 the government spent $33 billion on anti-
poverty programs, when it only cost $11.4
billion to lift every person out of poverty. Yet
there were 5 million people below the poverty
line that year.
When we add all forms of government spen-
ding on social welfare programs of the federal,
state and local levels, the total amount equaled
approximately $250 billion last year. If all of
that money had been distributed directly to the
poor, then every person could have become a
relatively wealthy person. For instance, a
family of four whose pre-transfer income was
below the officially defined poverty level would
have received between $55,000 and $57,000 in
So the problem is not that not enough money
is being spent to fight poverty-the problem is
that too little of the money actually reaches the
poor. The government could cut spending on
anti-poverty programs by two-thirds and there
would still be enough left to eliminate poverty
Total social spending could be slashed by some
enormous proportion and we could eliminate
poverty. Conversely, under existing conditions,
if we increased social welfare spending by
some enormous amount, it is quite likely that
very little would seep thorugh the bureaucracy
and reach the poor.

The Problem
The reason that we have not completely
eliminated poverty in this country is because
our government spends a very low percentage
of its revenues in actual transfers to the poor.
Why does this occur? The answer, no doubt, is
very complex and certainly beyond the scope of
a single article. But a few things should be
pointed out that are part of the problem. For
one thing, many people benefit from the
perpetuation of poverty: their incentives are
such that they are better off when many people
are impoverished and lots of money is being
spent to fight poverty. Such people are
bureaucrats, social reformers, research in-
stitutes which receive government grants to
study poverty, business and individuals who
are recipients of government boondogle con-
tracts, etc.
These people, who collectively may be
referred to as "The Poverty Industry,"
represent a substantial middle-class and
politically left-leaning constituency. No wonder
liberals love social programs; if the gover-
nment just gave money directly to the poor,
many empires would crumble.
Conservatives, however, have not offered a
very attractive alternative. The Reagan ad-
ministration has made many of its cuts in the

most cruel places of all-where money is ac-
tually reaching the poor. Although the ad-
ministration correctly has pointed out that,
theoretically, there is enough money actually
reaching poor people in aggregate to protect
them from want of food, shelter or medical
care, many individuals and families fall
through the "safety net" for various reasons.
Most of the reasons have to do with the
irrational crazy-quilt pattern of government
programs, which are uncoordinated and have
different criteria for qualification to par-
The Solution
The solution to these problems is analytically
obvious, although it may be politically
unrealistic. If we replaced the existing welfare
system with a direct negative income tax, we
could structurally eliminate poverty in this
country virtually overnight. Moreover, such a
system would offer many other attractive
features. By abolishing all social programs and
replacing them with direct cash subsidies-
which recipients could make their own choice
on how to use-the liberty of the recipients
would be enhanced. If we eliminated transfers
to the middle-class (which are paid mostly out
of taxes from other middle-class people), we

could reduce government spending, balance
the budget, and cut taxes easily.
Indeed, the ultimately incompatible goals of
freedom and egalitarianism would both be
enhanced by the abolition of the welfare state
as we know it and the adoption of a negative in-
come tax. Real transfers to the poor would in-
crease, while government intrusion into our
lives would be reduced.
Most importantly, we could then adopt
policies to ensure the economic recovery that
must occur if we are to reduce unemployment'
and return to prosperity. Lower government
spending, less intervention in the marketplace,
and lower taxation are the only policies that
will restore health and scope to the free-market
economy. And it is only in a healthy market
economy that growth and progress has ever#
taken place-here or anywhere else in the
Perhaps this is idle speculation; certainly it
is not currently a practical political possibility.,
But if the intellectual foundations of the
welfare state and its surrounding ideology can
be undermined, then we may be able to make
significant advances in this direction.

Aronoff, an LSA junior,
studying at the London

currently is
School of>:

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan


Vol. XCI#I, No. 80

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109


wKI Mt? RbW


Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board

- I

HIS IS the time of the year for that
most hair-raising of events-the
semi-annual arrival of the report card.
But as we cringe over disappointing
performances this week, we can take
some comf6rt. Of late, even the
president's been getting some pretty
bad grades himself.
But unlike the typical student, when
it comes to higher education, the
president's poor marks are something
to cheer about. As the Chronicle of
Higher Education pointed out this
month in its look back at the
president's midterm performance,
Reagan has received a number of
failing grades while attempting to im-
plement his broad program of
educational cutbacks-good news for
those interested in preserving the
status of higher education in America.
In several areas, Reagan's farflung
plans have come to naught. Although
the president proposed cutting the Pell
Grant budget by more than 40 percent,
little in the budget has changed since
1980. He also hoped to abolish even-
tually the Department of Education, a
plan that has seemingly made no
With other educational programs,
Reagan's drastic proposals have led to
only relatively minor cutbacks. The
proposed 50 percent reduction in fun-
ding for the National Endowment for
the Arts and Humanities, for example,
has resulted in roughly a 14 percent
budget decrease.



