The Welfare Industrial Complex [With Comment by John]

Every so often someone will do the back-of-the-envelope calculation of the total amount of government spending on behalf of the poor, divided by the number of poor people, and yielding a figure that usually comes out to something like $50,000 per poor person. But very few if any poor people get anywhere close to that amount of aid through the various programs (welfare, food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, etc). In other words, the “service charge” of government social welfare bureaucracies take up a lot of the money. We need professionals in charge of these aid programs, dontchaknow.

Maybe just cutting out the bureaucrats and simply sending checks—something the government is actually pretty good at doing—is a bad idea, but one has to wonder whether the bureaucratic self-interest of what I call the Welfare-Industrial-Complex really aligns with the interests and needs of their poor (in both senses) clients.

KTVU-TV in San Francisco recently reported on the question, “Millions spent on fixing Bay Area homeless crisis, but where does the money go?” Not that much on the homeless it turns out:

Every year, the Bay Area’s three largest cities spend millions of dollars trying to house homeless people, but 2 Investigates found that a big chunk of the money doesn’t funnel down to programs and services that actually get people off the streets. . .

San Jose’s budget shows the city spent about $14 million on homelessness. Much of that money — $12 million — goes toward rental subsidies, administrative costs, and crafting plans for new affordable housing developments. What’s left – about $2 million — is directed toward running homeless shelters and providing clothing, food, and medical care to people without a home.

In Oakland, 2 Investigates found it’s much of the same. Nearly $24 million is set aside in the annual budget for homelessness issues, but only $4 million goes directly to help people living on the streets get into permanent housing.

A recent count of homeless people found there are more than 4,000 people living on the streets of Oakland, roughly 6,000 people homeless in San Jose, and about 8,000 homeless individuals in San Francisco. If all of the money was being spent strictly on the visible homeless, the three biggest cities could house a third, half, or all of its homeless population.

Yeah, but if you actually housed the homeless population somehow, the budget for homeless “service” providers wouldn’t go up next year. In fact some “caring professionals” might have to find other jobs. To paraphrase a famous political operative, “Never let a good homeless crisis go to waste.” It’s great business for the Welfare-Industrial-Complex.

Meanwhile:

Medieval Diseases Are Infecting California’s Homeless

Infectious diseases—some that ravaged populations in the Middle Ages—are resurging in California and around the country, and are hitting homeless populations especially hard.

Los Angeles recently experienced an outbreak of typhus—a disease spread by infected fleas on rats and other animals—in downtown streets. Officials briefly closed part of City Hall after reporting that rodents had invaded the building.

People in Washington State have been infected with Shigella bacteria, which is spread through feces and causes the diarrheal disease shigellosis, as well as Bartonella quintana, or trench fever, which spreads through body lice.

A triumph of the welfare state.

JOHN adds: Way back when, President Nixon proposed that welfare programs be replaced by a guaranteed income in the form of a “negative income tax.” His idea was to eliminate the middlemen and women–social workers, among others–and simply give the money to poor people. For obvious reasons, Nixon’s idea went nowhere.

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