Wyatt Emmerich's ‘Welfare' Chart Dissected by The New Republic | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Wyatt Emmerich's ‘Welfare' Chart Dissected by The New Republic

With a hat-tip to Jay, we bring your attention to the story From Mississippi to ‘The Corner': A Tale of Right-Wing Wrongness, where our star is none other than Northside Sun publisher Wyatt Emmerich.

The plot? It seems that Emmerich pulled together a chart a while back which he published in the Sun, asserting that a single-parent family making $14,500 a year (minimum wage) actually had more "disposable income" than that same family making $60,000 a year. His story was called "With Welfare It Makes Sense to Work Less."

He then put it on the Internets and the rest was history. He got famous, it burned up the tubes, and people even chatted about it on Sean Hannity's website and blogs at the Weekly Standard.

The problem is -- in a plot twist perhaps too obvious even for Hollywood -- Wyatt was wrong. Like, way wrong.

The piece, written by Jesse Singal for the New Republic, picks apart his numbers:

Problem is, the chart is full of errors. I traced it back to the man who made it, a newspaper publisher in Mississippi, and found that the math, methodology, and logic he used to generate the chart, as well as an op-ed he wrote to accompany it, are wholly unsound. To make matter worse, despite the chart's cringe-worthy flaws, very few outlets on the Internet, from small-scope blogs to a handful of forums hosted by major national publications, bothered to fact-check it. The story of the chart is a distressing new Exhibit A for those who argue that, practically speaking, there's no longer any such thing as objective reality in the digital age.

Here's a quick rundown; more details in Singal's piece.

- It starts with Emmerich overestimating the taxes that the $60,000-a-year family would pay. He was off by over $5k. (His calculation would be based on a taxable income of $60k, meaning a gross income considerably higher.)

- He inaccurately suggests that the $14,500 household would get Medicaid. (They wouldn't -- in Mississippi, they're living high on the hog and don't qualify for Medicaid.)

- He guestimated that the premiums on a medical policy for the $60k family would be $16,500 a year and then assigned that dollar amount to the family's Medicaid "benefit" (even though they're ineligible for Medicaid); Singal did a quick search and found a reasonable policy for under $500 a month, or about $6000. (Note that the poorer family would pay that same amount for health insurance -- $6,000 a year -- since they don't qualify for Medicaid, although the kids might be about to get CHIP with the parent's insurance costs lower; under our current system, however, that parent and sole breadwinner would likely go without insurance, thus placing the family in more jeopardy for income lost due to illness.)

In case you're counting, we're at about $15k that Emmerich has misapplied on his chart... and that's the easy stuff, before we factor in the fact that the $60k job *probably* offers more benefits than the minimum wage job, like cheaper group health insurance, a 401k, paid sick leave and vacation and company contributions to those and other benefits.

Emmerich also gets dinged for assuming a Section 8 subsidy for the family that might or might not qualify -- it's another $4300 that doesn't really add up in most cases.

Oh, and the bottom line is that Emmerich conflated "disposable income" with "economic benefit" -- even granting his basically-made-up numbers, there's FUNDAMENTALLY NO argument to be made that the poorer family actually had more cash to burn than the $60k folks. None. And that's his premise.

...

The TNR piece goes on to make a broader argument regarding the place that fact-checking has on the Web... no doubt.

But beyond the muddled numbers or back-of-the-envelope assumptions that Emmerich, makes, I think the thing he deserves to be called on is the value judgement that is implicit in his argument.

And that is, simply -- why is the $60k-a-year wage-earner somehow better than the minimum wage earner?

Follow me here. I'm not saying that the $60k-a-year person shouldn't have more disposable income or freedom to spend their money. I agree with that notion. I like the idea of spending a little money myself every once in a while, and every dollar I make over minimum wage is an achievement in which I feel I deserve to bask.

But that in no way means that the full-time minimum-wage earner isn't *working* and usually working *hard*. And on top of that, add in the stress of being a single parent in a low-wage household (any-wage household, really) dealing with the realities of a world where one flat tire could mean disaster for your family budget -- that's all somehow mitigated by the glorious freebies -- Earned Income Tax Credit and Food Stamps -- that are wantonly handed out to the ungrateful masses?! Really?

My question is simply this... why did Emmerich set out to make this argument at all?

...

Meanwhile, over in RationalLand, we need to get a little used to the idea that manufacturing jobs -- particularly millions of good-paying "blue collar" jobs -- aren't coming back to our shores.

What that will mean is this -- as we pull out of this recession, we'll be relying on job growth in two fundamental sectors -- (a.) technology and related knowledge worker jobs and (b.) retail and service jobs, most of which will be created by small businesses.

A lot of people who would have been working good-paying manufacturing jobs will rely on lower-paying service jobs. Eventually, we'll need to transition to higher-paying service jobs. (Somebody get Wal-Mart on the phone; they're gonna LOVE that one.) If-and-as we do make that transition, some folks -- yes, hard-working folks -- will rely on subsidies (not unlike those that we give farmers and oil companies and defense contractors) to make ends meet and deal with hardships and obstacles as they face them.

As our economy is fundamentally retooled (assuming we can pull that off) we'll have a lot of people displaced, reliant on subsidies to get through the transition and come out on the other side.

Now is not the time to seek out and publish every reason to look down on people because they can't find or can't qualify for a better paying job while whining about our tax burden (now about as low as it's been since 1950). Maybe the better angels of our nature (Republican said it) can stand up and give credit to working Americans -- and help them support their families while they work the jobs that are available in our Brave New Economy.

Previous Comments

ID
161982
Comment

Ed Sivak of Hope Enterprise (formerly ECD) rebutted Wyatt's claims in a response editorial/letter to the Sun that Emmerich published in the last month or so.

Author
Drexel73
Date
2011-02-09T08:32:55-06:00
ID
161985
Comment

Great piece, Todd. In the spirit of the moment, here's a prescient article from current.com, via Think Progress: http://dft.ba/-lesstaxes Thing is, within this crowd (the Emmerichs, etc.) - taxes will ALWAYS be too high. They won't be satisfied until they're paying nothing. And, presumably, minimum wagers are paying "their fair share." -Jay Losset

Author
JSL1
Date
2011-02-09T08:44:58-06:00
ID
161986
Comment

"He inaccurately suggests that the $14,500 household would get Medicaid. (They wouldn't -- in Mississippi, they're living high on the hog and don't qualify for Medicaid.) - Great point "Now is not the time to seek out and publish every reason to look down on people because they can't find or can't qualify for a better paying job while whining about our tax burden (now about as low as it's been since 1950)." - excellent point! It simply amazes me how people don't do the true research - but simply ASSUME what people are doing, then turn around and publish it, and people treat as if its the gospel! I did some research to see the statistics on public assistance, such as who really receives food stamps, ssi, disability, etc. etc. - most of it is predominantely taken care of by fedegral grants, the state accounts for only so much, and it barely puts a dents into a states budget - because only so many people can receive it in the first place! To really add more fuel to the fire 92% of the so-called entitlement dollars were issued to our senior citizens over 65! With a good chunk of them being tea baggers, go figure!? Until this kind of right wing propaganda is REALY brought to the light, I'm going to end my post with this MLK qoute - "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

Author
Duan C.
Date
2011-02-09T08:59:51-06:00
ID
161987
Comment

Todd, Here is the letter I wrote to the New Republic regarding their critique on my welfare chart. Letter to the Editor, New Republic: Good job on your article picking apart my welfare chart apart. It's an excellent counterpoint and adds to the debate. Despite your take on the various benefits calculations, I believe my argument still stands: That our generous welfare state provides disincentives to work. The hundreds (thousands?) of anecdotal confirmations of my chart in the blogosphere indicates there is, at least, some merit to this line of thinking. What did Mark Twain say about statistics? The chart hit a nerve, which I believe discredits your characterization that it has zero "relevance or legitimacy." Such hyperbole in criticizing what you consider to be my hyperbole reminds me of the old saying about the pot calling the kettle black. If you read my original article, I describe my very simple and modest methodology. I wrote, "It is quite easy to check my numbers, thanks to the Internet. In fact, it only took me a couple of hours on the net to gather this data. Almost all welfare programs have Web sites where you can call up 'benefits calculators.' Just plug in your income and family size and, presto, your benefits are automatically calculated." I challenged readers to verify my data. Many did. In fact, many contended that I had underestimated benefits, just as you contend I overestimated benefits. Be that as it may, in a country where the GAO estimates 68 percent of the tax returns have errors, your confidence in welfare exactitude is a bit much. I challenge anyone to check my figures themselves. It is quite easy to do. In regards to the biggest ticket item of the chart--medical costs--I used a national average. You used a much-lower Mississippi number. As you wish. I just Googled "average cost of family health insurance per month" and was directed to the Kaiser Family Foundation which states the cost is $1,147 per month. This figure is twice what you claim in your critique. So be it. You have your numbers, I have mine. Add co-pays and deductibles and you easily get to the $16,000 or so number in my article. I believe this is a legitimate valuation of medical benefits. Obviously you don't. All that being said, you do raise one very valid point. Things get distorted and taken out of context. If I'm not mistaken, rumor mills have existed since the dawn of time. The Internet just makes them more efficient. Indeed, distortion and numeric manipulation are not new to the Internet. as your distortion of my original article in the venerable New Republic clearly illustrates.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-02-09T10:14:17-06:00
ID
161988
Comment

I remember one time that Wyatt's gang published one of those urban-myth e-mails in the paper without factchecking it. And he actually told Todd in e-mail that they had the "public domain" right to publish one of our photos in their paper because it turned up in a Google image search (although it had right on it in the search that it was a JFP photo). And there, of course, there was the whole giving-an-award-to-a-columnist-who-praised slavery snafu. I wrote about that here: Let's Do the Time Warp Again Wyatt later told us that it was a mistake to give the column a prize after we and others made a big deal about it. But, still.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-02-09T10:25:59-06:00
ID
161990
Comment

