Thursday, July 14, 2011

Benefits for the Middle Class

I might want more revenues and fewer cuts to programs that benefit middle-class families that are trying to send their kids to college…”  Barack Obama, 7/11/11 press conference

It is curious, but no longer surprising, that this statement doesn’t warrant any attention.  Correct me if I’m wrong here, but wouldn’t middle class families be in the middle?  It seems reasonable to conclude that a) the country’s real standard of living should approximate what the middle can afford and that b) except perhaps in the case of unforeseen emergencies, the middle class should be able and called on to manage their own affairs. 

Now I don’t doubt that modern life requires some income transfer from rich to poor and, to a lesser extent, from middle to poor, and that while I think it would be better if this were done privately the reality is that government is going to be the primary vehicle for these transfers.  But I don’t see how the U.S. middle class has a legitimate claim to take, by law, the wealth and property of the upper class.

But I suspect that is only a small part of what is going on here.  What is happening is the crisscrossing of dollars and money illusion that Buckley describes in the earlier, Up From Liberalism quote.  The middle class family needs assistance in paying for their kid’s college education because they’ve paid for everyone else’s college education, and because government assistance has seriously diminished economic discipline on both the supply and demand side of college education.

And finally, providing assistance to the middle class, if it is real net-net assistance, is essentially allowing the majority of the population to live beyond its means which is how an extraordinarily wealthy nation like the United States can find itself in a debt crisis.  As Herbert Stein observed, something that can't go on forever, won't.

No comments:

Post a Comment