What would happen if the welfare state in America was eliminated? That’s the question that a Quora user recently asked. Many of the answers serve as reminders of the self-serving reasons why we should contribute to a social safety net.
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1. Crime Rate
Desperate people do desperate things. The age-old philosophical question, “Would you steal to avoid starvation?” is much more than just philosophy for the working poor and the poverty-stricken. Many people among the working poor receive assistance in addition to their paychecks because their paychecks are too paltry to pay for health care, heating, or enough food to feed their families. If the wealthier among us succeed in removing what assistance is available, more people will be thrown into desperation — and please don’t doubt they will act. The middle and upper classes should recognize welfare not just as a safety net for the poor, but as a form of insurance for their own safety.
Some of the thoughtful or perhaps amusing responses on Quora ask us future to look at history to predict the future. In reference to the French Revolution, social welfare or taxes paid into a “welfare state” are seen as “guillotine insurance.”
2. Infant Mortality
UNICEF ranks the United States of America in the lowest third of 21 rich countries worldwide for general child well-being. Some of the factors that go into these rankings include health and safety, education, and material well-being.
In his book, Birth, Poverty and Wealth: A Study of Infant Mortality, Richard M. Titmuss
analyzes infant death rates according to social class and shows the inequality between rich and poor has increased since 1911. Causes and rates of stillbirth and infant death have and continue to differ sharply depending on economic and environmental conditions. The rate of infant deaths among the poor in America has risen since 1911. According to Mr. Titmuss’ research, infants born in economically depressed areas are not only much more likely to die than their wealthier peers, but are much more likely to die than they were a century ago.
It stands to reason that if we remove services such as welfare and food assistance for the poor that the infant mortality rate will rise more sharply. On the other hand, if we increase welfare, medical care, sanitation, education, and access to nutrition and jobs we are, quite literally, saving lives.
Businesses would suffer if we stopped paying into social safety nets. A healthy economy is one in which money continually changes hands. When wealth is hoarded, there is less to go around. But that’s just the beginning.
Businesses need customers. Customers spend money on goods and services. If people don’t have money, they can’t support any place of business. Ending any and all forms of welfare would result in a greater proportion of people having no money. Therefore, fewer people are available to become customers and spend money at any business.
While the very wealthy would likely be able to keep the owners of certain businesses in the black, smaller businesses run by middle-class or working-class entrepreneurs would most likely close. A healthy economy is dependent upon money changing hands. If fewer people have money to spend, it stands to reason that fewer businesses will survive.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you think we need a “welfare state” — why or why not? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.