Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Conservative Plan to Help the Poor

For about 50 years now, liberals have held dominance over the issue of helping Americas least fortunate and reducing poverty. With this dominance, they have done little, poverty has declined minimally, and perhaps, when adjusted for the level of economic growth, even gone backwards, and the states they have dominated the most (like California) have seen their middle classes shrink from some of the largest in America, to some of the smallest.

There is an inherent assumption that economic conservatives, being somewhat less directly interested, cannot help the poor, as if unintended effects of decisions never happen, and yet, it seems to me some of the most vital reforms required to break the ceiling for our poor are, in fact, economically conservative things to do:

1) Eliminate Property Taxes - it is very difficult to help the poor at the neighborhood or small town level when the minute the neighborhood improves, the poor can no longer afford to live there. Not only do current home owners face the potential of eviction if their property values go up, or their income goes down, but the change in rental prices is magnified, leading to those who rent apartments or houses being driven out much more quickly then they need be.

2) Simplify zoning - Simpler zoning laws lead to more walkable communities, by allowing nearly any business to open anywhere that is logical, that can support small, family owned business, and allow the natural expansion of industrial development in poorer areas. Not only does such industry provide jobs for the poor, but it stabilizes land prices by creating small nuisances to couple with gains in more meaningful areas, like education, and provides a tax base for communities that otherwise will receive little taxation.

3) Improve railbanking regulation - Currently, to reopen a closed rail line you must perform an entirely new environmental study and face major injunctions by the local community. Allowing any former line (it was there before, and the world didn't explode) to be reopened at any time, we can improve American freight handling, lowering distribution costs for consumer goods and freight, and increasing the profitability of American industry and the kind of jobs that CAN pay well: an assemblyline worker can easily produce a hundred grand a year of revenue for his business. In addition, the rail construction itself will also increase employment for underskilled workers, as it is largely manual labor.

4) Nuclear energy - Nuclear energy will lower electric bills nationwide, lowering the cost of American made goods, both for our people, and for export. Washington State built an entire industrial economy off of cheap electricity, one that is still growing today.

5) Eliminate ethanol and other subsidies, and pharmaceutical tariffs - These subsidies lower the availability of food and other economic goods that the poor need to survive, while tariffs against foreign drug manufacturers increase the price of health insurance and perscriptions for the people who can already barely afford them.

6) Simplify accounting standards - If you hire an accountant at $20 an hour to oversee the work of five productive workers, for your business to be as profitable, you must effectively take $4 an hour off of those five workers paychecks, as the accountant contributes nothing to the businesses profitability. This also, by lowering the maximum profitable wage, causes layoffs at a lower wage level.

7) Free trade - You have a choice, make the poor buy more expensive goods from ineffective producers who hold a relative monopoly over the market, and retain jobs that produce less, lowering the wage ceiling for the entire country by causing layoffs when the wage gets too high, or allow a few ineffective businesses to go away, and allow those workers to be hired by the companies that are willing to pay a higher wage as the workers here in the US will actually produce at that level, while lowering the price of goods, and thus the effective wage, for all.

There are likely many other examples, but these come to mind.

By focusing on the individual factors that actually hurt the poor and make them in need of help to begin with, we may find that their interests lie in liberty rather then theft that, in the end, finds itself stealing from them as well.


Mousers09 said...

I feel that your ideas are pretty well thought out, and that I agree with most of them-- but I just think that your opening statement might be a little unfair to state. Liberals most certainly have not dominated the poverty issue, our two-party system has led to either "mostly liberal" items that don't get the full effect of what the democrats may want for their plan... because republicans will disagree which may cause the bill not to pass.

Most people agreed [at the time] with FDR's policies for the poor, there's a reason he was voted in three times. His policies set a large amount of safety nets to keep us out of another Great Depression.

Neither party can get the full effect of what they want. So we can't really say that Republican policy fails, because Democrats often have things ride in the bill that compromises it's full intent, and vise-versa.

Jeremy Janson said...

That's a fair point, especially at the national level. But still, there is certainly a trend that the more liberal states do have faster growing poverty levels, and the more conservative states tend to have declining or slowly growing povery levels. Now it is true that full effect never occurs in a democracy, but the real effect does appear to be, at least in that way, detrimental.

Certainly an idealist could point to the "Law of the Second Best" to say that the 5% mattered more then the 95% (Not that the parties actually pass 95% of their legislation, but even if they did the Second Best could still best them) but politicians neither are nor should be idealist philosophers (hence the differences between Reagan/Thatcher and Milton Friedman, their patron economist), and should be responsible to plan for such things as some aspects of their agenda not being accepted.