Oh, hey Wyatt. Welcome back. We cross-posted. Can I ask you a question: Do you really believe that "people don't want to work"? And why such apparent contempt for the poor?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-02-09T10:31:23-06:00
ID
161991
Comment

There are literally dozens of paycheck calculators on the Internet. Just Google "paycheck calculator" and enter $60,000 of gross pay and you will arrive at my number. I have no idea who the "Center on Budget and Policy Priorities" is, but their computation of payroll taxes on $60,000 in pay is at odds with every payroll calculator on the Internet. I'll go with my figures. As for the distinction of gross pay and taxable income, this is ridiculous. Gross pay is gross pay. It is what and employer pays you. Again, just Google "gross pay" on the Internet and you can read about this for days.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-02-09T10:55:54-06:00
ID
161992
Comment

Wyatt, Your statement that the poor "don't want to work" is simply insulting to the people of Mississippi, the United States, and the world who weren't raised in a place (be it home, community, or society) where education wasn't available, or worse, not valued. The impoverished people I have spoken to in Jackson have hopes and dreams for a better life for themselves and their children, which is hard to do when a person makes less than $10 per hour and is only able to find work for 30 hours a week. I assume you haven't had the pleasure of attempting to find a job lately, Mr. Emmerich? I have, and it is a miserable prospect. I have a Bachelor's degree from a local liberal arts college, I've done good work in a handful of fields, and I know my fair share of people in Jackson, yet I'm not having much luck in finding full time employment. I am only able to imagine how difficult it must be for someone who may have graduated high school, doesn't have any connections, and no particular job skills. Yes, there are people in this world who don't want to work and will take advantage of any social programs available to them, but from what I've read that is a universal problem and not unique to the United States of America. So please, Mr. Emmerich, use your education to do real research on the attitudes of the lower socioeconomic classes of Mississippi or any group you are writing about so that you don't insult them or make your publication look foolish.

Author
Kevin Slark
Date
2011-02-09T11:01:00-06:00
ID
161993
Comment

A paycheck calendar on the Internet, Wyatt? To back up an all-out assault on the poor? Are you serious?!? That is the extent of your research? You know, you can also Google the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities ("Non-partisan research and policy institute working on federal and state fiscal policies and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income Americans.") There are all sorts of ways to factcheck this kind of analysis without spending 30 seconds throwing it into some paycheck calendar. You do know, right, that you can't believe everything you read on the Internet? Seriously, Wyatt, why not be part of a serious dialogue about issues affecting our state? You own a number of newspapers here, and you are the president of the Mississippi Press Association. Diversity is clearly not important to the Northside Sun, but your papers are also prominent in the Delta, where poverty is a serious issue, especially among African Americans. Why not put simplistic ideology aside for a moment and join others who are working hard to lift our state up instead of stereotyping entire groups of people? I'm serious about this; it's never too late to take a different path. Why don't you get involved in some of the efforts around the city at racial reconciliation and understanding, such as Rev. CJ Rhodes' new series on the church and race at Mt. Helm, which begins tonight (Rev. Stan Buckley from First Baptist is working with CJ already, for instance). Or come to some Jackson 2000 meetings; there are business leaders and Republicans involved! People would welcome you if you come with a seriousness about being part of the solution. Mississippi can be so much more than it is now if people will come together and stop pointing fingers at "the other." Please join us.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-02-09T11:11:27-06:00
ID
161994
Comment

I have no contempt for the poor. We are all equal in God's eyes. I simply believe our country will better prosper with low taxes and free enterprise. The point is simply that people are going to take the best deal they can get. One reason low-wage manufacturing has stalled in America is because lower income people in this country have other options. I didn't argue whether this is bad or good. It just explains the exportation of these types of jobs. All this other stuff is just liberals imputing my observations with all kinds of emotions, judgements, meanness, etc.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-02-09T11:12:52-06:00
ID
161995
Comment

The chart hit a nerve, which I believe discredits your characterization that it has zero "relevance or legitimacy." Oh, Lord, it "hit a nerve." Wyatt, c'mon... as a newspaperman you should be more interested in accuracy than hitting nerves. It's just an excuse for sensationalism. Let's start with a fundamental. Did you make any mistakes you could correct? For instance, did you over-calculate the Federal tax burden of a single-parent family of three with a gross income of $60,000? Did you conflate "disposable income" with "economic benefit"? Might it serve your argument to rework the chart into something more accurate? ... Meanwhile, your letter still doesn't answer the fundamental question of why you decided to undertake this exercise in the first place. What does it prove? As best I can tell, you're trying to make an argument that programs to support the working poor serve as a disincentive for them to take extremely low-paying work, which would at least be academically interesting (and might have more than one solution, such as focusing on "welfare" programs that better incent work, such as child-care and transportation solutions). But then you apply the argument, for whatever reason, to people actually working full-time. At that point, what's the value judgement? That it's unfair that people working full-time at minimum wage receive benefits? ... You're right in one sense -- your argument is provocative. But for me -- and I'm trying to shape this point -- what you're provoking is a sense that the "we're taxed to death in this country" and that there is some welfare queen or super-predator to blame for our woes has COMPLETELY jumped the shark. - We've done welfare reform in this country, we've done tort reform, we've cut the capital gains tax, the "death" tax; we've cut many programs to the barebones including programs that help WORKING people SURVIVE and RAISE CHILDREN. I guaran-damn-tee you that there are minimum wage folks out there working harder than YOU and ME and there's nothing on God's Green Acre to assume that they don't deserve some help given the economy that the powers-that-be has handed to them. - But where are the cuts in agribusiness subsidies? Oil subsidies? Defense spending and contracts? - And how are we supposed to generate the revenues to pay for a full decade of warfare in the 'aughts. At the very least we're going to need the Whiny Right in this country to shut up about their taxes long enough to return to the Clinton-era level and pay their share for all of this crap that's been foisted on us by irresponsible fiscal leadership in the 2000s. (The Bush Legacy: Surplus to Depression in eight years.) It's time for the American Right to stand up for fiscal responsibility and not just selfishness. That includes responsibly generating more revenue to fill the coffers as this economy rebounds. "Trickle-down" Does. Not. Work. And Lord knows we've tried it.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2011-02-09T11:20:36-06:00
ID
161996
Comment

Wyatt, with due respect, saying that "people don't want to work" in a faulty analysis such as this one indeed shows contempt for the poor, and by a newspaper publisher whose papers influence public opinion in the poorest state and in the state's poorest region (the Delta). And, yes, we are all equal in God's eyes, and the Bible I believe you often mention talks about how to treat the poor and asks us to be in solidarity with them. This thing that you did was an insult to the poor. As for your "best deal" argument, it is inapplicable here because being unemployed is not the "best deal" people can get. Maybe you are surrounded by people who believe that because they have a much better deal, but that doesn't make it true. It's not. You can take a higher path, though, if you choose to. Sure, have intelligent (and well-researched) conversations about taxes and the tax code. We need that from all directions. But please get our of your bubble and spend time with people your papers supposedly represent. Do real research on what is going on *before* you draw conclusions and use the Internet to spread false information. And for goodness sake, drop the tired blame-"liberals" B.S. because people caught you spreading false information and stereotypes about the poor. There is a different path, Wyatt. It is filled with love and understanding and even real conversation about policy, taxes and the like. It is enriched with diversity and friendships with people with different experiences. It is informed by our history, and it is hopeful and prayerful and optimistic. It is supportive of local businesses (in our *entire* city and state), and it works to lift people up rather than knock them down. And it rejects simplistic stereotypes that only serve to divide people. It is also a place that people (and business owners) of all races and backgrounds in our city and state are starting to aspire to; we have an opportunity here to unite and leave all the crap in our past and be a state rivaled by others due to our efforts at understanding and building unlikely alliances to strength our business climate and our workers' education. You could play a large role in this effort if you just decide to. Oh, and it's fun and good for the business. Join us, Wyatt.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-02-09T11:22:18-06:00
ID
161997
Comment

FYI, cross-post, I posted my last comment before seeing Wyatt's. More later; got a luncheon to attend.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2011-02-09T11:27:10-06:00
ID
161998
Comment

@ Wyatt "liberals imputing my observations with all kinds of emotions, judgements, meanness, etc." First and formost, gotta give you credit for stepping up and speaking on what was yours. However, I disagree with the meanness - I can possibly see the argument for emotion and judgement against you. But its hard to sit up here and accept the "conservative" agenda, when its not benefitting everyone? But only a select few, especially when you look at the current state and condition of Mississippi? You have to answer these questions Wyatt? We had 8 years of Fordice, followed by 4 years of Musgrove, followed by 8 years of Barbour - with Republican senators, blue-dog democrats and republican congressman for a majority of the state? Has any of the following items inmproved: Job outlook, stable employment climate, quality of education, quality of life? Has any of that improved since the "conservative" swing in this state? We have a high ceiling for growth in this state, because its been nill forever, but has any real action taken place? In my honest opinion, nope! In all honesty to think that raising taxes on the so-called rich in order to increase entitlement programs, is what everyone wants - just does not sound right? We've tried trickle-down economics and guess what, it only increased our deficit to foreign lenders - the american dollar is also weaker for it.

