The indisposition of the aborigines to manual labor is well known; but as they can obtain work of various kinds in the country they should not only be induced to take it, but they should be discouraged from remaining in comparative idleness at mission stations, where they will certainly abide as long as they are provided with food and clothing, without some corresponding demand being made upon their labor.
- Phillip Gidley King and Edmund Fosbery, report on missions to Aborigines, 1882
It's so interesting to me that the economic debate in this country can exist without a debate on the surge in food stamps and associated government sponsored benefits like tax credits, cell phones and extended unemployment benefits. The elephant in the room seems to be the dishonest ability to talk about people becoming lazy and unmotivated. The increasing lack of desire to work is eating away at the foundation of the nation. Unfortunately it's become a racial issue in America and when that doesn't work any detractors from the current system simply hate children.
Of course all races receive food stamps and of course it's rife with fraud and abuse.
While I think we need to take care of taxpayer funds there is an element to this situation that is even more important. It gets back to the notion of caring. It goes hand in hand with the development of the modern welfare state born of goodwill but now doing more harm than good. Take the aborigines of Australia, who somehow managed to survive for 50,000 years before the arrival of the British without a modern welfare state. The colonization of the people and capture of the land changed the old way of life.
Perhaps defeat took away something but without a doubt many wondered right out of the gate if welfare was doing more harm than good for the aboriginal people of Australia. Colonization of Australia began in 1788 and times were good from the end of the so-called Convict Era (1838) to the economic depression of 1890s (America suffered through a series of depressions and panics during the same decade). While times were good, private donations were made to help aboriginals adjust to their new country but the three main funds went bust.
Enter the government to fill the void, going from distribution of an annual blanket to being caretaker. Immediately there was debate over who should get benefits, how much those benefits should be and what the government expected in return. It was the beginning of a debate that continues to this day.
In the beginning it was clear that able-bodied men that wanted to work would always step in when given a chance, and those that would rather not work would avoid it at all costs - especially if that cost was nothing.
Literature from Stolen Generations, which chronicles life for the aboriginals, points to a trend of fewer and fewer able bodied men willing to do the work that coincided with greater and greater amounts of welfare benefits. As it turns out, the Aborigine Protection Board created, even encouraged, a proud people to become lazy and indifferent. Make no mistake, the aborigines of Australia have endured atrocities and even today sections of the nation's constitution allow government to disqualify particular races from voting and can make laws that apply to specific races.
Aborigines make up 2% of the nation's population but 25% of the prison population and have a life expectancy 17 years less than other Australians. Complicating matters is the same dilemma facing all nations that have offered generous welfare benefits for decades.
How to be less generous in the hopes of weaning people off assistance and into actually becoming productive members of society when so many entities have vested interested in people staying on government benefits. The power of each individual on the planet is transferable, much like the Faustian tale of exchanging one's soul in the afterlife for good times on earth. The deeper one gets into this arrangement the more difficult to climb out and being born into such circumstances makes escape a Herculean task.
No More Amore
When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine
Yesterday a headline from Italy spoke to the nature of the welfare state run amok - there is a shortage of pizza makers!
Citing long hours, low pay and the manual labor aspects of the job, Italians are shunning the job that one would consider a symbol of national pride. I'm sure some see the job as humiliation but there is only one way a nation that reported record unemployment in March of 11.7% (37% for youth) could actually turn down a job, even one that no longer has its old luster - getting money from somewhere else.
In 1978 Italy moved to a universal welfare regime after the economic run that saw annual GDP growth of 5.85% fade into the malaise of the decade. Of course Italy is marked by animosity between north and south. At the time of unification both enjoyed the same rate of GDP growth but the north embraced industrialization over the next fifty years beginning with Milan, Genoa and Turin that saw them become the economic juggernauts of the Kingdom of Italy. Now the region pays the taxes that are sucked by their brethren in the south that can refuse to even make pizza.
Welfare Debate America
There are several nations facing welfare crises other than America. In several European countries there is the issue of immigrants' impact on social services but for the most part it's come down to those caught in the web of welfare and those not. Unlike America the debate isn't held up as a racial issue but one of ideology. Perhaps it's because the DNA of this country to pull oneself up by the bootstraps the simple debate about fairness isn't enough. Sure, it's been tried but Americans still respect those that get off their duff and make it happen.
With that in mind it's so frustrating to see the logical argument to curtail food stamps and welfare programs held up by talk of racism. I happen to think excessive government assistance does no man good no matter the color, religion or other distinctions. On the contrary, just as the original inhabitants of Australia became wards of the state, losing their connection to the countryside, to independence, to survival, any person that lingers too long on help that offers rewards for no labor sees parts chipped or faded away until there isn't much left.
America has become the Food Stamp Nation and we are told it's a good thing - it's not. A strong economy is a good thing. Financial independence is a good thing. Having an uncompromised soul is a good thing. Pride in self is a good thing for the person and the nation. The economic condition of America isn't going to improve without a change in policies that make it too easy not to work.
The Case Shiller home price index for February posted a 1.2% increase month to month which was above the 1.0% consensus. Prices were up year over year by 9.3%. Once again all cities showed increases, particularly in the West including Vegas, Phoenix and LA. It's more positive news for the housing sector, which over the past week has somewhat debunked some fears of a slowdown.