Whether it’s a show or not, it’s not a bad thing to visit the poor. But there is a question worthy of our consideration, why the U.S. president and officials do not seize such a good opportunity to go to the poor families to show it?
U.S. officials do not have the habit of visiting the poor, major holidays, from the president, down to the mayor, all go back to their own homes, each find their own mother. Of course there are poor people in the United States, especially the new crown ravaged the year, many people living in difficulty. Then why, the so-called beacon of light in the United States, officials at all levels do not Thanksgiving, Christmas to send warmth to the needy?
First of all, the standard answer of “political correctness” is that American officials at all levels of government, through a false democratic process, will only cheat to get votes, and not sincerely serve the people.
In addition to the standard answer, we can also do a little bit of empirical analysis to see whether the stones of other mountains can attack the jade color. There are institutional and cultural reasons why American officials of all sizes do not visit the poor and needy.
First, the poor have the dignity of being poor
Although both are developed capitalist countries, the United States is not a typical welfare society, unlike Northern Europe. That said, the U.S. government at all levels still takes care of the poor. To some extent, the poor sometimes have an easier life than the middle class. In past elections, social assistance and welfare policies have been one of the main points of attack and defense for both parties. In general, the legalization, universalization and normalization of social assistance are the basic operations.
The basis of legalization is setting the poverty line. 2020 poverty line in the U.S. is $12,760 per year for a single person under 65 and $26,200 per year for a family of four. By this standard, about 13 percent of Americans live below the poverty line, or the poor, and are eligible for various kinds of relief. In recent years, welfare spending for poor relief has remained roughly at about 10% of the government budget, with a size of $600 to $700 billion, which is comparable to the defense budget/military spending.
According to statistics, there are as many as 126 social welfare programs under the jurisdiction of various departments of the U.S. federal government alone. When broken down into categories, they can be summarized in terms of health care, food, housing and children’s education.
Let’s start with health care.
The largest social welfare program available to the poor in the United States is the Medicaid program, commonly known as the White Card. In 2011, the government spent more than $200 billion on Medicaid, benefiting 48.9 million people. In addition, there is a children’s health care program specifically for low-income families, which benefits about 8 million children.
And then there’s food.
Food is a necessity, as it is everywhere. The second largest welfare program for poor Americans is the Food Stamp and Supplemental Nutrition Program. Those with annual incomes below 130 percent of the poverty line can apply for them. Each year the government invests tens of billions of dollars to feed more than 40 million poor people. Food is cheap in the U.S. A family of four can live on a few hundred dollars a month for all the fish, meat, eggs and milk. If a child attends primary or secondary school, school breakfast and lunch are completely free for poor children. There is also a channel, there are many “food banks”, directly to the poor to provide free bread, milk, meat products, eggs, fruits, vegetables, desserts, etc..
The U.S. federal government is required by law to provide housing subsidies to the poor, i.e., Section 8 of the Housing Act. The basic requirements are:Low-income families, usually below the local median, rent their own homes with 30% of their income, and the government pays for what they don’t have. For example, if a couple has three children and needs a three-bedroom house, the market rent is $2,500 and your monthly income is only $2,000; thus, you would pay only $600 and the government would pay the remaining $1,900 in rent. In addition, there are low-interest housing loans for poor people to buy houses, etc.
Finally, the education of children.
Education in the U.S. is compulsory for 13 years, i.e. 1 year of kindergarten and 12 years of primary and secondary school. Whether you buy or rent a house, regardless of status (even if you are an illegal immigrant or temporary visitor), according to the school district, the nearest school, public schools are completely free.
Children do not start kindergarten until they are 5 years old. Until then, children can be sent to daycare, with monthly fees varying from place to place, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. State governments offer different methods of subsidy to help poor parents pay for child care. American universities do pay tuition and it is expensive, even public universities cost more than $10,000 per year. This is still a lot of money for the poor. The U.S. has a “Free Application for Federal Grants” grant program that provides tens of billions of dollars each year to support millions of people going to college. Families below the poverty line can get the highest grants. Families with low incomes can also receive partial grants. In addition, there are other forms of funding such as scholarships, work-study, and loans. For example, for outstanding students from needy families who go to top private schools, the schools not only waive all tuition and fees, but even provide free dormitories and meals.