Author
Duan C.
Date
2011-02-09T11:32:24-06:00
ID
161999
Comment

I am part of the dialogue, Donna. You just don't agree with my message. Welcome to the great debate. What gets me is that you have to attack my character in the process. I believe in low taxes and free enterprise, ergo, to you that means I am: "unserious," mean, arrogant, cruel, heartless, stupid, ignorant, myopic, short-sighted, etc. You ask, "Why don't you get involved in racial reconciliation" etc. You have know idea what I am involved in. And I am indeed involved things like this. Guess what? I go to church every Sunday. And I even tithe. How many water wells have you built in Africa? That's a strange thing for a racist to do, isn't it? Whatever. I don't have to establish my credentials as a decent human being in this forum. But unfortunately, I do have to visit this site from time to time when Google Alerts let's me know you are attacking my character yet again. I refuse to leave such attacks unanswered for the gullible who might wander onto your site. As far as my "research," I described how I got my welfare chart in the original article. I did not purport it to be anything other than what it was. It is not my fault it went viral and was taken out of context. In my article, I challenged readers to get on the Internet and duplicate what I found. Many did. The chart is bascially accurate.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-02-09T11:36:25-06:00
ID
162002
Comment

I am part of the dialogue, Donna. You just don't agree with my message. Welcome to the great debate. Wyatt, we can't have a great debate on anything if you decide what your opinion is and then make up a chart that supports it. You know that. What gets me is that you have to attack my character in the process. Huh? Where do you see me attacking your character? I am actually trying to respond with compassion, and my offer to work together is serious. I am and want to be surrounded by serious people with different viewpoints. I believe in low taxes and free enterprise, ergo, to you that means I am: "unserious," mean, arrogant, cruel, heartless, stupid, ignorant, myopic, short-sighted, etc. OK, now I'm really confused. I haven't called you any of those things. And I just searched on each of them on this page and see that no one else here has called you those things, either. Why make up an attack that didn't happen, Wyatt? Everyone can read this thread for themselves. Why not simply correct your facts? It's not an attack on your character to call out your stereotype about poor people. People could be much uglier about that than anyone has been here. I go to church every Sunday. And I even tithe. How many water wells have you built in Africa? I know that you go to church, and I assume that you tithe. I think it's wonderful that you have build water wells in Africa. The issue at hand here, though, are jobs, poverty and education in Mississippi and the Delta. The fact that you have helped Africa does not negate the seriousness of your claim that, presumably, is to keep the government from helping poor people in your newspapers' reach from getting any kind of assistance. But unfortunately, I do have to visit this site from time to time when Google Alerts let's me know you are attacking my character yet again. I know what you mean about Google alerts. ;-) Usually when someone is attacking my character, and making up lies about me, they don't have the balls to use their real name. (I'm sure you know some of them.) And I don't respond to those kinds of anonymous and false attacks. But that is not what is happening here, Wyatt. You are a powerful newspaper publisher in the nation's poorest state. It is not attacking your character to call out a very serious falsehood you are trying to perpetuate for political reasons. You call people out all the time in your paper (and have even dissed me and the JFP); is that OK for for you to do, but wrong for others? There is no unfair or anonymous or unfactual attack going on here. As Mississippians, we have often not stood up to false rhetoric, which has kept our state on the bottom of the barrel. We now have a diverse array of people here who are willing to stand up to stereotypes and prejudices (in this case, against the poor). It is good for our state to have a diversity of opinion, no? It is not my fault it went viral and was taken out of context. In my article, I challenged readers to get on the Internet and duplicate what I found. Many did. The chart is bascially accurate. Clearly, that is not the case, Wyatt. As Todd asked earlier, can you not acknowledge that you used the wrong information from get-go? It happens. To my mind, denying that it is faulty at this point makes it look worse.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-02-09T12:55:41-06:00
ID
162003
Comment

Oh, and I believe in free enterprise, too. We champion it at every turn, and started the whole public talk of "shopping local" back when we launched the paper in 2002. (Second cover was "Think Global, Shop Local" focus.) What we are not as fond of as you seem to be is the whole protect-corporations-at-any-cost shtick. We believe that corporate-conservative attitude hurts actual free enterprise.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-02-09T13:08:29-06:00
ID
162004
Comment

"There is a different path, Wyatt. It is filled with love and understanding"--Donna Ladd. Got it. My path is full of hate and misunderstanding. I will try to change my ways. Thanks for the personal advice, Donna. I will try my best to live up to your exalted standard. Hey, I'm glad we live in a welfare state. I think it's great that we can (almost) afford the safety net we have. But don't expect any low-wage manufacturing to exist in Mississippi when the Chinese will work for far less. My "chart" was an explanation of why we have lost all our low-wage manufacturing, not an indictment of the welfare state. These are all things "imputed" to me from people caught up in their own thoughts and interpretations. My church took up an offering Sunday to help members of our church family who were in need. I could have written a much bigger check if Uncle Sam wasn't taking so much to pay for its millions of bureaucrats. I'll trust my church with the money any day. And it would have been a lot more spiritually uplifting than threats of missing the April 15 deadline. Nobody likes to work. We work because we have to, at least I have to. If you create options for people where they can have a viable life without working, many won't work. That's not an indictment of their laziness, it's an acknoledgment of their common sense. Anybody with a cursory understanding of the Delta realizes that. This creates a cycle of poverty that is impossible to break. Remember the great success of Clinton's welfare reform? It was successful because it got people out of the house and into the workplace. The EITC is a great program, which I support. However, it's existing structure is such that it penalizes people who aspire to better jobs. Same with Medicaid. Get a promotion, lose you Medicaid eligibility. This is bad public policy. Anybody with even the slightest awareness knows of circumstances where this is true. So there, Donna, I am part of the debate. It's just not a side of the debate you care to acknowledge. So who is refusing to be part of the debate, me or you?

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-02-09T13:08:45-06:00
ID
162005
Comment

Got it. My path is full of hate and misunderstanding I can't speak for your path, Wyatt. I can glean, however, that a stereotype that poor "people don't want to work" and an effort to spread false information about the poor is not exactly the path of love and understanding. Nobody likes to work. Really? Are you speaking for the masses again? Wyatt, I love to work. My work inspires me and, people often tell me, make a difference in other people's lives. I *love* to research and report and write. I *love* to mentor young people who might not otherwise have this opportunity. I *love* to seek out diverse people and communities to be part of our reach and stories. I *love* everything we do to help locally owned businesses. I *love* it every time someone tells me that the JFP/BOOM has helped them in some way. I *love* the feeling of newsprint on my fingers. I *love* to teach journalism. I love everything about my work. (OK, almost everything.) If you create options for people where they can have a viable life without working, many won't work. Wyatt, anyone with a cursory knowledge of our state knows it is a lot more complicated than that. And remember that you have not proved that your analysis that they are "better off" is true; in fact, others have proved that it is categorically false, Internet calculators notwithstanding. So it's kind of hard to have a debate with someone armed with falsehoods, eh? Be intellectually honest enough to admit your errors and start with real information, and I'll have a debate with you any day. As it is, you're likely to just start screaming about the damn liberals whenever I point out that your math doesn't add up. That's not debate, Wyatt. That's empty partisan politics, and I don't roll that way.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-02-09T13:19:24-06:00
ID
162006
Comment

Wyatt, while I have you on the line and we're talking about "free enterprise," can I ask another question? Why is it that the Mississippi Press Association will not allow the JFP in as a member because we distribute our papers for free? I find that particularly curious as I have a big stack of green slips from Northside Suns we've picked up around Jackson in racks for months now. They all say: "Complimentary copy of the Northside Sun." And as you know, several of you now compete directly with us for advertising with free "non-dailies," such as Sun and VIP magazine. Also, I see from the website that MPA now has a "vice president for non-dailies." Are any of those non-dailies *paid* circulation?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-02-09T13:24:42-06:00
ID
162008
Comment

Personally, I think free newspapers should be allowed to be full members of the press association if they have substantial editorial content. I have argued that at MPA board meetings. But my opinion is in the minority. I even mentioned the Jackson Free Press as an example. So even though your bombastic moral proselytising makes me laugh out loud, I still give you credit for your news gathering efforts. The Northside Sun has a U. S. Postal Service periodical permit. MPA requires a periodical permit to be a full member. Periodical permit rules (easily accessible on the web) address what you put in the mail. There are no references in the regulations to free racks. With a periodical permit, you are allowed to mail up to 10 percent free samples. The rest of the mailed papers must be paid or reader requested. The MPA may have an additional requirement that members be primarily paid, but I'm not sure. Layne Bruce at the MPA could answer that.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-02-09T13:57:28-06:00
ID
162009
Comment

I might add, the Northside Sun doesn't make any money off home delivery. I have often thought the better model may be the type of free racks that the Jackson Free Press has. The visibility is so much better, even though paid home delivery has traditionally been thought of as the gold standard of distribution. If I had to bet, I'd say the Sun will eventually transition to free racks. That's an easy switch. (Then I guess the Sun would get kicked out of MPA!)

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-02-09T14:03:52-06:00
ID
162010
Comment

So even though your bombastic moral proselytising makes me laugh out loud, I still give you credit for your news gathering efforts. I'll take that as a compliment. And I won't even follow up by calling the "bombastic moral proselytising" they-don't-want-work! pot black. ;-) I actually believe that you wouldn't mind us being members. We've had enjoyable conversations in person. And we're pretty confident that it's The Clarion-non-dailies-galore-Ledger that insists that we not be admitted. I'm also sure you know (especially since we presented it to your board a few years back) how outdated the postal-service requirement is in today's newspaper's world and how many more modern press associations have moved into the 21st century. (Many even want to work together with papers such as ours that know how to use technology to appeal to young and more diverse readers.) The New York Press Association even paid Todd to come talk to them about the Web -- ironic, eh? Last time I checked, the JFP has the largest weekly circulation in the state, not including our Web, daily and quarterly efforts. Personally, I think it makes the MPA look like a dinosaur (and perhaps a bit fearful) to lock us out. But to each their own. I think it's sad and kinda funny more than anything -- but it is rather relevant in a "free enterprise" conversation. Clearly the public should know about this kind of business hypocrisy on the part of the state's newspapers.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-02-09T14:06:44-06:00
ID
162011
Comment

"...................Trojan horse arguments, i.e. "the poor don't want to work" distract people from looking at inequalities and laying blame at the source of wealth building - exploitation of labor......... The theory is that people who have bright ideas and connections should have free reign .......and no responsibilities to help those upon whose backs the wealth was built........... because they are lazy and worthless anyway.......This is the historical argument used against Black people......." oooooooooooohhhhhhhhhwwwwwwwwweeeeeeeee! Now someone is getting down with it, yes indeed! Preach Bro. Gayden, preach it! I couldn't have said it any better People don't want to hear the truth, but it don't get any more real than what you just said!!!!

