Social Question

ETpro's avatar

Why would giving money to the rich motivate them, but giving it to the poor make them lazy?

Asked by ETpro (34145 points ) December 5th, 2013

Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles seems to be poking fun at that idea in this Cartoon from the 12/4/2013 issue. Giving $100 to someone who already has more than they can reasonably spend doesn’t seem likely to alter their behavior in any important way. But give that same amount to someone out of a job and hurting, and it might be what it takes for them to afford to clean, and press their clothes and pay the bus fare to go get themselves a job. It might be what keeps a roof over their head, keeping them from becoming homeless, which would likely end up costing them their job.

Of course, a poor person might blow the money on alcohol or drugs, but then couldn’t a rich person decide a windfall $100 should be spent in the same way? Where does this idea about welfare only working when it’s exclusively directed to the very rich and to the type of people also known as corporations come from?

NOTE: Normally, I ask one question a day and try to comment on all the responses. But I have too many questions bubbling up that all are time-based and need to be asked now. So forgive me (or perhaps feel relieved) if I am unable to post an acknowledgement of each response.

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25 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

I think the idea is that the rich supposedly earn their money so we let them keep it, not giving it to them, to encourage them to make more.

The poor are just getting an outright handout, making them lazy

Kropotkin's avatar

The rich are in power, and this is what they like to tell themselves and everyone else. The outlets for this propaganda are many, and should be obvious by now.

When marginal utility theory was first proposed, it logically included money, which was turned against the rich as an argument for a highly progressive income tax. Economists quickly decided that the marginal utility of money should remain constant, lest their theory be too complicated. It’s also why the rich prefer a sales tax, or a flat rate of income tax. It’s all so convenient!

@YARNLADY “Earn” is such a funny word. It connotes gaining something through one’s effort and merit. So what happens when there’s a whole class of people who are essentially parasites on the economic system (Not people on welfare, just in case anyone was too obtuse to assume that) and we’re told that they “earned” their money? Well, it seems that a lot of people just take their wealth for granted and switch off from any further analysis. They earned it!

DWW25921's avatar

Very good question. I think it’s more to the point to ask if it makes people feel entitled. It’s the sort of mentality that weighs down a society. As for laziness, that depends on the mindset of the recipient.

marinelife's avatar

It doesn’t. That has been proven. Here is just one link, of many.

lx102303's avatar

Perhaps , it’s “Noblesse oblige” reinvented ?

YARNLADY's avatar

@Kropotkin Yes, I have to agree with you since the richest people in the world were lucky enough to be born on an oil deposit, or earn their money by investing other people’s money.

Jaxk's avatar

Your spin never ceases to amaze me. We’ve taken unemployment from 13 weeks to 99 weeks. Yet you seem to feel we’ve stolen something from those not working. We provide Medicaid to anyone that can’t afford insurance, yet somehow we’ve stolen something from them. We’ve doubled the spending on foodstamps yet you claim we’ve we are robbing the poor. And if by some chance you are working and doing well, anything we don’t take from you, we have given to you. It’s a crazy world out there but not quite that crazy. We’ve had 5 years of everything the Democrats ever wanted and we’re on the verge of bankruptcy. Now it seems you think if we can only make everyone dirt poor, we’ll have succeeded.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@Jaxk Spin is an interesting concept. My own spin is that those not working have indeed had their jobs stolen from them. And of course the undeserving poor have a shot at medicaid. Food stamps are government certification that you can’t afford to feed yourself, and the idea that the shameful Republican clown show in the Congress is a dream for the Democrats is beyond consideration. Now it might appear that ours is a generous and compassionate nation primarily concerned with the welfare of ALL of its people, but the inordinate piling up of the nation’s assets in the country’s mansions leads me to believe that there is more going on than lazy folks being pampered by the nanny state.

