Why bother going to work?


IN FOCUS: Are we at the point of no-return in turning into a nation dependent on the government?

DENNIS KNEALE: I believe the Obama administration takes almost a perverse kind of pride in how many millions of Americans they can give food stamps to, and how many millions of Americans are on social security and get college loans. The problem is, when half of the people in this country now receive some form of direct government aid, and pretty much the same half of people in this country pay no federal income taxes at all, I think we are in deep trouble. They will never be in favor of cutting back. Ninety-nine weeks of jobless benefits encourages you to go ahead and hold out for the perfect job instead of taking one today.

RICK UNGAR: Like my friend Dennis here, the Heritage Foundation gets a bit carried away sometimes. No, the administration does not have some nefarious plan to enslave us all by putting us all on welfare. But I will say this; there are some points to be made. First, if we really want to solve what is a growing problem, if we want to solve it, we have to deal with it. Not in political games, but in figuring out how single mothers who have children can get a job, go to work and have some way to take care of their family. You know what else we have to do? We also have to realize that corporate welfare is just as damaging to the country as social welfare.

STEVE FORBES: While we are not quite at the tipping point yet, if we continue on this, we will go the way of Greece. That is why we need entitlement reform, where younger people can have their own personal accounts. Of the huge growth in this area David, only twenty to twenty-five percent can be laid at the economy. Seventy-five percent is liberalization from the Obama administration. Maybe they do not have a plot, but by golly they are sure achieving more dependence with means more votes on Election Day.

BILL BALDWIN: Republicans are always talking about incentives and I want to quote a very interesting, sarcastic take on their point of view for the economist John Kenneth Galbraith. He said, ‘So what you seem to be saying guys is, the rich don't work hard enough because we pay them too little and the poor don't work hard enough because we pay them too much.' You know it is possible to have goo incentives without ripping away the social safety net. Let me give you just one example. Instead of giving away mortgages, and having forgiveness of debt, let's have a debt for equities swap. A shared appreciate mortgage, you still have to pay the money back.

JOHN TAMNY: Clearly the government benefits are keeping some on the sidelines and that explains the abnormally high unemployment rates to some degree. But, the idea that we are going to transform into a nation of moochers is laughable. Americans descend from immigrants who were ambitious and as a result we are a striving, impatient lot. The idea that President Obama or any president can in four or eight years turn is into a nation whereby we want to take the meager handouts of the government is just not credible and it misunderstands who we are.

VICTORIA BARRET: You know what David, the elephant in the room here is social security, and Medic are, and Medicaid. Those are the huge government programs that are absorbing our budget. It is not what you would think of was welfare. It is not the programs we have to help needy families. Yes, those have risen as we hit a severe recession and you would expect that. The elephant in the room is these programs that we have let balloon and that generationally are going to become even more of a problem as baby boomers retire at rapid rates.

Who should decide how union members' dues are spent on politics: labor bosses or union members?

STEVE FORBES: They are absolutely right. An opinion research poll found that seventy-nine percent of union members want to have a say in where that money goes. In states like Washington and Wisconsin where they have not collected dues for the unions, ninety-five percent of the members say they just want the money. A little bit of money to go for collective bargaining, they want to keep the other $1,000 for themselves. So this is bosses not ranking file.

BILL BALDWIN: Unions are democratically elected up to a certain point. Maybe, just maybe, the working people in this country should be allowed to resemble for a redress of their grievances at the ballot box. After all, corporations get to deduct their lobbying expenses.

VICTORIA BARRET: This does not sound right to me either. The problem is you were probably forced to join the union in the first place. It is obvious that unions are going to be political entities. It is obvious that union bosses will say, ‘Oh, these people elected us, therefore they believe in what we believe in.' The problem is, you really didn't have a choice to join or not. That is the root of what we need to address when it comes to unions in my view.

RICK UNGAR: You know my taxpayer dollars support a lot of politicians that I do not like either. Everyone behaves like union leaders got through some kind of a push. They are elected. If they are elected, that means that they can be thrown out of office if the membership is not happy with what they are doing. Why is this so hard to grasp?

KYM MCNICHOLAS: I think that every issue should be taken as that issue. That is the way every election should be taken, and for every single dollar that the union member pays into it, they should know where it goes and actually vote on where that goes. There was a big case here in California back in 1994, you remember the Three Strikes Law, where voters and union members were all in support of this Three Strikes Law and yet union leaders were launching a campaign against it and spending these union members money on it. It is just not right. You know, Thomas Jefferson once said that to force people to support a cause that they do not believe in is simply sinful.

DENNIS KNEALE: I do not like unions. I think that unions are bad for business; I think they are bad for this country. But, union bosses and the right to spend $1 billion a year on campaign bribes is leadership. If we are going to pass a law requiring union leaders to get a vote from their members before spending their money, what is next? Are shareholders of a company going to vote on a capital budget? Are we going to be allowed to vote on what our salaries are? You do not get a vote. That is what leadership is.

FLIPSIDE: Consumer borrowing soaring is good news for economy

STEVE FORBES: Well, what it means is employment is going up, the work week is slightly increasing, people have tightened their belts since 2008, they are loosening it a little bit, And contrary to myth David, most Americans, ninety percent, don't allow their debts to get out of hand. When the government does its part by not trashing the dollar, then this thing is absolutely able to be handled.

KYM MCNICHOLAS: No, more borrowing just means that people don't have the cash on hand in order to pay for the things they actually need. I mean we still have low unemployment, it may be getting better, but the fact is its still low and wages are not keeping up with inflation. How are these people going to be able to pay off this $19.3 billion in debt especially with the potential for a double dip possibly in 2012? That is according to the chief economist for Fannie Mae. He says there's a forty percent chance of that.

RICK UNGAR: I have to agree with Steve on this one. Obviously in a consumer driven economy, it is good to see people starting to spend money. The trick is going to be to not let people forget what happens when you borrow too much to finance a lifestyle you can't afford. You end up where we have been the past couple of years.

BILL BALDWIN: I share Steve's deep optimism about opportunity in America, but not his Pollyannaish view on debt. This is what is happening; the only way to cure a hangover from debt-fueled spending it seems is more of the same. Now that you understand why this nation is two hundred and eleven trillion dollars in the hole.

DENNIS KNEALE: I'd rather be Pollyanna about things, than patronizing. A lot of this worry about credit card debt going up is really patronizing. It is a bunch of really smart people deciding that regular rank and file Americans are not smart enough to know when to stop buying. Now, I know that we learned our lessons and I know that we had too much debt, but Americans cut back when crisis came. They cut back well, and they know what they're doing. I want to trust them and I don't want to condescend them.


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