Author
Duan C.
Date
2011-02-09T14:13:57-06:00
ID
162013
Comment

Since y'all are so interested in my opinion, I am copying a recent column I wrote on the trade off between efficiency and equality. There’s been a big commotion lately about the bitter tone of political discourse. Of course, good manners and politeness should always be the order of the day, but we often fail that standard. Why the anger over politics? Well, politics determines government and government controls taxation and taxation determines how much money is in your pocket versus your neighbor’s. We should be thankful. Bitter words are far preferable to war, which is how these issues have been typically resolved over the course of human history. When the money in our pocket determined our very survivability, humans have readily traded blood for money. Fortunately, prosperity makes most things better. In the U.S. - and in much of the world - surviving is no longer at stake. The issue is how the perks of prosperity get distributed. Therein lies the rub. In a perfect world, everyone would have equal skills and share equally in society’s bounty. But we don’t live in a perfect world. There are huge inequalities, both in our skills and our luck. Any parent of more than one child knows this. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” This was communism’s slogan. Sounds great, but it didn’t work well. Human nature is such that highly skilled people are typically not well motivated by pure altruism. We want to be rewarded for our efforts. In a word, we are basically selfish. The communists had a solution for this problem: Change human nature. Thus the re-education camps. Selfishness could be eradicated through social engineering. It didn’t work. Instead of bettering man, this tragic effort led to tens of millions of innocent deaths. So we are back to square one. Income redistribution through taxation can create economic equality but it suppresses the motivation of our most skilled individuals. There is a fundamental trade-off between equality and efficiency. Distribution of skills conforms to a typical Bell curve on an x-y axis. Most people have average skills. The more you move from the average, the fewer people you get. Only a tiny percent of Americans have both the intellect and organizational skills to advance society. Maybe one-tenth of one percent. But one-tenth of one percent in a country with 300 million people is still a big number - 30,000 to be exact. These are the people who will push the economic needle forward. So how do we make sure they do so? Well, promising to tax away all the money they may make is probably not a good way to get them moving. If society holds out no hope of reward, we won’t get the kind of entrepreneurial effort that has led to most of the technological advances behind our high standard of living. The world’s richest man - Bill Gates - is a simple case in point. Think of how much society has advanced because of personal computers. Do You believe Bill Gates would have worked so hard solely to better mankind? Better get on the Internet and take a look at his 66,000-square-foot mansion. Just about every significant advance we now enjoy was invented and implemented by someone motivated, in large part, by their personal economic advancement. Let’s face it. You and I didn’t invent the car, the TV or the microchip. In fact, we have little clue as to how all that stuff works. Yet we enjoy their benefits every day. We are average men and women standing on the shoulders of geniuses. Do we want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg? Are we so consumed by envy that we will destroy prosperity for the sake of our egos? Is it that hard to accept the fact that your neighbor may have more than you? There are some Americans who believe that all money is gotten through evil means. These people believe if you are rich, you had to cheat or steal. No doubt, this is true in some cases. Humans are sinners. That will never change. So are we to cripple our economic engine because of human imperfection? Shall we throw out the baby with the bath water? Truth be known, the vast majority of wealth was created by creative, motivated individuals offering goods or services that others were willing to pay for. In a phrase, the rich - or their forebears - earned their money. Indeed, there are those who simply inherited their money (even though half was taken by the government). Luck is a fact of life. The desire to provide for your family is a great motivator. Deny that to our genius entrepreneurs and prosperity takes a huge hit.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-02-09T14:21:53-06:00
ID
162014
Comment

There's some sort of weird inverse economic theory being presented here, summarized in two claims: 1. Poor people want to work, even if financial support is available without working. 2. Rich people are only willing/able to generate wealth on the labor of others (presumably the "have nots" or the poor). Does this make sense? That poor people want to work, even if they could get by without working, and that rich people are unwilling to work and want the poor to do the work for them? Isn't it simpler and more true to life that everyone, generally speaking, wants the most reward for the least amount of work? This principle could take all kinds of different forms -- for some, the reward is a challenging and engaging job (as Donna describes), for others, it's simply the accumulation of wealth. And likewise, the "amount of work" could refer to the difficulty of the work, the time and preparation required in advance to be eligible for a certain career or position, or the ongoing time investment. Is it really so shocking to believe that receiving financial support to not work may incentivize some people to not work?

Author
Mark Geoffriau
Date
2011-02-09T14:24:25-06:00
ID
162015
Comment

Donna, the problem is the small country weeklies, which constitute a majority of the members of the press associatio, feel threatened by "free shoppers" with no editorial content that want to take their legal business away. They are not thinking about urban weeklies with editorial content. I'm on your side on this one. Why don't you give Layne a call and see if he can put you on the agenda? I'll run it up the flagpole if you want.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-02-09T14:29:07-06:00
ID
162017
Comment

Mr. Emmerich, your column presents a strawman argument. Our choices are not between some sort of flat tax and communism. The question is whether progressive taxation is moral and promotes economic development. Also, you provide no evidence that the 30,000 richest people in the country are one and the same with the greatest innovators. The proper question is whether Bill Gates would take his toys and go home if he faced 4 percent higher taxes in the top bracket. It is absurd to argue that he would. Indeed, men such as Gates and Warren Buffett argue that our current system taxes them too little. That is, the innovators think you're wrong.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2011-02-09T15:28:24-06:00
ID
162018
Comment

There are literally dozens of paycheck calculators on the Internet. Just Google "paycheck calculator" and enter $60,000 of gross pay and you will arrive at my number. I have no idea who the "Center on Budget and Policy Priorities" is, but their computation of payroll taxes on $60,000 in pay is at odds with every payroll calculator on the Internet. I'll go with my figures. OK, let's see. I went to Google and entered "paycheck calculator." I clicked on the FIRST result that came up in Google, www.paycheckcity.com. I entered gross pay of $60,000. Pay frequency: semi-monthly Filing Status: Head of Household Federal Exemptions: 10* Total Federal and Payroll taxes withheld per Googled calculator: $6100.08 Emmerich chart number: $13034 *I'm not a tax accountant, but I can try to follow instructions. I got those 10 exemptions by looking at a W-4, and then looking up Pubs 972 and 503, finding that our sample single parent -- of two dependent children paying childcare costs in order to work -- appears to qualify for each. My math: 1 for yourself, 1 for single have one job, 1 for head of household, 2 for dependents, 1 for child care expenses, 4 for Child Tax Credit. State Taxes withheld (head of household + two dependents): $2064 Emmerich chart number: $3000 The $60k household is already up ~$8000. What did I miss? I did exactly what you told me to do.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2011-02-09T15:47:58-06:00
ID
162019
Comment

OK, Wyatt, had a staff meeting so behind on reading. And now must work on BOOM. But I will comment quickly on your point about free distribution: I might add, the Northside Sun doesn't make any money off home delivery. Of course not, I doubt anyone does these days. I have often thought the better model may be the type of free racks that the Jackson Free Press has. The visibility is so much better, even though paid home delivery has traditionally been thought of as the gold standard of distribution. Traditionally, as in earlier last century. No one under about 50, or soon 60, is going to pay for a newspaper. The Mississippi Press Association needs to come to this conclusion and fast, so as not to be completely irrelevant. And I understand the concern about "free shoppers" with no editorial content, but other associations manage to figure out how to tell the difference between a shopper and a paper that has won as many national reporting awards as we have in just a few years, and has broken story after story. It's a ridiculous argument. I think it's great if you "run it up the flagpole," but I will be very surprised if The Clarion-Ledger doesn't have a hissy fit over it. But with all their "free" action, it's absurd. OK, I'm done with that and must work. I'll let others rip you to shreds over your ridiculous "people don't want to work" argument. You deserve it.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-02-09T15:51:20-06:00
ID
162020
Comment

If I had to bet, I'd say the Sun will eventually transition to free racks. That's an easy switch. (Then I guess the Sun would get kicked out of MPA!) The Sun is in free racks, Wyatt. That's the only place I ever see it. OK, now I'm out. Looking forward to your response to Todd's calculator exercise, though. (Correction: Thought you meant Sun Magazine; it's in free racks -- and isn't it a member of MPA? Does it run any ads through MPA? But I haven't picked up a Northside Sun in months, as I said, that wasn't free in a rack with one of those green slips.)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-02-09T15:55:35-06:00
ID
162021
Comment

Wyatt, Donna, Todd: Can y'all just email each other your responses? The responses are exhausting to read and overwhelmingly redundant. Any JFP reader that has had the time and brutal strength to read every single word that y'all have typed deserves a $25 gift certificate to Tye's. (oh wait) Also, major props to Jay Losset for complimenting Todd on a post about his own work. That is by far, the funniest thing I have read all day. "Good job, man! You really covered me well."

