American Elephants

The Dependency Agenda by The Elephant's Child

It is Very Hard for Our Congressmen to Reduce Spending! by The Elephant's Child

Did you know that the massive farm bill, which will cost nearly $1 trillion, isn’t really about America’s farmers, except indirectly. Three quarters of the expenditures are for food stamps. If the Bill becomes law, nearly $80 billion a year will be spent on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a much more refined name for the old food stamp program.

The stories about abuse and waste in the program are constant, and observed by people in line at the grocery store. Tales of Prime Rib and Lobster Tails bought with food stamps infuriate ordinary people struggling to balance their food budget. The program is, and is intended to be, a massive wealth redistribution scheme. We now have 46 million Americans on the program.

Senator Jeff Sessions proposed cutting $20 billion from the $770 billion that had been dedicated to the program in an earlier version of the bill, or less than 3%. There are, I understand, no income qualifications to enroll in the program.

The Democrats in the Senate, of course, rejected the modest cut. They want to be known as the ones who saved the food stamp program for starving children from the cruel cuts wanted by uncaring Republicans.  Figures.

Republicans don’t want anyone to go hungry, but a program for supplying food to people in need, needn’t provide expensive restaurant meals, nor pricey luxuries that the people paying for the food stamps can’t afford. The benefit to all Americans of eliminating waste and fraud is always trumped by the potential for demonstrating Republican meanness and cruelty.

ADDENDUM: My numbers here are haywire, as a reader was kind enough to point out. See the discussion in the comments, and follow the links there. I learned, to my horror, that there are 69 separate welfare programs, each budgeted separately, and spread over different departments, which would mean they are budgeted and supervised by different Congressional committees. Democrats do not want to cut any of them at any time, so they can accuse Republicans of “mean” and “slashing.” Republicans think there are limits to what the taxpayers can afford.

Pity the Poor Professors: They’re on Food Stamps Too. by The Elephant's Child

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, between 2007 and 2010, the percentage of people with a graduate degree who were on food stamps or were receiving another kind of federal aid more than doubled, reaching 360,000.

In 2007, 9776 people with PhDs were receiving some kind of aid.  In 2010 that number had more than tripled to 33,655. For people with Master’s degrees, the number spiked from 101,683 to 293,029.  Austin Nichols of the Urban Institute crunched those numbers for The Chronicle using census data.

Walter Russell Mead surveys the situation:

And we have nothing but admiration for the love of knowledge that leads young people to want to study these fields in greater depth.

But that respect and affection shouldn’t blind us to the sad reality that much of the American academy today works as a Ponzi scheme. PhD programs in many fields are churning out grads for whom no jobs will ever be found. They have to produce excess grads because if they cut back enrollment, the programs would be too small to justify the continued employment of their current staff. …

Worse, if we decided to cut the number of programs so that the number of job openings matched the number of PhD graduates each year, the number of job openings would crash. Currently, suppose that 200 professors of medieval history retire or otherwise leave the field each year; that would mean we need 200 new PhDs each year to replace them.

The jobs of the current practitioners depend on recruiting a steady stream of new hopefuls into the profession, even though many of those new hopefuls won’t get jobs themselves. This is pretty much how Ponzi schemes work, and besides being unfair to the young, it undercuts the integrity of the teacher-student relationship and it puts the whole scholarly enterprise under a dark ethical cloud.

The Baby Boom started all this. Colleges and Universities expanded like crazy to cope with the army of new students.  The first 18 year-olds started college in 1963, and the numbers increased exponentially until the peak year of 1977, and dropped off precipitously in the baby bust. These same years saw students avoiding the Vietnam War by staying in school for advanced degrees. We have had a temporary boom in the need for PhDs as anyone who could think up a grant proposal linking their specialty to global warming  became deeply involved in some kind of (profitable) climate research. There is a higher education bubble, and it is collapsing. Mead adds:

This is beginning to break down. Governments — federal, state and local — have less money for higher ed, and the student loan burden is becoming insupportable.

The current system will change. It imposes unsustainable costs of society at large even as it leads tens of thousands of aspiring professors down the primrose path to the food stamp line.


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