FAM*E WrNNoI~o Mc*E". ~

4 .


report card
At times the president proved to be
all too efficient. His plan to do away
with Social Security student benefits
by 1984 has been only slightly
sidetracked. The program will end in
Why has Reagan been only partially
successful in his efforts to eliminate
the federal role in higher education?
Much of the credit-and the blame-
for the current state of federal support
rests with Congress. After going along
comfortably with the first-and most
devastating-round of budget cuts, the
representatives have largely reversed
themselves and become ardent sup-
porters of educational programs. The
change of heart, to be sure, coincided
with a strong show of protest from
students and educators, but so far it
has stuck.
It's anyone's guess whether Reagan
plans to renew his attacks on higher
education. He will have his hands full
in coming months using what political
capital he has left to defend his arms
build-up and his economic policies. It's
only certain that there will be no sud-
den conversions. Reagan-so obsessed
with the goal of a "strong" America-
will continue to work against one of its
greatest strengths: a sound system of
higher education.
No matter what the president hopes
to do in his next two years in office,
students across the country can only
wish him one thing. Keep up the poor



1 rr

Ko~c-o'~qGTo FIND t~dG.


l .vC




- P.N

I k ' -



As a liberal and a child of the
Enlightenment, one who had
hated the Middle Ages since he
was 5, and as a professor of
religion, Peter Wilson was not
only shocked by what happened
to his son, he was frightened. It
shook the very foundations of his
own beliefs.
Mark, his eldest, had in his last
year at Yale suddenlyturned to
faith, becoming one of the
growing numbers of studen-
ts-some of the best and the
brightest, often from educated
backgrounds-to join a
charismatic fundamentalist
Christian church and make it the
focal point of his existence.
THE CHURCH, which prac-
ticed faith-healing and exor-
cisms, is a church of no par-
ticular denomination, but "the
only church there is" to his son.
Mark had changed drastically
because of it. He had abandoned
thoughts of going to medical
school, adopted standards of per-
sonal morality that had disap-
peared generations ago-no
drugs, no smoking, no sex before
marriage. He spent much time in
prayer and study of the Bible-.
of a kind that to his father, who
had studied the book most of his
life, constituted "idolatry of the
printed word."
In an effort to reach his son, the
elder Wilson (not his real name)
began to attend the church in a
rented former synagogue about
30 miles from the Yale campus.
He bought tapes of the pastor's
sermons and witnessed healings.
And now he was frightened.
What he had sen raised for

A fat her's
struggle with
Christian ity
By Rasa Gustaitis

were what their parents'
generation had banished.x
The battle between them,
Wilson decided, would have to be
fought on theological ground, in a
context of love. As he perceived
it, his son's church made a
'quilting party of the Bible,"a
taking words out of their'
historical context to piece.
together an apocalyptic meaning,;
with the Beast returning toward
So, when Mark asked for a
Concordat for Christmas, Wilson
gave it to him and wrote inside:
-Y1OU HAVE studied the Bible'
word for word. I hope you will
also study it paragraph by:
Then he found a task on which
he and his son could work jointly
while continuing their spiritual
The family's summer cabin
was endangered by recent
deepening of a nearby river to:
permit entry of larger ships. The,
passing craft made waves that
washed ashore, eroding the land.
and threatening to wash away they
cherished family retreat.
CONTRACTORS turned down,
the job of shoring up the land as
hopeless because of soil con-
ditions. So Wilson, with his son,
and a companion of Mark's from'
the church, resolved to build a'
wall to keep out the river.
As they worked on this deman-
ding-perhaps impossible-task,
they could talk.
At this point, the wall still is un-


and feeling them slip from his
In his son's church he wit-
nessed things he could not
dismiss as mere mental
manifestations. There was the 30-
year-old man who had been
homosexual all his life, standing
up before the congregation and
telling how he had been "cured."
He was now a heterosexual.
Wilson could see and hear that.
He was not just under an illusion.
The change was real.
And there was the 11-year-old
child who had been rejected by
her parents and was angry and
unmanageable, who was tran-
sformed as the'demons of rejec-
tionns were astnent-sval of r

of his church members for con-
scientious investing.
.His son had been raised in an
interdenominational -church and
in a home where the life of the
mind was valued. He'd been a
good student, and when Mark
showed an interest in medicine
his mother was pleased; it was
what she had hoped.
Then he became involved with
this unlikely church-started by
a retired insurance man-which
already. had become central in
the lives of some of his fellow
students. One friend and
classmate-brilliant in
economics-had even declined a
$7,000 fellowship from a graduate
schoo1Qsohe ncold stav nn in New

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