Author
jbreland
Date
2011-02-09T16:07:50-06:00
ID
162022
Comment

Jackson, just don't read it then. Funny: I've never heard you complain about a bunch of people using fake names shooting each other down with personal insults without any degree of decency to the posts. Move on if you're not interested, but we're going to have this conversation out loud, even if it makes some conservatives squirm a bit. (There was another post I didn't open from one of our regular conservatives complain that we should "get a room"--funny what y'all choose to be offended by.)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-02-09T16:12:15-06:00
ID
162023
Comment

I used zero exemptions for both scenarios. You used nine exemptions. Thus the difference. There were too many vagaries in the IRS code for me to try to determine the exact number of eligible exemptions, so I kept it simple and used zero for both. Why don't you redo the chart with all four income scenarios with nine exemptions and see what you get? The problem is using zero exemptions in one income scenario and nine exemption in the next. However many exemption you apply, it needs to be apples to apples. The New Republic discredited my zero exemption number by applying multiple exemptions, but then did not apply the same exemptions to the other income scenarios. Presumably, it would lower the taxes for all four income scenarios, but not significantly alter the comparitive "net economic benfit." All four bottom lines would go up or down depending on the number of exemptions inputws. One frustration is that everyone criticized my chart, but nobody offered a new one. I was hoping more to get the discussion going and then have the process refined and a better, more accurate chart result. Be my guest. I'd be happy to publish the result.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-02-09T16:32:04-06:00
ID
162024
Comment

Here's a similar analysis from the Mises site (an anarcho-capitalist/libertarian organization) demonstrating how poverty-assistance programs frequently actually disincentivize increasing one's wages. In Clifford Thies's example (for a Virginia family of 3), the "tipping point" appears to be around $40,000 gross pay -- in other words, at all points between complete unemployment (no income) and $40,000, the balance of taxes and subsidies leaves the hypothetical family in essentially the same financial position. http://mises.org/daily/3822

Author
Mark Geoffriau
Date
2011-02-09T17:04:15-06:00
ID
162025
Comment

Author
JSL1
Date
2011-02-09T17:07:56-06:00
ID
162026
Comment

I used zero exemptions for both scenarios. You used nine exemptions. Thus the difference. Indeed. My calculation is based on actually applying the US tax code to the scenario presented. One frustration is that everyone criticized my chart, but nobody offered a new one. That's my plan, hopefully later this evening after I engage in a little more free enterprise. I'm curious to see what the result will be and honestly can say I'm not sure what will come of it. More to come.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2011-02-09T17:17:51-06:00
ID
162027
Comment

http://www.paycheckcity.com/netpaycalc/netpayCalcResult.asp This is the website I was used just now. Like I said, there are hundreds. I don't really pay much attention to which payroll calculator I use. I put in three standard deductions (household, two dependents) and got $1,700 less than my original chart. For the $14,500, three dependents produced $150 less. So using these three exemptions, creates a net change of $1,550 from my original chart. This still puts the $14,500 above the $60,000. As for finessing the tax code to get a better number, well, that is a well refined art in this country, but beyond the scope of my original article.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-02-09T17:36:41-06:00
ID
162028
Comment

I understand the three exemptions: head of household, two dependents. Don't really follow how you get to nine exemptions. That seems to be a stretch. The child care exemption, maybe. But as a caveat for delving too far into the esoterics of the tax code, I have attached the IRS stipulations on eligibility restrictions for even that exemption. Like I said, I tried to keep it pretty straighforward and simple. Top Ten Facts About the Child and Dependent Care Credit IRS Tax Tip 2010-46 Did you pay someone to care for a child, spouse, or dependent last year? If so, you may be able to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit on your federal income tax return. Below are the top 10 things the IRS wants you to know about claiming a credit for child and dependent care expenses. The care must have been provided for one or more qualifying persons. A qualifying person is your dependent child age 12 or younger when the care was provided. Additionally, your spouse and certain other individuals who are physically or mentally incapable of self-care may also be qualifying persons. You must identify each qualifying person on your tax return. The care must have been provided so you – and your spouse if you are married filing jointly – could work or look for work. You – and your spouse if you are married filing jointly – must have earned income from wages, salaries, tips, other taxable employee compensation or net earnings from self-employment. One spouse may be considered as having earned income if they were a full-time student or they were physically or mentally unable to care for themselves. The payments for care cannot be paid to your spouse, to someone you can claim as your dependent on your return, or to your child who will not be age 19 or older by the end of the year even if he or she is not your dependent. You must identify the care provider(s) on your tax return. Your filing status must be single, married filing jointly, head of household or qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child. The qualifying person must have lived with you for more than half of 2009. However, see Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses, regarding exceptions for the birth or death of a qualifying person, or a child of divorced or separated parents. The credit can be up to 35 percent of your qualifying expenses, depending upon your adjusted gross income. For 2009, you may use up to $3,000 of expenses paid in a year for one qualifying individual or $6,000 for two or more qualifying individuals to figure the credit. The qualifying expenses must be reduced by the amount of any dependent care benefits provided by your employer that you deduct or exclude from your income. If you pay someone to come to your home and care for your dependent or spouse, you may be a household employer. If you are a household employer, you may have to withhold and pay social security and Medicare tax and pay federal unemployment tax. For information, see Publication 926, Household Employer's Tax Guide. Beginning with 2009 tax returns, Schedule 2, Child and Dependent Care Expenses for Form 1040A Filers, has been eliminated. Form 1040A filers will now use Form 2441, Child and Dependent Care Expenses. For more information on the Child and Dependent Care Credit, see Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses. You may download these free forms and publications from IRS.gov or order them by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-02-09T17:44:43-06:00
ID
162029
Comment

Grab a W-4, walk through the worksheet and see what you come up with for your stated scenario.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2011-02-09T17:49:21-06:00
ID
162030
Comment

Okay. I went to the IRS's own income tax calculator http://www.irs.gov/individuals/page/0,,id=14806,00.html to do the income tax. And I used Paycheckcity calculator http://www.paycheckcity.com/netpaycalc/ for the social security and Medicare withholding. I assume two children and the $9,600 childcare cost and 1/4th of the childcare cost for the one-week-a-month $14,500 worker. The result (assuming the other factors in my chart are unchanged)is the $60,000 worker (with no medical insurance) has $40,599 in net economic benefit. The minimum wage one-week-a-month worker has $38,183 net economic benefit. So even using your methodology (which I grant you is more exact and dulls my original chart), my argument that the tax code creates disincentives still stands.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-02-09T19:11:21-06:00
ID
162033
Comment

I see a great "Trading Spaces" TV show here. Wyatt vs. Todd, one passively collecting his unearned welfare check, the other forced to work for minimum wage. No other bank account, insurance, or means of support for either of them for six months. Which one will be happier? Who will stick it out the longest? How will either of them react to a life or death situation? Maybe the winner can be presented with a new Hyundai or something. Well, it'd be not much worse than half the other crap on TV (LOL).

Author
ed inman
Date
2011-02-09T23:26:02-06:00
ID
162038
Comment

Great idea Ed. I would love to see any whining tax payer try live it up as a freeloading tax moocher and see how successful they are at working the system while maintaining their livestyle. In my mind, the truth of the underlying arguments is that life is uncertain and scary, and financially we have all been hit and are less secure than we used to be, and it makes us look for answers. Maybe even someone to blame. Even people making a living wage have lost the only wealth they had in the lower value of their homes. I feel I have been very fortunate and don't feel over-taxed at all, but if I was self-employed (and I once tried to be) I would hate doing taxes quarterly and would feel burdened by the tax code, if not the tax rate. I have a lot of sympathy for self-employed folks who just watched their business evaporate in the last few years. Some of them are mad because they don't qualify for assistance but they are struggling, losing their homes, and no one seems to care. No one seems to have an answer for them, and, IMHO they are the non-radical element that have been radicalized by the tea party. I am not saying their political conversion is the best response, only that I understand why it may have happened. That said, I return and end with my first point - many people have super-exaggerated the benefits of receiving public assistance and the "ease" of which assistance can be obtained, especially in Miss. where the taxes are fairly low and the benefits are even lower.

Author
gwilly
Date
2011-02-10T09:42:14-06:00
ID
162039
Comment

".......I return and end with my first point - many people have super-exaggerated the benefits of receiving public assistance and the "ease" of which assistance can be obtained, especially in Miss. where the taxes are fairly low and the benefits are even lower." Thanks for reiterating that point, it's something that people from the "right" seem to overlook constantly, when they are trying to say welfare/entitlement programs are a major cause to the economic woes in this country.

Author
Duan C.
Date
2011-02-10T10:02:11-06:00
ID
162040
Comment

(BTW, all, Todd hasn't bailed on this conversation. He is extremely busy trying to close advertising for the new BOOM. He will be back, so stay close!)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-02-10T11:39:58-06:00
ID
162041
Comment

To paraphrase John Paul Jones, "I have not yet begun to debate!" But it might be the weekend while we get this BOOM issue out of the way. Stay tuned... same Bat time, same Bat blog!

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2011-02-10T13:30:17-06:00
ID
162046
Comment

Donna, Thanks for the quick and concise response. I had trouble finding where I was "offended" and "squirming" due to the content of this debate. I searched high and low, took a Spice smoke break, then returned to my workbench. 12 minutes later I realized that I was foolishly scanning the wrong response. It was one of y'all's. It's almost impossible for me to be offended by words. I've been blessed. Not prone to violence, not prone to personal attacks, just a penchant for herbs and spirits and a physical malady that causes my tongue to be permanently lodged in my cheek. The only time it can be removed is for laughter or sticking it out at the mirror. I love how y'all welcome open debate and serious dialogue (though I do wish more humor could be injected), but only when the volume of condescension isn't turned to 11. Already my response is at Laddian, Staufferian, Emmerichian proportions. Y'all's truly, Jackson Fake Middle Name Breland

Author
jbreland
Date
2011-02-10T16:51:50-06:00
ID
162047
Comment

Jackson, let's just say I'd never heard you complain about the length of a thread before, and there have been some that are much more convoluted than this one! But if I misinterpreted your impatience, I humbly apologize. But the answer is still: no.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-02-10T16:54:52-06:00
ID
162048
Comment

Thanks. I would also have accepted, "Start your own damn site and don't tell us how to act on ours." Side note: Still anticipating the JFP's first "fake" issue. Plenty of headlines in mind. (I'm an ideas man, Michael. I think I proved that with....)

