The Great Workfare Era Is Here

New Congressional members arrived in Washington last month with much hoopla and the promise that a centrally directed, democratic economy, will usher in a new era of prosperity for all. This new Congress, however, isn’t looking to the hope and promise of the future. They’re looking to the despair and failings of the past.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” declared Karl Marx in 1875. For the new Congress, and their retread pursuit of democratic socialism, the declaration is: “No shirker left behind.”

To attain this objective, all the accepted laws of gravity and arithmetic must be abolished by legislative decree. House Democrats, and many House Republicans, are eager to comply. Remember, to voters, debts and deficits don’t matter.

Politicians are well aware that to get elected and stay in office over the long haul they must promise free stuff. A politician that promises to cut social security and limit Medicare won’t be a politician for long. The fact is, voters may say they’re in favor of smaller government. But what they really want are politicians that promise something for nothing from the highly visible hand of government.

The trick, however, is in the treat. Many good folks of sound body and honest intentions do, in fact, want to work for their daily bread. They’re not interested in shirking for transfer payment handouts. But, nonetheless, they don’t question the merits of centrally directed work. Rather, they welcome it.

The Purpose Driven Life

The truth in matters of public finance can never compete with the fantasy that everything can be restored by borrowing and spending. The credulous public hears of the latest New Deal – green or otherwise – and are overcome by visions of high paying jobs and a respectable workfare life on Easy Street. And what’s not to like?

Big programs, big contracts, and big budgets offer jobs with an appeal that market directed jobs often do not. They offer the allure of certainty and stability. They also offer the suitor with a readymade higher cause.

The predictability of a nine-to-five job, bi-weekly paychecks, two-weeks of paid vacation, medical and dental insurance, and a 401(k) plan with an employer match program are too good to pass up. This is especially true when the graft is for the noble cause of saving the earth from the degradation of global climate change. These are esteemable jobs for esteemable people – with University degrees, no less.

A life of purpose, remember, is a life worth living. And nothing realizes the purpose driven life quite like a life that’s directed with passion and ardor into a public boondoggle. The bigger the better. Smart people, with good intentions, standby ready to cowboy up ‘n get ‘er done.

Constructing trains across oceans, lining deserts with solar panels, and manufacturing rebated electric vehicles, all at the public’s expense, are occupations of a government directed economy. Deep inside each and every one of these money pits are countless cubicle jobs, where armies of workers can serve the greater good by drinking bottomless cups of free coffee and contemplating spreadsheets.

Here’s the point…

The Great Workfare Era Is Here

Government directed workfare jobs require a gross misallocation of capital for their very existence. That is, they require borrowing billions of dollars – or creating money outright – and directing it to places that the market doesn’t warrant. In short, these jobs are not self-supporting through their own contributions.

Most people have the knowledge to know that a tomato is a fruit. So, too, most people have the wisdom to not put a tomato in a fruit salad. But when it comes to the difference between productive work and workfare work, this distinction is greatly lost among government officials and workers alike.

Workers, arising early, and moving about with buzz and energy have the appearance of productivity. Yet if they’re arising to go to workfare jobs, the buzz and energy is not adding wealth to the world; it’s subtracting it. Specifically, workfare jobs require deficits and currency debasement to sustain them.

What’s more, massive amounts of debt based stimulus spending has another rarely mentioned downside. Like programs of welfare, programs of workfare create a mammoth class of people reliant on government for their daily bread. When the money stops flowing, they’re left twisting in the wind.

We’re currently traversing down the home stretch to the great default. The new Congress is pressing for a most certain fate. They’re pressing for a government directed economy of big programs and big stimulus – one that both Democrats and Republicans can stand behind.

Yes, the great workfare era is here. Like all Ponzi schemes and frauds, it’ll end in tears.


MN Gordon
for Economic Prism

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