What Do Rising Numbers of Welfare Claimants Really Mean?

As we know, food stamp claimants are soaring to new highs. But this just mirrors the numbers of people who are jobless:


This isn’t a product of people getting lazy and choosing to live off the state. It’s a product of a weak economy that isn’t creating a large enough supply of jobs to meet the demand for work.

Because as we know, there are lots more job-seekers than there are jobs being created:

As I noted recently, solving the challenge of high unemployment is not a matter of job-seekers working harder to look for work. It’s a matter of the economy being able to create enough jobs and demand to absorb job-seekers.

I worry that we aren’t taking unemployment seriously even five years into a crisis that is defined by soaring unemployment. It may be hard for  policymakers and wealthy business people — the people who are in a position to spend to create jobs and seriously lower the unemployment rate — to have any idea what unemployment really means. After all, as a successful, wealthy person with a high quality of life, who has been successful in life from school, to university, to the workplace, then perhaps it is hard to empathise with the plight of people who are struggling to find a job. It seems easy to notice the rising costs of welfare, and the rising numbers of welfare claimants and jump to the conclusion that these things are caused by laziness or lack of discipline or immorality. Yet the simple, demonstrable fact that there are not at present enough jobs to go around entirely debunks this.

Trying to nudge unemployed people into looking harder for work seems like a futile exercise. If the government wants to get people off unemployment, the only real option is job creation.


Is it Racist to Attack Obama?

Ta-Nehisi Coates insinuates that there is racism in the claim that Obama is a Food Stamp President:

When a professor of history calls Barack Obama a “Food Stamp President,” it isn’t a mistake to be remedied through clarification; it is a statement of aggression. And when a crowd of his admirers cheer him on, they are neither deluded, nor in need of forgiveness, nor absolution, nor acting against their interest. Racism is their interest.

First, I don’t doubt that cynical Machiavellians like Gingrich will pander to racism to advance their agenda. But the problem is, the claim is true. There is no great distortion here.

The compelling factor is raw empirical data:

For good measure, here’s black unemployment (in red) — contrasted with total unemployment (in blue) — under Obama:

Not only have lots of people ended up on the bread line under Obama, but a disproportionately high number of these have been black.

Now, we can blame Bush, and Bernanke, and Greenspan, and Geithner, and bad luck too. Who or what is most to blame is a matter open for debate. But the raw claim that he is a Food Stamp President is empirically accurate.

Now that’s not to say that I like, or generally agree with the originator of the claim, Newt Gingrich. I have written before that I believe Newt Gingrich is an appalling Presidential choice, for a variety of reasons.

But disdain for Gingrich, or Romney, or Paul, or Santorum, is not a good reason to blindly support Obama, or to deodorise his record. A while back I wrote adamantly that Obama was engaged in class warfare, but not the class warfare Romney accuses him of. I accuse him of class warfare against the poor through military overspending that takes resources away from the poor, and destroys them in the theatres of war.

Here’s a full breakdown of Federal spending in Obama’s first year in office:

Current Military
$965 billion:
• Military Personnel $129 billion
• Operation & Maint. $241 billion
• Procurement $143 billion
• Research & Dev. $79 billion
• Construction $15 billion
• Family Housing $3 billion
• DoD misc. $4 billion
• Retired Pay $70 billion
• DoE nuclear weapons $17 billion
• NASA (50%) $9 billion
• International Security $9 billion
• Homeland Security (military) $35 billion
• State Dept. (partial) $6 billion
• other military (non-DoD) $5 billion
• “Global War on Terror” $200 billion

Past Military
$484 billion:
• Veterans’ Benefits $94 billion
• Interest on national debt (80%) created by military spending, $390 billion

Human Resources
$789 billion:
• Health/Human Services
• Soc. Sec. Administration
• Education Dept.
• Food/Nutrition programs
• Housing & Urban Dev.
• Labor Dept.
• other human resources.

General Government
$304 billion:
• Interest on debt (20%)
• Treasury
• Government personnel
• Justice Dept.
• State Dept.
• Homeland Security (15%)
• International Affairs
• NASA (50%)
• Judicial
• Legislative
• other general govt.

Physical Resources
$117 billion:
• Agriculture
• Interior
• Transportation
• Homeland Security (15%)
• Commerce
• Energy (non-military)
• Environmental Protection
• Nat. Science Fdtn.
• Army Corps Engineers
• Fed. Comm. Commission
• Other physical resources

The reality here is that a majority of nondiscretionary federal spending is going toward permanent warfare, “global security“, the military industrial complex, guns, bombs and death. Beyond that, money spent is often frittered away on crony capitalism, bridges to nowhere, and Washington’s largesse. That is an epic transfer of wealth from ordinary Americans. But not only that, it is significantly weakening America — every gun built, every bomb dropped, every phoney war created is money, time, effort and skills wasted that could instead have been spent on creating infrastructure, starting enterprises, investing in new equipment, building schools, developing technology, opening factories, or hiring workers.

Then there is the drug war  that Obama has continued, which has today led to more black men being incarcerated than there were slaves in 1850.

Obama supporters would do well to look at the facts, instead of churning out allegations of “racism” as the fire burning beneath opposition to his Presidency.