Author
jbreland
Date
2011-02-10T17:07:29-06:00
ID
162049
Comment

I realize thanks to Todd I made an error in my chart on the income tax side. The error was not applying the child care tax credit. That being said, my new corrected chart is not much different than my old chart. For the following annual compensation of $3,625, $14,500, $30,000 and $60,000, the old chart showed net economic benefit of $31,630, $37,777, $27,379 and $34,366 respectively. The new chart shows $30,974, $37,463, $30,096 and $38,611. To me, these numbers don't significantly change my argument.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-02-10T17:20:37-06:00
ID
162050
Comment

I would also have accepted, "Start your own damn site and don't tell us how to act on ours." I figured that was understood. ;-) Wyatt, thanks for a return volley. Todd'll be back in the game soon. We're literally in the last night before BOOM goes to press madness.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-02-10T19:05:27-06:00
ID
162056
Comment

While we await further dissection of Mr. Emmerich's numbers, some context is in order. We are having this conversation at a time when poverty is at a 15-year high. One in seven Americans live below the poverty line. One in five children do. The unemployment rate among the least educated workers is 15 percent. These are people who are actively seeking work but can't find it. They can't find it in part because wealthy Americans and corporations caused a financial crisis through reckless speculation. The cost of education has risen dramatically, largely because of dwindling state support. Federal taxes on the wealthy are at their lowest since the 1930s. Income inequality is at its highest since the 1920's. That is apart from the fact that Mr. Emmerich explicitly bemoaned the work habits of people in the Delta, where poverty is a direct legacy of slavery, sharecropping, and discrimination in education. What would Mr. Emmerich have us do? Cut subsidies to the poor. Reduce taxes on the wealthy. No chart in the world can make that anything but ugly.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2011-02-11T13:09:55-06:00
ID
162065
Comment

Cutting subsidies for the poor is not the solution. We need to acknowledge that our existing tax/benefits structure is trapping some in a cycle of dependency. We need an overhaul of the entire tax/benefits system so it accomplishes a significant safety net while not discouraging advancement. No matter what level of income, our system should be structured in a way that more pay equals more net economic benefits.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-02-11T14:30:59-06:00
ID
162067
Comment

Wyatt, I don't see how meager government subsidies "discourage advancement"? I think that, if there is anyone trapped in a supposed "cycle of welfare dependency" it is because of the legacy of slavery, sharecropping and educational discrimination (as Brian put it) more so than $250-400 bucks a month in WIC payments. I will agree that taxation and benefit structures may need to be revised, in order to spur true investment in the human potential of many poor people and to redress those legacies that I mentioned earlier. Nothing your chart reveals suggests a real problem or solution to the issues it raises.

Author
Renaldo Bryant
Date
2011-02-11T15:40:54-06:00
ID
162068
Comment

If the poor have so much disposable income, why aren't they driving around in brand new Cadillacs and Navigators and living in McMansions in Madison? I work a 40-hour week job and go to school part-time and don't receive government assistance and I can't afford those items either. In his argument, Mr. Emmerich failed to include in hisresearch that most welfare-for-poor recipients stay on less than two years. I heard about this statistic in the early 90s and as far as I can tell, those numbers haven't change. So, if most people are on less than two years, how does this, then, create a cycle of dependence and create laziness? Of course, we'd have to look into why people are going off of welfare, whether it's because they've found a job and don't need welfare anymore, exhausted their time on it or other factors. As we all know, corporate welfare costs us way more than welfare that goes to the poor, yet in this economy, we don't see a rush of adding new jobs. Those who take up the corporate mantel will say that high taxes is presenting this from happening. Balderdash! I'll cite sources on the costs of corporate welfare when time permits.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2011-02-11T15:46:54-06:00
ID
162069
Comment

My guess is that Wyatt didn't grow up poor as many of us did. Thank God for the various kinds of public assistance my family got, which allowed me to break out of the trailer-park cycle.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-02-11T17:29:29-06:00
ID
162071
Comment

If this is Wyatt's attempt at reforming or even doing away with welfare for the poor entirely, then it's an extremely poor way of doing so. We can definitely debate the merits of reform, but it needs to be done so without all the stereotypes and feel-good-sound-good "solutions" that go with it.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2011-02-11T23:21:26-06:00
ID
162075
Comment

I've had enough of these closeted biggots who hide under the umbrella of statistics; however, their data is flawed, unreliable and invalid, secondary to the fact that it is applied to blatent lies and racist thinking. Wyatt Emmerich's article in his North Side Sun should have been trashed before it left the press. Just the simple fact that one does not qualify for Medicaid who makes $14,000/yr. This argument is as ignorant as the one made by the Clarion Ledger laying out its proof for crime being the reason that whites are moving from Jackson and into areas such as Madison/Ridgeland. I have lived in Jackson for 44 years. I have watched the ONE black family move in and the WHOLE community of whites move out. Now, there isn't anyplace here in Jackson to move that will ensure racial exclusion. The only place to go is out of Jackson; however, many blacks and hispanics are moving to these areas. Where do you go from Madison and Ridgeland? The Wyatt Emmerich article is just one more example of flawed data for whites to hear and continue or become more angry with the poor - especially blacks. It is the talk that justifies the lack of empathy and consideration for people who have given everything, but, received nothing. The maid that could only be hired to work in the kitchen could have been trained to be a butcher or a cashier at a Super Market. These jobs carry reasonable pay with benefits. Remember, it hasn't been that long ago that blacks could not be hired in such jobs here in Mississippi. Damn, give this race a chance to play "catch-up". We are still payed less for doing the same jobs at most companies to include State jobs. What about that study? Hiring practices remain in the "Good ol' Boy" School of personell policy. My challenge to Wyatt and others who continue to use "fear" as a strategy to support such an argument is to put the chart away on this flawed study and join others who are looking at root causes of poverty and making a concerted effort in making Jackson a better city; Mississippi a better State: This effort will ultimately result in Americans having a better Country.

Author
justjess
Date
2011-02-13T12:45:58-06:00
ID
162078
Comment

@ justjess - good post! couldn't have said it any better!

Author
Duan C.
Date
2011-02-14T07:53:17-06:00
ID
162079
Comment

Justjess and Duan, y'all are so wrong about Wyatt. He's not in the closet. I'm happy to know that there was at least one republican who wasn't hateful, unconcern or indifference toward the tenuous situations Blacks remain in. What more evidence can we find that Congressman Christopher "Tipping into Darkness" Lee who just lost his seat in Congress for sending a sister a picture of his guns via Craigslist so as to impress her and extend some GOP love and concern for her mere being. Congressman Lee marched to his own beat and was willing to risk it all to prove he if no one else under the big tent is a caring, integrating and non-discriminating republican. Unfortunately, his act of reaching out to the forgotten, down-trotted, and left out was promptly met by a forced resignation. Why did he have to resign if Craig, Ensign, Vitter and countless other republicans did not have to for seemingly common and endless republican conduct. The world shold is cold!

Author
Walt
Date
2011-02-14T18:21:50-06:00
ID
162112
Comment

Walt, I agree. Why him but not others?

Author
jbreland
Date
2011-02-16T00:37:37-06:00
ID
162372
Comment

Where's Todd's chart that proves that Wyatt Emerich's chart was incorrect? "Wyatt, thanks for a return volley. Todd'll be back in the game soon. We're literally in the last night before BOOM goes to press madness. posted by DonnaLadd on 02/10/11 at 06:05 PM"

Author
Dave Coleman
Date
2011-03-02T17:00:09-06:00
ID
162378
Comment

It is important to point out that Emmerich didn't come to these conclusions because he 'didn't do his research'. he came to this conclusion because he had a lie he wanted to tell and the facts would get in the way if he looked at them honestly. This isn't an accident and it isn't sloppy work. It's using his media outlet to tell a lie and speak ill of the working poor. He doesn't deserve a benefit of the doubt. there is no doubt.

Author
jp!
Date
2011-03-03T02:42:56-06:00
ID
162541
Comment

Whatever the numbers wind up being, unfortunately, Emmerich is somewhat correct. I have heard many times (growing up poor) people say, "I can't make any more or I loose" whatever benefit. The reason for this is not that they don't want to work. Often, making just $10.00 more per paycheck, means loosing a $100 per paycheck benefit. It is like entering a higher tax bracket by just a dollar or two - I earn more, but bring home less. In the situation of the poor, loosing that benefit would leave them starving. I am not saying that this prevents many from going ahead and making the jump to earn more for very long, but it is a concern. It is scary to loose the safety net and jump headlong into an uncertain jobs market. I am trying to start a conversation on Ethical Capitalism. The idea that excessive profits should be shared with workers. The idea that we prefer to make twenty thousand men prosperous rather than a few executives millionaires. ( http://bobbyshead.blogspot.com )

Author
BobbyKearan
Date
2011-03-15T12:54:59-06:00
ID
162546
Comment

Graywalker, I appreciate your point, but you do not seem to understand how tax brackets work. If you earn more, only that additional income is taxed at a higher rate. In other words, income from about $8,400 up to $34,000 is taxed at 15 percent. The next dollar over that amount is taxed at 25 percent, but that doesn't change how the first $34,000 is taxed. You cannot take home less by earning more, at least not as far as tax brackets are concerned. It is literally impossible. This misunderstanding is cynically exploited by Republicans to argue for tax breaks for the wealthy, though I don't think that's the argument you were making. Conservatives often moan that the wealthy are taxed unfairly, as if they pay 35 percent income on all their income while other people pay only 15 percent on all their income. That's discrimination! But the truth is that everyone is taxed the same. It is only the wealthy man's income over $340,000 that is taxed at 35 percent. His lower income is taxed the same as anyone else.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2011-03-15T15:09:35-06:00
ID
162548
Comment