ETpro's avatar

@YARNLADY The richest family in America, the Waltons, haven’t done a day of work in their lives and are worth about $145 billion. They use a lot of that money to support causes that will transfer ever more of the nation’s wealth away from the working poor and to people like themselves.

The person named General Electric has made billions and gone several years totally tax free, in fact receiving $4.7 billion in tax refunds from the IRS.

Wealthy families buy hobby farms on the advice of their tax accounts so they can pocket millions in far subsidies.

@Jaxk “We’ve had 5 years of everything the Democrats ever wanted and we’re on the verge of bankruptcy. Now it seems you think if we can only make everyone dirt poor, we’ll have succeeded.” Well, that’s if everything they ever wanted was Republican obstruction, filibusters, Congressional investigations witch-hunts, and gridlock. I’m fairly confident that’s not what they wanted, though. They probably didn’t even want the prior Bush administration to blow up the economy, causing record deficits and unemployment, before handing the ship of state over to them.

Kropotkin's avatar

” ... and we’re on the verge of bankruptcy”

@Jaxk The US isn’t anywhere near bankruptcy, and cannot go bankrupt unless Congress wilfully chooses to default, but there is no reason why it ever would or should.

ETpro's avatar

@Kropotkin & @Jaxk Bankrupt? We have the largest GDP of any nation on Earth. Our debt as a percent of GDP got disturbingly high during the Great Recession Reagan’s deregulation and Bush’s incompetence gave us, but it’s nowhere near as high as it got during WWII. And the curve it now turning around. What happened to it in 1980 when it began to skyrocket? Republican “ideas” were applied to economics and taxes by Ronald Reagan.

jerv's avatar

@Kropotkin If the Tea Party doesn’t get it’s way, Congress may well make us default. And unless the Republicans excise the cancer that has grown inside them, the odds of that actually happening are frightfully high.

Ideology. Most ideas that have no logical basis, and even those that have been explicitly proven wrong (like the Earth being flat) stem from pure ideology. Enough faith makes false things “true”. Empirical facts cannot disprove ideology.

Kropotkin's avatar

@jerv I did consider that, but I’m not convinced of it being likely at all. Some of them may be intransigent ideologues, but I think there’s enough who know who their paymasters are and wouldn’t go against their interests. The recent threat was a bluff in my opinion.

mattbrowne's avatar

Only a small amount of poor people are actually too lazy to work. Same goes for rich people.

Jaxk's avatar


You’ve got to be kidding. Our debt is currently over 100% of GDP and very close to the peak during WWII, with no signs of it diminishing. It’s almost funny that while this is going on under the democrats, you would whine about debt in 50–60% range under Bush. And under Reagan we went from a full blown recession to a booming economy. You must have a very short attention span.

Democrats thought we could spend our way to recovery so we got Stimulus, it didn’t work. They said food stamps would be the best stimulus, so we doubled our food stamps, it didn’t work. They thought they could control health care cost, so we got Obamacare, it isn’t working. What does seem to be happening is the debt is skyrocketing and less people are working. We have the lowest labor participation rate in decades. Reagan expanded the workforce and Obama has shrunk it. The consistent vile name calling is a direct result of your failure to fix anything, anything at all, in the economy. And now some of your cohorts seem to think we can just print our way to success. Other countries have tried and failed.

Kropotkin's avatar

@ETpro You’re a powerful man. You’re personally in control of the economy, and you have your own cohorts!

jerv's avatar


I know better than to spend much time trying to refute another one of your “Democrats R pure evil!!!!!!1111” rants, but I just had to point out that your saints and angels are the ones that came up with some of the things you consider most heinous and foul, and figured I’d take a moment to try (probably in vain) to show you just one small example how your partisanship has blinded you to reality.

And you’ve misread my position so often over the years that I’d almost bet that you’ll probably dismiss this comment as, “Another one of Jerv’s Democrat rantings”.

Jaxk's avatar


The law of averages just caught up with you, you’ve made an accurate statement. It is just another democratic rant.

