Can bribery be ethical if you do it for the right reasons? The Chicago Sun Times ran a story recently about gift cards that were purchased for Chicago Public School students and misappropriated by school system employees. The story is hardly a surprise. This is an enormous bureaucracy in a corrupt state that allows the cost of public pensions to compete with educating children. What really shocked me is that the cards were even purchased, though to be entirely fair Chicago is not the only place where this happens.
Handing payouts to kids as a reward for showing up for school or getting good grades smacks of bribery. Are we grooming them for careers in politics or to be faithful, irresponsible Democrats?
Bribery creates a safety net
Gift cards didn’t exist when I was in school. I can’t remember being handed cash, presents, or any other incentives to board the school bus every morning. No one offered rewards for good grades. The fear of failure was drilled into our heads at an early age. That’s all that was necessary.
Failure as we feared it still exists. So are paths through life that lessen the burden of responsibility. We’ve heard proposals to cut the price tag for college or to eliminate tuition altogether and to forgive student loan debt, something generations of students lived with and paid off. Now it’s a national political crisis.
For those who don’t make it there are food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance, and a panoply of other social welfare programs so all-encompassing we call them a safety net.
That’s not a bad thing for a short time for people who need help. It’s a bad thing when that short time isn’t long enough to please politicians who insist we offer more. That when the safety net turns into a bribe.
Prosperity denied because bribery is better
A 4.1% unemployment rate should be something to cheer. Instead, Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley responded to the December jobs report with criticism:
Workers struggle to find financial security while special interests, corporations, and the richest among us enjoy lavish tax breaks that do nothing to help the men and women who contribute most to our country and economy.1
I’m not sure where Congressman Crowley thinks jobs come from, but many of us work for corporations. They usually pay well. He disregarded the good news in the report, including the rise in average hourly earnings. Instead he cited his party’s “vision for this country.”2
In good times that vision is a problem. It turns prosperity into a liability and a soaring stock market into something that only benefits the rich. An economy that offers opportunity is the worst thing that can happen to a party that depends on legally bribing the needy for votes in the name of ethics and morality.
When bribery is ethical it’s big business
Welfare is big business. Like Chicago’s school gift cards how it is doled out and what it is used for has little to do with real ethics, despite the old argument that the federal budget is based on morality.
Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin warned of the president’s 2018 spending proposal:
A budget is an ethical document and this budget tells us of a deranged ethical compass.3
Why? Because it cuts funding for the safety net:
inflicting sweeping harm on working families, seniors, the sick, federal workers, people with medical disabilities, the hungry and homeless, the unemployed, students, this nation, and indeed the future of our democracy.4
The congressman went on to list program after program that Americans rely on, from SNAP to TANF to housing to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Sometimes people need help, but when the issue of welfare work requirements comes up Democrats cry foul. That should tell you all you need to know about the ethics of the safety net. The object isn’t preventing people from having to use it. It’s letting them know they are entitled to it and that the government is dreaming up new ways to support their lives.
How many bribes can we offer?
Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) sponsored H.R. 1469, the Welfare Benefit Reform and Alignment Commission (BRAC) Act. Davidson criticized our “broken system that keeps families consistently dependent on welfare and alienated from the workforce”5 and pointed out:
While the poverty rate has changed little over the past twenty years, the amount our nation spends on anti-poverty programs has increased 33%.6
That government wastes money with redundant programs is old news. The Census Bureau argues against the assertion that Americans spend their lives on public assistance. Data shows that even during the darkest days of the recession most benefits recipients participated for a maximum of 3-4 years.7
If people only need these benefits for a short time, why do we have to keep raising the bar? At 4.3% unemployment Democrats were still warning that “the economy continues to recover from the Great Recession.”8 That recession is one of the best things to happen to the party in decades. Rest assured that our recovery will never, ever be over.
There is an old joke about not being rich enough to vote Republican. The problem when bribery is ethical is that too many of us will never be too middle class to not expect a new bribe in exchange for our vote. Today it’s gift cards for going to class. If the gift card wasn’t enough and you never finished high school you get a safety net. Tomorrow it’s a free college education. When everyone has a degree we will need another way to prop up incomes and erase inequality. When that job is done and everyone is fat, happy, and subsidized, what will Democrats offer next?
UPDATE January 11, 2018: you want me to work for my Medicaid???
This morning news outlets are reporting that the Trump administration is giving the go-ahead for Medicaid work requirements. We’ve been here many times before. The outcry will be tremendous. Hopefully we will hear an equally outraged response from those of us who work hard every day and watch hundreds of dollars go from our pockets to our inflated Affordable Care Act insurance premiums.
UPDATE January 12, 2018: bribing foreigners is ethical, too
Who would you rather have for a neighbor, a neurosurgeon or a penniless, unemployed, uneducated vagrant?
That’s what I thought.
After Trump’s now-famous expletive during a White House meeting yesterday the media decided that using the “S” word on the front page of their websites was acceptable. That’s a pretty good gauge of how much they want this president gone.
The thing is, what Trump said and what Obama promised us are pretty much the same, albeit Obama had a little more tact. As part of his party’s push to grow the ranks of the needy and grateful Trump’s predecessor promised us that immigrants coming to America would create businesses and jobs and help grow the economy. Stark data about the educational attainment of Mexican nationals who come to the U.S. was ignored in favor of propaganda about the astounding abilities of any foreigner labeled “immigrant.”
Now we have a notorious White House meeting and the “S” word being used over and over by gleeful leftist media sites.
The president spoke the truth.
We don’t need to grow the number of people in the U.S. who need a safety net. If we believe Democrats, we can’t take care of the people who are already here. Spending more on a safety net in anticipation of gratefulness in the years to come is in the best interests of the Democratic Party, not taxpayers.
Instead, give America a little credit for what we already do both at home and abroad. No matter how much we tax and spend, all we hear is that we aren’t doing enough.
Jan Grigsby says
My blood boils when I hear of another NEW PROGRAM that is being implemented so more and more people DO NOT HAVE TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR OWN ACTIONS ! We need to be educating kids about managing their future rather than making sure they know of every possible way to get something for FREE from hard working people !
Chicago is bribing kids to attend school/graduate and go on to college so the ‘school record’ looks good. It ‘was a given’ in my day that you tried your best to excel in school and it was a privilege to attend !
Appreciate all your info ….
Bob Prokop says
You are exactly right. Education is a privilege, not a state-imposed burden. Illegals figured that one out a long time ago.
I see in the news this morning that the Trump administration is greenlighting Medicaid work requirements. Democrats who have been demanding more jobs will howl about unfairness without a thought to their nanny state hypocrisy. What a tragedy if they actually got what they wanted and everyone in the U.S. suddenly earned an upper middle class income.