But the truth is that everyone is taxed the same. It is only the wealthy man's income over $340,000 that is taxed at 35 percent. His lower income is taxed the same as anyone else. Thank you for stating a fact that seems to allude so many, Brian

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-03-15T16:03:15-06:00
ID
162552
Comment

"You cannot take home less by earning more" Its happened to me a couple times at least. I may be forgetting some factors.... or I've had some shady bosses. Maybe I got a raise and company health insurance at the same time. I do understand tax brackets, it was a question of payroll. When properly calculated with only a raise in pay and nothing else taken out besides normal taxes, you are correct and I was mistaken. Still, a small jump in pay can loose food stamps and other assistance that families (or singles) have depended on. It is a scary thing to loose when you only earn a little extra, especially in today's job market. Most people will wait until they get a secure large jump in income before stepping away from assistance. So, Emmerich's assertion that loosing social assistance is sometimes a deterrent to earning more is, while exaggerated in scope, still basically accurate (I would give him Half True on the http://politifact.com/ scale. His assertion that making $14k gives you more disposable income than making 60k is absolutely absurd). I've seen it happen, been in the room when it was discussed. "I don't want to loose my benefits." I agree that it SHOULD be only a temporary helping hand, but a few people feel more comfortable getting the assistance instead of going out and taking the risk of self-support. Saying its not an issue is almost as bad as saying its the norm or some kind of epidemic. Its not a race issue either - it was mostly white people I witnessed doing it. I am looking forward to seeing Todd's numbers / chart. Even better, could we get an accountant to work up the correct numbers?? ( for a chart on SNAP - http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/applicant_recipients/eligibility.htm#income ) and Brian, no, the wealthy are not taxed enough. You hear the argument that "10% of people (the rich) pay 60% of the taxes and that is unfair" - and while true, they leave off the rest of the facts - they (the rich) take home 90% of all income, so they should be paying 90% of the taxes and yes, it is unfair they pay only 60%!

Author
BobbyKearan
Date
2011-03-16T08:21:43-06:00
ID
162557
Comment

I haven't studied the thread or Emmerich's chart, but Graywalker has a point on people losing out on benefits for not very much extra money. Here's an example. Say I'm drawing $1300/month in disability payments. Less premiums held out for Medicare, my total check is $934. That's the 'takehome' pay. Disability is defined as "the inability to engage in substantial gainful activiity due to a medical impairment that can be reasonably expected to end in death or last longer than one year." "Substantial gainful activity" is government-speak for "work". Social Security defines "engaging in substantial gainful activity" as earning a certain amount of money per month. When I worked for disability, "substantial gainful activity" meant you were earning $750 a month reported to SSA as "income". You could go out and add $649/month to your income without losing Social Security Disability payments. Say your disability improves and you're able to work part-time. Minumum wage is now what, $7.25/hr? 20 hours a week with four weeks in a month at that pay is $580/month. But 40 hours a week at that is right at $1160/month, before taxes. So you can manage to make 25 hours a week without losing SSA benefits ($725/month), but not 30 ($870/month). Both of which are lower than what you get from SSA ($1,300/month). Given that none of this is enough to live on, it may seem like an academic point, but look at this--a person drawing $1300/month in disablity payments and working 25 hours/week at a minimum wage job is now making $2.025/month. Adding one more hour per day throws that person out of the disability income. Now their income is down to $725/month--less than what they were drawing in disability income without working at all. That is how people "make less" by "earning more" as it comes to disability benefits. Other programs I can't speak to.

Author
JDLW
Date
2011-03-16T15:28:53-06:00
ID
162560
Comment

Tom! I love it when you curse. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-03-16T16:50:58-06:00
ID
162561
Comment

All I was trying to do is explain Graywalker's point. No need to curse.

Author
JDLW
Date
2011-03-16T17:18:25-06:00
ID
162564
Comment

Tom - Point taken. "People don't want to work" is absurd. Naturally, there are some shiftless people out there just to be the exception that proves the rule. I know people who are out of work, but looking, who "fix" things that are not broken, run errands that don't need running and generally fidget the whole time. People want to work. Even those who don't want to "work" want to earn their keep and make a contribution to society. But... can't we take his hateful lies and make a good, productive discussion out of it? Eventually dropping all references to whatshisname? (wouldn't that piss him off?)

Author
BobbyKearan
Date
2011-03-16T18:29:17-06:00
ID
162583
Comment

Graywalker, I think we are in general agreement. Like Tom, I do not dispute that the social safety net creates some disincentives to work. It's not clear to me how significant a factor it is. That is, people are not rational agents, neoclassical economics be damned. Like you, I believe most people want to work, even when it isn't to their maximum benefit. But only up to a point. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the system? Emmerich claimed to support the social safety net but with reforms so that work is not discouraged. However, he did not offer any actual policy proposals. I can't help but be wary of calls for "reform" from conservatives, as more often than not it means "drown it in the bathtub." One way to encourage work would be to expand the safety net. For example, if we further expanded eligibility for Medicaid, no one would have to worry about losing medical benefits by taking a low-wage job. Alternately, raising the minimum wage would also help, as it would provide greater rewards for working. But I doubt that's what folks like Emmerich have in mind.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2011-03-17T15:36:32-06:00
ID
162630
Comment

Yes, I do have suggestions. One would be to enact fraud protections. For example, if a person works 6 to 8 months, 'gets hurt' or something, files unemployment, stays unemployed until benefits run out, works 6 to 9 months, repeat... the third time they are barred from the system for a two year period. If it repeats again, barred from the system for life. Make benefits phase out over time or require yearly reapplication. Give decreasing benefits for additional children. Require job training and/or life and financial coaching as a requirement for receiving benefits - one group class per month while receiving benefits. Don't attend a class all month, next check is forfeit. Give people some help to get out of the trap. Make getting benefits like a part time job. Create a not-for-profit company of some sort to hire people who will work and create a good product or service - have a very flexible schedule and the wages not count against existing benefits. It would give people a good reference, training, etc. Make "I can't get to work on time" obsolete. Improve mass transit within the state. Many people can not afford a vehicle to get to and from work - and with gas prices, many who live in rural areas are finding it harder and harder to afford to get to work every day. Having a big parking lot in a rural area with a bus ride into town - or a train or even a big van - would be a vast help and could possibly generate some revenue to support itself. I would take an early morning bus or train from Brandon to Downtown Jackson in a heartbeat. Have a cheap bicycle or moped (etc) rental (per day) at the destination - or spaces to keep personal two-wheel transport there. A train from Whitfield to Downtown Jackson (and back) would be awesome for me and I would bike from the train station to work. Things I've heard from GOP - like making it illegal for someone on public assistance to have more than $20 cash - are completely insane.

Author
BobbyKearan
Date
2011-03-21T13:02:08-06:00
ID
162670
Comment

Graywalker, we agree that the Minnesota proposal from the GOP on spending cash is completely insane. However, I feel that you have largely shifted from discussing ways to reduce disincentives to work and are mostly discussing ways to reduce fraud among recipients of "benefits." It's not always clear what benefits you are talking about. For example, unemployment benefits do phase out over time, and most states require some kind of regular certification to continue receiving benefits. Moreover, unemployment insurance is largely based on previous earnings. Workers essentially own their benefits as a part of their earnings. I don't know why you seem to believe that there is widespread abuse of unemployment insurance. In any case, unemployment benefits are small compared to regular income. In Mississippi, the cap is $235 a week. The regular limit for receiving benefits is 26 weeks. Unemployment benefits do not provide a significant disincentive to work. If we're talking about what is commonly known as "welfare," you're late to that party too. Clinton's welfare reform already implemented most of what you propose. For example, recipients have a 60-month lifetime cap on benefits. Recipients are required to work or get job training. Most states no longer provide additional benefits to women who have additional children. Note also that TANF makes up a tiny share of federal spending, at about $17 billion, or 0.005 percent. Given that welfare programs have shrunk while poverty has increased, many critics have argued that "welfare reform" has been a failure. That is, reform basically made it hard for families to get assistance rather than creating the sort of fair but smart welfare-to-work program Clinton promised. I don't know what it means to say that we should make "I can't get to work on time" obsolete. Employees who can't make it to work on time are fired. Employees usually have to hold down a job for a certain number of quarters to qualify for unemployment benefits. From what you've posted, I suspect that you have mistaken ideas about how our social safety net actually works. I will provide links if you doubt any of what I have written above. We do agree on providing more public transportation.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2011-03-22T15:02:58-06:00
ID
162671
Comment

If we're going to have welfare reform, we need to reform corporate welfare as well.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2011-03-22T15:11:34-06:00
ID
162677
Comment

BTW, all, Todd is still on this project. It's gonna be good when he rolls out his big response. Run for the hills, Wyatt. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-03-22T16:06:21-06:00
ID
162678
Comment

Donna, considering it's been a month and a half, that seems a hollow threat. But, yes, I still intend to re-do the chart with better numbers (including some that I'm actually trying to confirm with Sources Who Might Know). Hopefully I'll have something before 2011 Parade Month is but a fond memory.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2011-03-22T16:10:11-06:00
ID
162693
Comment

Funny how the mind works. I was sitting in the tub and realized I had forgotten to move the decimal in my TANF calculation. It makes up about 0.5 percent of the federal budget, not 0.005 percent. Still, you would think it would be much higher, given the amount of energy people put into gnashing their teeth over it. By comparison, military spending is around $700 billion, or about 19 percent of federal spending. So we spend nearly 40 times as much on our military as we do on direct aid to poor women with children. Obviously, the poor get other forms of aid, especially Medicaid. But all that spending taken together does not come anywhere near the sum we spend on the military.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2011-03-22T21:35:39-06:00
ID
162694
Comment

Brian - If all of that is in place - and, yes, I don't know how it works cause I've rarely ever used it - then what the heck are right wing-nuts complaining about? I didn't say fraud was widespread, but it exists, rare as it may be. I've seen at least two instances personally and seen at least one family who were 'stuck' in the system. Then again, I grew up not having much. "I can't get to work on time" is often, in the poverty stricken areas that I am familiar with (rural and small town), simply a matter of reliable transportation. A family of three or four working adults sharing one vehicle and trying to go to separate jobs. Maybe unable to afford to fix the car so it runs right, maybe unable to afford gas. Bumming rides to work wears out fast. The old saying that you have to have money to make money is very accurate. If your family is poor and you don't live near a bus route or have a car and cheap gas - you can't make it to work alone - and there are not many options in a lot of Mississippi. Some people can't - or don't know how - to get reliable transport that is required to hold a job. Just speaking from lots of experience here. I am still trying to work out from under the high-interest loans and credit cards I had to use in order to get reliable transport and pay for gas, repairs, tires, wipers, etc.

