Friday, March 16, 2012

How much would getting rid of welfare COST us?

One of the major problems that conservatives make is the belief that doing nothing is free.  It isn't.  Often it is the most expensive thing to do. 

If you don't pay for a fire department, then your house can burn down.  Yes, on an individual basis, it doesn't always make sense to pay for a fire department.  For example if you lose your main job and are working overtime at the 7-11 to barely afford your mortgage, then it makes more sense to forgo the fire department.  You might not be able to pay for both the mortgage and the fire department, and the mortgage is more important. Note, there are really town where you can choose not to pay for fire department service.  Not many because...

But to society as a whole, it makes far more sense to fund the fire department.    While individuals may be willing to take the risk, with enough individuals, it ceases to become a risk and becomes a guarantee.  Worse, fires spread.  Same for the police and for ambulance care.  Which is why most governments fold these things into general taxes, not charge separately.
So not paying for things does in fact cost you.  Lets assume you get rid of all welfare.  How much would it cost you?

Well, as per Philip Mangano (via Politifact), George Bush's homelessness policy czar, each homeless person cost more than $35,000 a year, depending on location.  Homeless people in a warm, rural area cost loss.  In colder, cities, a lot more.  In some places, as much as $150,000 a year.   Keep in mind that these numbers are over 5 years old, they may have gone up.  Why so expensive?  Well, I don't know if you ever met a homeless guy, but some of them are not model citizens.   They get arrested, they get sick, the get addicted to alcohol.  They invade libraries who have to hire extra security to handle them.   Quite a few of them are just plain CRAZY.  So our police, ambulances, medical services, and fire departments spend a crap load of money to deal with them.  In fact, in some areas, most of what the police do is deal with the homeless.  Ask any small town cop, his duties usually involve a couple very poor troublemakers, plus kids being kids. 

Unless of course you give them housing.   You see, as per Mangano, it costs less than $25,000 a year to give them a home with minimal services.   That $25,000 a year is for the expensive, colder cities.   It's cheaper in a warmer rural climate.  I'm not talking a mansion, just a place to hang their hat - with power, water, maybe a security guard with a phone, etc.  They have a place to stay out of trouble, they have less exposure to the elements, life is a bit better (so less reason to get hooked on drugs) and less exposure to criminals, such as drug pushers.

Not to mention that it is easier to hire a single security guard for the housing area than to hire extra cops AND to hire security for all the libraries, hospitals, etc.

Paying for minimal care for the homeless is a lot cheaper than letting them roam free.  And it's not just the homeless.

Same goes for healthcare for young, employable people.  Better to give them healthcare (say insulin for example - it's one of the growing expenses) letting them keep working (as opposed to losing toes, fingers, legs etc.)

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