Friday, April 07, 2006

Introducing “The Plan”

In his piece “Egalite, liberte, 401(k)” (LA Times, 4/6/06) Jonah Goldberg explains an incredible fact. Today it is the liberal left who, in Bill Buckley’s famous words, are "standing athwart history yelling, stop!" The liberals have cashed out.

Remember Bobby Kennedy’s "I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?" Forget about it. Today the radicals are on the right… the neo-conservatives.

Goldberg looks at France, home of the “serious left,” and is amazed that the student marches today are about government guaranteed job security and paid vacations. Gone are the days of tearing down the system. Now is the time to burn a car for better dental benefits. To a former liberal like me, it’s just pathetic!

Here in America the left oppose not man’s inhumanity to man but reform of Social Security. They opt for the status quo when the grossly under-funded retirement system is heading for collapse. Forget about our grandkids, they will probably grow up to be Republicans anyway. President Bush bravely spent a year trying to convince the nation that we owed it to future generations to reform the system. Then, when he reported on the sad lack of progress at the last State of the Union address, the Democrats in the audience cheered.

So where do the radical new ideas come from if not from the liberal strain our polity? In my posts about the welfare system (“How We Lost the War on Poverty” and “The Welfare Trap” 3/6-7/06) I noted that Charles Murray’s new book In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State promised to present a radical solution to the seemingly intractable problem. I received the book a few days ago and was not disappointed.

From the Introduction, Murray explains: America’s population is wealthier than any in history. Every year the government redistributes more than a Trillion dollars of wealth to provide for retirement, health care, and the alleviation of poverty. (Note: “Redistributes” means to take from one American and give to another American.) We still have millions of people without comfortable retirements, without adequate health care and living in poverty. Only a government can spend so much money so ineffectually. The solution is to give the money to the people. He sounds like Milton Friedman.

In a nutshell, under Murray's plan, all transfer payments would vanish, from Social Security and Medicare to corporate welfare and agricultural subsidies. In exchange, every low-income American over the age of 21 and not in jail would get $10,000 a year from the government. And everybody else would still get at least $5,000 a year from Uncle Sam. The only hitch is that people would be required to take out a minimal health insurance policy.

Murray’s plan, that he calls simply “The Plan,” is remarkably simple and effective. In a flash the working poor would be richer, many leaving the ranks of the welfare plantation.

Consider a young, under-educated, poor couple working for minimum wages of about $10,000 each per year. Under The Plan, the couple’s income would jump from $20,000 to $40,000 per year with no tax increase. The couple would leave the welfare rolls and be required to purchase catastrophic health insurance at a competitive price. Working hard and climbing the ladder at their company, say WalMart, imagine that the couple are able to double their income in three years. They still receive the Plan’s $20,000, with no tax deducted, for a grand total of $60,000 a year.

Now the couple has several attractive choices. They might decide to purchase a starter home. They might decide to have a child. The woman might even decide to become a stay-at-home mom, and she still keeps her $10,000 from The Plan. A nuclear family, welfare-free, homeowners, these are the things that make up an empowered society.

There is much more to study until one could endorse The Plan. But I am gratified that one of us conservatives would take up the challenge of the “third rail” in a radical, I might even say, a liberal way.


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