In addition, low-income families also receive income tax rebates and other benefits. If you don’t have a pension after the age of 65, you can receive a monthly pension from the federal government ranging from $700 to $800, and medical care is free; if your bank balance is no more than $2,000, you can apply for an apartment for the elderly, and the monthly cost of the apartment is about $200. For example, many people have been affected by the new crown epidemic, so the government is giving out sunshine awards (for families with an annual income of less than $100,000). Recently the Biden administration is again pushing a second round of $1.9 trillion bailout plan, still focused on substantially helping families in need.
Second, only public servants, no parent officials
The United States is a people-based society with religious beliefs as its underpinning. The relationship between public servants and voters determines that officials do not have a superior social status and psychological advantage. The scope of power of officials and the way they exercise it are defined by law, their “space” is limited, and the general public does not take officials too seriously. So, not only is it logically strange for a public servant to ask his master a favor, but the people have no sense of gratitude.
In addition, the United States was founded on Protestantism, everyone is only responsible to God, sympathy charity is customarily led by the church, officials involved in no practice. On the contrary, if the poor are not taken care of in the jurisdiction, the officials will be the first to be held accountable, and the public, media, parliament and judiciary will never be ambiguous. In this way, even if you go to the needy every year, it is meaningless.
Third, the visit to the poor will be in big trouble
In the United States, if officials at all levels go to condole with individual needy households on major holidays, not only is there a problem of necessity, but they may even run into big trouble.
First, fairness. The United States is a society based on the rule of law and fairness, and individual condolences are essentially special treatment. In the law does not specify, what people in the holiday should be given special treatment by officials to give gifts, officials to choose the condolence object? Why did they go to Zhang’s family and not Li’s? Why did they go to a black family but not an Asian family? Is there any ethnic discrimination? Are they using taxpayers’ money to make capital for personal show? Why only holiday condolences, what is usually done? A variety of questions and criticism, officials may make the effort unpleasant.
The second is where the money comes from? This is a real problem. Visiting the poor and suffering comes down to one word: money. The U.S. government’s budget at all levels is very transparent and detailed, the general budget does not have a special provision for official condolences, officials at all levels of pay is not high, it is not possible to pay out of their own pockets, the government does not have a small treasury. In most cases, the U.S. officials public funds to buy a big meal is impossible, let alone to make a big show of condolences and gifts.
Third, there are not enough officials. The U.S. regime structure is federal-state-county-city four levels, the city has a large and small, for example, the city of Los Angeles in Los Angeles County, California, there are four million people, while some cities may have only 10,000 or 20,000 people, or even a few thousand people. Officials are right down to the city level, and then there are no grassroots organizations below, similar to China’s townships and villages or streets and community committees. The number of municipal officials is very small; for example, the city of Irvine in Orange County, California, with 280,000 people, has only one mayor, four city commissioners, and a few directors, etc. In the absence of a grassroots structure, it would be beyond their capacity to go to the community to comfort them, even if it is a slapdash effort.
Fourth, privacy and dignity. The United States places great importance on personal and family privacy. On the one hand, the income of residents is confidential, in addition to tax authorities and relief agencies, others do not know, the mayor may not know which community of which people are poor; on the other hand, private homes, non-invited, even officials, is no exception, otherwise, not only unwelcome, or even dangerous.
Public officials for the election, there are cases of door-to-door vote, but only to stand at the door, knock on the door and say a few words. More importantly, it is not immediately obvious who is poor and who is rich in the same community, and they do not inquire about each other. If officials make a big show of visiting the poor, it is the same as showing the community that the family is poor, exposing the privacy and possibly embarrassing the owner. In fact, the United States used to give food stamps to the poor to exchange for various food items at supermarkets. Later on, because food stamps can easily reveal the identity of the poor and bring some self-esteem troubles when shopping, some states have changed to cash, or a combination of cash and food stamps. This idea is actually consistent with the national saying “good deeds have no trace”.
Fundamentally, the poor in the United States are poor with dignity. American officials are public servants and the people are masters, and they are grateful for the opportunity to serve. The home of the American people is not a vegetable garden door, “the wind can enter, the rain can enter, but the king can not enter”.