I had a couple of experiences this week that demonstrated to me why liberal ideas, while noble, simply don't work in practice.
CASE STUDY #1
In the first experience, I was checking out at the grocery store. As my groceries were being rung up, I watched the total to make sure it matched what I was expecting because I know we only have so much money in our grocery budget. I found it somewhat difficult to concentrate though because of the commotion that was going on behind me.
I heard the woman behind me arguing with the cashier about her total. I heard her mention that she was paying with food stamps, and then she got increasingly upset that the total coming up with the register could not be correct.
I paid for my groceries, and the thought occurred to me that maybe I could help the cashier and this woman out by offering to pay the difference on whatever the groceries were. I turned to walk out and glanced over at this woman's cart. What I saw pushed any of the charitable thoughts I might have had in my mind. The woman had at least four 24-pack cases of liter bottles of Pepsi. 96 bottles! Those were the ones that were hanging on the side of the cart. I think there were actually more inside the cart... and that was just the first of two carts. (The second was full of food.)
I grew up in a house where we didn't order pop at restaurants. On the rare occasions that we went out to eat as a family, we ordered off of the value menu, and we always ordered water to drink. If it was somebody's birthday or a special occasion, then we sometimes would order a Sprite or Root Beer or something to go with the meal. To this day, when I eat out, I generally order water. On the rare occasion that I do order a pop, I feel like I'm being extravagant.
So to see a woman who is paying for her groceries with my hard-earned money buying more pop in one trip to the grocery store than I bought all last year was frustrating. I found myself wanting to go on food stamps so I could buy pop.
The problem with the liberal idea of just handing people money for food is that you remove incentive for them to try to better their circumstance. In contemplating the role of government, I have come to realize that I am not a complete libertarian who thinks that government should have no role in caring for the poor. I think there ought to be a safety net -- A very basic safety net. But the safety net ought to be eating bread and potatoes and milk to drink every day. Inexpensive foods that sustain life... and that get boring very fast.
CASE STUDY #2
Then yesterday at church, I overheard part of a conversation of a friend and an acquaintance of mine. The individual was talking about how hard it was to find a job after finishing his degree. He mentioned that he had looked at his student loan total for the first time, and the amount just shocked him. He said it didn't get into six figures like he had expected it would, but it was really close.
He then turned his attention to me and said, "You teach at the university, right?" I said I did. He asked me if I'd heard about the legislation that was set to expire that would forgive student loan debts. He made a couple interesting comments.
He said something like, "Man, if they don't forgive all my debts and I actually have to pay them back, I'm going to die."
He then said, "All Pres. Obama has to do if he wants to get reelected is forgive the student loan debt. Students will get out and vote for him."
I just bought a car. There was never a thought in my mind when I signed for the loan that someone else ought to be obligated for my debt. I got a loan for a payment that I could afford, and I intend to pay back the debtor as quickly as possible.
So it shocked me to hear this individual, who I know to be a good person, to imply that he had never intended to pay back the near six-figures of debt he had racked up. AND... that someone could buy his vote.
I studied Organizational Behavior some, and we spent some time discussing reward systems for employees. It was an interesting topic that I hadn't really valued to that point.
The idea is simple. If you are in the store, and your child starts screaming because they want a sucker you just wheeled past, and you give them the sucker to pacify them, you have just reinforced the behavior of screaming.
When you create an individual bonus for performance in a business environment, you create a reward system where employees will step on other employees to get the reward. If you create a bonus cap, you have created a reward system where employees will stop working after a certain point. If you give a Christmas bonus every year, you create an environment like in Christmas Vacation where the bonus becomes an expectation instead of an incentive. So trying to reward employees to drive a certain behavior becomes a complex and difficult task.
To do it right, rather than starting with the incentive, you need to start with the behavior you're trying to drive and work your way back to the incentive that will lead to that behavior.
The well-intentioned policies of liberals have unfortunately created a country full of people who expect the government to buy them their Pepsi and pay off the debt they rack up. The American reward system is in need of an overhaul to eliminate waste and cut spending, and the person to do it is NOT the President who has been responsible for record increases in spending and who has created the expectation that the government will now buy their health care as well.
Mitt Romney is just the man for the job.