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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sachs: How the Right Is Wrong About Happiness

I guess Jeff Sachs hasn't gone completely off the rails:

How the Right Is Wrong About Happiness, by Jeff Sachs, Commentary, Huffington Post: Today's op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal sheds more light on how conservative elites thoroughly misunderstand and misrepresent the role of government in a decent society. Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, makes an empirical claim that government social spending lowers happiness of the recipients by making them "dependent on unearned resources." ...
The claim is false because the countries that have the highest spending on social programs are far and away the happiest. ... They end up with economic prosperity that is broadly shared, very low poverty, low unemployment, social fairness, lower health care costs than in the United States, longer vacation times, guaranteed maternity and paternity leave, better pre-school and many more benefits that make people happy, and help them to raise happier and healthier children. ...
Brooks reports that going on the welfare rolls is correlated with feeling "inconsolably sad over the past month." Well, duh. Perhaps, Mr. Brooks, their life has taken a hard turn. If the sadness were merely the result of inscribing in a welfare program, they wouldn't do it. ...
Second, Brooks terms social programs as unearned income. That's a pretty grotesque generalization... Social security recipients have ... been making payroll contributions; the same with Medicare recipients. Unemployed workers collecting UI ... have been making contributions into the unemployment insurance system... To deem these programs to be "unearned income" is nasty, false, and demeaning.
If we were to do a serious look at whose income is unearned, we would surely start at the top, not at the bottom. CEO salaries, Wall Street bonuses, lobbyists perks... On this I'm with Brooks. Let's take this unearned income away from the super-rich through proper taxation and regulation, and to follow Brooks' logic, help make the rich happier as we close the budget deficit as well.

    Posted by on Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 02:22 PM in Economics, Politics, Social Insurance | Permalink  Comments (24)



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