April 6, 2011
Posted by Jay Livingston

Jenn Lena
blogs something a relative sent her, with a picture of some dogs.
This morning I went to sign my dogs up for welfare. At first the lady said, “Dogs are not eligible to draw welfare.” So I explained to her that my dogs are mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddy’s are. They expect me to feed them, provide them with housing and medical care. So she looked in her policy book to see what it takes to qualify. My dogs get their first checks on Friday.

Damn, this is a great country! [emphasis in original]
The relative’s ignorance extends far beyond not knowing how to form plurals in written English, and Jenn provides, point by point, actual evidence that refutes the assumptions behind this supposed satire.

A day or two earlier, I came across this in the blog of Scott Sumner, who is, inTyler Cowen’s words, a “very smart monetary economist.” He knows the difference between a possessive and a plural, and I’m sure he has sophisticated economic theories and models that justify all his policy preferences. But read his gut reasons for mistrusting the Democrats on Social Security.
Here’s why I don’t trust the Dems—I see them as the party of one marshmallow eaters.* They represent people who have less self-control. I fear they will cut my benefits, but not cut the benefits of people who didn’t save for retirement. . . . .

In my view there is nothing egalitarian about redistributing income from two marshmallow eaters to one marshmallow eaters. They’ve already had their fun when young, loading up their three car garages with all sorts of fun toys. I’ve never even had a garage. (full text here )
Sumner is talking here not about the poor but about middle income (or somewhat higher) people who spent rather than saved. Still, the same moral sentiment underlies much opposition to policies designed to reduce inequality: they take from prudent ants and give to profligate grasshoppers.** The tone is different from the dogs-as-poor-people bit of hilarity. But it’s the same song, just played in a different key.

* This is a reference to the famous Stanford “marshmallow experiment,” where four-year-olds were given a marshmallow but were told that if they didn’t eat the marshmallow now, they could have two marshmallows later.

**I wonder how these people react to Rep. Ryan’s recent proposal, which does the reverse Robin Hood thing of shrinking programs for the poor and giving tax breaks the rich. Two-thirds of his proposed budget cuts hit programs for the poor (details here). At the same time, he would lower the income tax for millionaires from 35% to 25%. The former is for the noble purpose of saving the economy by reducing the deficit. I’m not sure how the latter helps in this regard, but I’m sure Rep. Ryan has some noble purpose in mind.


mike3550 said...

I am sure that his "noble" defense would be trickle-down benefits of the wealthy spending capital rather than giving it to the undeserving public employees who are getting rich at the expense of the taxpayers who work for the private capitalists who themselves would (according to Ryan) create more crappy jobs if they only didn't have to pay that extra 10% of their income not going to taxes.

Jay Livingston said...

I suppose you can make a case that lower business taxes lead to job creation. But I do not see how lowering personal income taxes on the rich benefits the economy more than would lowering taxes on less wealthy people.