When I applied to be a Campus Coordinator in 2011, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I thought I would be involved with a pretty great organization for a year, add the experience to my resume, and move on having known I’d done some small thing to advance the cause of liberty. So why two years later am I finishing up a second year as a Campus Coordinator and taking to time write that anyone who is dedicated to the cause of freedom and ready to work hard to make some serious impact should have applied yesterday? I’m doing this because I don’t know any better way to learn the things I’ve learned — the things that make impactful and thoughtful activism possible. (more…)
A few months ago an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement did something fairly amazing. After raising money from an all-night variety telethon the group calling themselves “Strike Debt” began their “Rolling Jubilee” project. Their approach was to raise funds through donation and then buy out the debt of people who were under water on their mortgages. These people had been pressured into purchasing homes on credit by a combination of government home ownership projects and the banks who were told the government would throw some bones their way if they helped get people into houses —creditworthiness be damned. For a time, they thought they were untouchable. Convinced by the assurance of the authorities that real estate prices would always rise, no one was worried about how these loans would affect them down the road. Now, many of them were threatened with eviction, or had been evicted, their houses seized by the bank and their debt still outstanding. This debt had been sold from one bank to another until it ended up in the hands of huge clearing houses for subprime debt that in the bailout were bought up by government backed banks. These banks and the government funds backing them were not trying to make life easier for the individual families crushed by the subprime mortgage crisis they had created. Because of the loss of their houses and massive debt many of these people were forced to go on government assistance such as food stamps, Medicaid, and to move into government owned housing. I don’t think it necessary to stress to this audience the dangers associated with so many people flooding into the welfare system both in terms of the entrenchment of the system, its effect on people’s lives, and the stress put on an already failing system.
Join Senior Campus Coordinator Alex McHugh at 9:00 PM ET on Monday, October 22nd for live commentary on the third presidential debate.
“Asked about welfare, they give me the same response I have heard many places this summer – first they say they only get food stamps. Then, they mention that the kids get free meals at school. Then they mention that they have the free cell phones they get for qualifying for welfare. Then they say, “Oh, yeah, I have the Medicaid card,” and then finally, yes, they do live in subsidized housing as a matter of fact.” -Lisa Conyers in her most recent “Report from the Field” at The Liberty Project.
Lisa then goes on to question why the Harlem residents she was interviewing didn’t think of their welfare benefits as out of the ordinary or even as welfare. In this case, as in others, they seemed to truly feel “entitled” to these benefits and hadn’t really considered what life might be like without the particularly extensive system of overlapping programs that serve the Harlem area. This insight and the interview it came from are just one piece of a much larger research project recently taken on by The Liberty Project.
The Liberty Project was founded in 1997 and focused at the time on defending the right to privacy. In a response to a series of ridiculous searches and seizures including one in which bubble gum was mistaken for cocaine, Philip Harvey, the organization’s’ founder started a media campaign to bring attention to the issue. Since then, the Liberty Project has grown significantly and, this past summer, launched a new research project with an eye to understanding how people all across the US understand and interact with welfare programs and the effects these programs have on how they view and feel about their lives. One unique focus of the project is that it zeroes in on Native American populations who find themselves increasingly economically dependent on such programs. Below is an interview in which Lisa talks with Southern Ute tribal member, Vince, about economic opportunities for tribal members and how things have changed since he was growing up.
The following article by Senior Campus Coordinator Alex McHugh was originally published on PolicyMic:
A recent Gawker article makes the case for a maximum income. In response to confiscatory income tax levels in France, Hamilton Nolan figures we might as well go big or go home. After all, who needs more than $5 million? His proposal is to just cap income at $5 million and use the rest of all generated income for social programs. His argument refers mostly to income inequality and the fact that the super wealthy have an obligation to give back to those less well off.
While I admire his frankness, this idea and the very high tax rates that do the same with less gusto, are unworkable. Here’s why this plan would make your life (and more importantly everyone’s life) suck. It’s a simple thought experiment. Why $5 million? It’s easy to see where this gets messy by asking why Nolan caps it at $5 million. Surely, if no one needs that much, and you could live off the interest alone quite comfortably, the same would be true of $1 million. Or $500,000. Why not give everything we don’t need to the government? The argument goes that the more we turn over, the more gets pumped back to us in a more equitable way. The excess money from my income goes to my neighbor’s sick kid. Your excess income pays for my grandma’s hip replacement. The reason this doesn’t work is because all of those millions are not the same in the hands of the IRS as they are in the hands of the individual. It’s not that someone out there needs more than $5 million. It’s that much of that “excess” income that goes into the redistributive system never comes out again, or it comes out in ways we never would have chosen. If it all came back out to us, he might as well argue that we give everything over, and just have them give us our fair share back, or buy what we need for us. But he doesn’t propose this, because on some level, we all know that our tax dollars don’t necessarily flow back to us.