ETpro's avatar

@Jaxk The debt went over 120% of GDP helping win winning WWII. I posted the curve, and rather that listen to your partisan spin, I encourage people to actually just look at it. It shot up stratosphericly beginning before Obama even was inaugurated thanks to wrong headed policies regressivees initiated. It’s now turning the curve. Curves usually begin to flatten. They don’t rise meteorically then suddenly plummet.

jerv's avatar

@Jaxk And that is why I decided not to bother wasting much of my time with you any more. Trolls are never worth the effort, and you’re rarely anything but these days.

@ETpro The election that put Obama in the White house happened in 2008, and the campaigning started in 2007. That means that everything that happened in/since 2007 is entirely Obama’s fault since he had supreme executive power, and used his party affiliation and Sith powers to get/make Congress do his dark bidding.

But it’s useless to bring facts into this.

True Believers like @Jaxk don’t care that Obama didn’t actually become POTUS until January 2009. True Believers don’t care that budgets must go through Congress, or that Congress has enough non-Democrats to mean that any budget that passes must be a bi-partisan compromise to even land on Obama’s desk, or that there was even a time since Bush-41 where there wasn’t a Democrat super-majority in Congress. True Believers just generally don’t care how the really real world operates as they don’t live in the really real world!

Jaxk's avatar


I wonder what you’re looking at. You bring up the rise in debt in the 40s then say “They don’t rise meteorically then suddenly plummet”. That is exactly what happened. You also should be aware that the dems took control of congress in 2006, both houses.

The truth is recessions tend to spike the debt. Normally a good recovery will then bring it back in line. We haven’t had a good recovery and that is a direct result of the moronic policies Obama has saddled us with. The recovery continues to drag on as the slowest recovery in modern times. You’re in a state of denial and it is clouding you judgment. At least that’s the best case scenario.

dabbler's avatar

I think @jerv‘s point is that the moronic policies were in place well before Jan 2009.
And they’re still there.

Tax Revenue had been slashed in many ways and there were two open-ended, expensive wars in progress when Obama came into office.

And this recovery has been as slow as it has due to hamstrung government spending in the ways that worked in the recession you cite where the debt went up. Tea Baggers insist the government shouldn’t be spending any money and have made that difficult to do for the recent recession. Thanks to obstructionists not much of what Obama might do isn’t even on the table.
Past cases of effective government intervention during recessions involved spending in ways that helped the economy recover.
The jump in debt during this recession has been spent in directions that benefit no-one (blow bombs up) or few (tax breaks for the parasite class at the top 1%). Yes, it’s moronic for Obama to still have these policies in place but don’t pretend he’s the one whose saddled us with them.

Jaxk's avatar


I wouldn’t even try to guess what @jerv‘s point is but you seem to forget what actually took place under Obama. Spending spiked with programs like Stimulus that also spiked the debt with little return on investment. The war in Iraq ended with no decrease in spending, hard to blame that on anyone but Obama. The jump in our spending and our debt is due entirely to what Obama put in place. The shortfall in revenue may be attributed to the recession but the spending is not. Obama is still working to increase spending even with the knowledge that it hasn’t worked. His efforts appear to be an ideological effort to expand government rather than any real attempt to grow the economy. Your attempt to blame a few Tea Party candidates for all the ills of this government is misplaced. We’ve had five years of the blame game, maybe it’s time to take some responsibility.

jerv's avatar

@Jaxk Then stop playing the blame game your damn self and trying to paint all things Conservative as pure, innocent, blameless creatures while demonizing those more liberal than Bush-41!

Your hypocrisy occasionally amuses me.

MadMadMax's avatar

Art Pope, as one example of this philosophy, was inspired by the writing of Ayn Rand.

“If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.”
Ayn Rand

BTW: She developed lung cancer later in life and had her assistant apply for social security and Medicare so that her medical costs would not affect her profits from books and lectures.

These are sociopaths.

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