Author
BobbyKearan
Date
2011-03-23T05:25:04-06:00
ID
162704
Comment

Ove the years, I have had many factory managers, especially in the Delta, tell me their biggest problem is finding workers who will show up on time and pass a drug test. I didn't make this up. I am merely reporting it. You can deny it all you want, but it is real. As I think back on this issue, it seems to me the biggest problem is the lack of any sliding scale on Medicaid benefits. You are either eligible or not. So if you accept a job that makes you ineligible for Medicaid, you immedicaly lose a program worth $10,000 plus in benefits. This is a real problem and keeps people from possibly advancing gradually from poverty. The EITC program, in contrast, is sliding scale and works much better.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-03-23T12:34:08-06:00
ID
162705
Comment

Ove the years, I have had many factory managers, especially in the Delta, tell me their biggest problem is finding workers who will show up on time and pass a drug test. Wyatt, I've had problems all over the country getting people to show up on time, and occasionally have had some issues with it myself. I've never given drug tests, because I tend to believe you can tell if someone is wigged out on drugs (or massively hungover every day or whatever) and is screwing up enough to be fired -- or they leave themselves because they can't handle a spotlight on their under-performance. And I think you and I both know some prominent white-collar workers who couldn't pass a drug test if their lives depended on it. Thus: I ask why you're making this point now -- and "especially in the Delta." And why just about factories?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-03-23T12:51:40-06:00
ID
162706
Comment

Mr. Emmerich, I don't know what the point of your anecdote about factory managers in the Delta is supposed to be. Graywalker noted that many poor people have problems affording reliable transportation. He would expand government support for public transportation to address this problem. Your point seems to be that workers in the Delta are unreliable drug addicts. What does that have to do with government assistance creating disincentives to work? Your proposal for a sliding scale for Medicaid benefits seems reasonable to me. Note that Obama's health care reform addresses this problem to some extent by providing subsidies to lower-income Americans who do not qualify for Medicaid. These workers should have an easier time affording private health insurance.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2011-03-23T13:05:52-06:00
ID
162707
Comment

Especially in the Delta, becuase that's where I have heard it the biggest problem. The Delta has more poverty and more welfare and has had many plant closures. Factories, especially, because that's where low-wage manufacturing competes most directly with the welfare state. Higher-income jobs compete less with welfare. People would rather work than not, unless it is in their interest not to. If you can sign up for welfare programs and still earn cash money in the black market (estimated to be some trillion dollars), then you are better off. As factory wages have declined to compete with off-shore and the welfare state has expanded, the cost-benefit ratio has changed for many people. Not saying whether this is good or bad. Hey, it's great to live in a country that can afford this, but it does explain why China, rather than Mississippi, gets the lion's share of the assembly factories. If this welfare can transition people into a higher-level workers, then it's money well spent. But if it mires them in a cycle of dependency, it's bad policy.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-03-23T13:07:05-06:00
ID
162708
Comment

As I think back on this issue, it seems to me the biggest problem is the lack of any sliding scale on Medicaid benefits. You are either eligible or not. So if you accept a job that makes you ineligible for Medicaid, you immedicaly lose a program worth $10,000 plus in benefits. Sounds like a pitch for the public option -- "Medicare Plus for everybody" -- so that moving around in the workforce wouldn't affect your healthcare, and providing healthcare would no longer be a burden on American businesses, including small businesses. (Ask the Germans... they have a robust public health *and* strong labor/corporate relations that have made it possible for companies like BMW, Mercedes, etc., to innovate and export the technology while still offering a social safety net and not having the same legacy problems with retiree benefits that U.S. companies have.) Maybe that's why the bulk of the policies that tea partiers now call "Obamacare" were GOP proposals a decade ago. They're business friendly.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2011-03-23T13:43:11-06:00
ID
162709
Comment

Graywalker, you'll have to ask the "right-wing nuts" what they're complaining about, but many of them simply oppose government assistance to the poor, even if they won't come out and say so explicitly. Suggesting that fraud is rampant in government-assistance programs is their favorite passtime. It's the southern strategy, baby. Remember Reagan's anecdote about the "welfare queen" from the south side of Chicago who drove a Cadillac? We all know what "south side of Chicago" means. If (white) people believe that (black) people are engaged in widespread public-assistance fraud, it is easier to convince them to gut those programs, which is essentially what happened with welfare reform. Never mind that blacks are a minority of TANF, food stamp, and Medicaid recipients. It's just harder to get people riled up about poor white women in Nebraska. They are less likely to believe horse shit about them driving Cadillacs. Barbour uses the same strategy today. (Now, the queens are driving BMWs.) I am not saying that there isn't any fraud. I am saying that the great majority of people who receive government assistance qualify for that assistance. The more hoops we make people jump through to get help, the lower the chance is that they'll get that help, even though they are qualified. Look at how Medicaid enrollment fell in Mississippi after Barbour made people re-enroll in person. There is no evidence that this change reduced fraud, though that is what Barbour claims. Instead, it is simply difficult for poor people to find transportation to those meetings. The result is that some poor people lost health coverage altogether.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2011-03-23T13:43:50-06:00
ID
162710
Comment

Hey, it's great to live in a country that can afford this, but it does explain why China, rather than Mississippi, gets the lion's share of the assembly factories. Hmm. You seem to be arguing that China gets the lion's share of assembly factories because it has reliable, enthusiastic workers. But that's silly. China gets factories because it pays rock-bottom wages and has no environmental protections. There is no way for Americans to compete with unskilled workers in China unless the price of transportation increases or we restore tariffs. The quality of the work force has nothing to do with it.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2011-03-23T13:57:46-06:00
ID
162712
Comment

If we just left total welfare spending the same, eliminated all other programs and expanded the EITC to fill the gap, then this would solve the problem of disincentives. It would eliminate the hoops, give lower income people more freedom and eliminate the disincentive of such programs as Medicaid. It would saved gazillions in bureaucracy. There are many conservatives who are just against welfare in general. I am not one of them. I believe in a substantial safety net. My problem is with governmental programs structured in such a way that perpetuate the cycle of poverty and put glass ceilings on lower-income people who could incrementally move up the income ladder. The reality with Medicaid--as it currently exists--is that there is no sliding scale. So any lower income person eventually reaches the point where if they make more money, they lose a huge benefit. So they are hesitant to move up the ladder. Granted, such structural poverty is pretty rare in America. Most of the "poor" are in fact young people just entering the job market. But being from the Delta, I have seen quite a bit of structural poverty so I am particularly sensitive to the subject of disincentives. As for people wanting to get the most money for the least work, I attribute such desires pretty much to all of humanity, to some greater or lesser degree. That's my point. The welfare state has to be structured with a realistic view of human nature. Working for the good of the commune hasn't gained much traction over human history.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-03-23T15:53:04-06:00
ID
162718
Comment

[Comment deleted]

Author
Pilgrim
Date
2011-03-24T08:54:43-06:00
ID
162848
Comment

Read this piece in The New York Times, all, by Ben Stein in 2006: In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning. The beginning: NOT long ago, I had the pleasure of a lengthy meeting with one of the smartest men on the planet, Warren E. Buffett, the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, in his unpretentious offices in Omaha. We talked of many things that, I hope, will inspire me for years to come. But one of the main subjects was taxes. Mr. Buffett, who probably does not feel sick when he sees his MasterCard bill in his mailbox the way I do, is at least as exercised about the tax system as I am. Put simply, the rich pay a lot of taxes as a total percentage of taxes collected, but they don’t pay a lot of taxes as a percentage of what they can afford to pay, or as a percentage of what the government needs to close the deficit gap. Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. The people in his office were mostly secretaries and clerks, though not all. It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. “How can this be fair?” he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. “How can this be right?” Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare. “There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-03-28T16:49:49-06:00
ID
162849
Comment

To Pilgrim: That's amusing. I'm a troll in a blog thread that bears my name. To Donna: Don't think you should use Warren Buffet as your example. He's a bit off the normal curve.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-03-28T16:57:45-06:00
ID
162851
Comment

I wasn't using him as an "example." I think the piece is interesting and tangential to this thread and your efforts at what seems to be class warfare, Wyatt. For the record, though, I don't think you're a troll. You post under your own name, and pretty much stay on topic. I hadn't noticed Pilgram's comment or I would have called him out already.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-03-28T17:02:28-06:00
ID
162854
Comment

Yes, the tax code is a mess. On that maybe we can all agree.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2011-03-28T17:15:06-06:00
ID
163205
Comment

All: I've finally published my "chart updates" today in conjunction with a Publisher's Note in this week's tax-focused JFP. I started a new blog entry with the charts so I could get the visuals posted. It's here.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2011-04-20T11:10:53-06:00

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