How to Stop Propagating Poverty

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2006), 10.8% of adults in the U.S., and 17.4% of children, live below the poverty line. As long as the poor reproduce at a higher rate than the non-poor, it stands to reason that the rate of poverty will  increase. We’ve tried for years to reduce poverty by subsidizing it. That hasn’t worked. No matter how much money we pay poor people to have more children, the numbers of the poor keep increasing.  It would seem that a more effective approach would be to try to reduce the rate of reproduction among the poor.

It’s irresponsible to have more children than one can afford to raise. If the poor have high birth rates because they choose to have more children, the solution is to hold them accountable for their choices. If everybody knew they would have to assume full responsibility for any children they brought into the world, people would stop having more children than they can afford. But, as long as we reward people for doing something we don’t think they should do, why should we be surprised that they keep doing it?

On the other hand, if the poor have more children, not by choice, but by accident, then we should make it easier not to have accidents. The consequences to society of unwanted children go far beyond just the cost of public assistance programs. There are tremendous social costs as well. A great many people who live in poverty are drug and alcohol abusers. Fetal alcohol syndrome causes irreversible neurological damage to the frontal lobes, resulting in the incapacity to develop judgment, empathy, remorse, and conscience. A high percentage of FAS babies are irremediably destined to be sociopaths.

“On average, each FASD individual costs the taxpayer more than $3 million in his or her lifetime (health problems, special education, psychotherapy and counseling, welfare, crime, and the justice system).

More than 60% of prisoners are likely affected by alcohol in utero. It costs approximately $120,000/year to “house” a Young Offender and $82,000 for an adult offender. Punishment does not cure neurological damage.
Fetal Alcohol Disorders Society

Not all unwanted children are born with neurological defects. But even a normal infant, born to a mother who resents their existence and is ill-equipped to raise them, isn’t likely to grow into a well-adjusted productive member of society. Consider the mother who’s addicted to drugs, and will leave her baby with anyone while she goes out to find her next fix. Consider the children of prostitutes whose closest thing to a father figure is their mother’s pimp. In our inner cities, generation after generation grow up immersed in a lifestyle of drugs and crime, accepting that as normal, because it’s the way they were raised.

Children who grow up neglected or abused tend to end up as either predators or prey. We already have an enormous problem with abuse of social services by people who see themselves as victims of society, and believe the world owes them whatever they can get. We already have an enormous problem with more criminals than we have resources to warehouse. How will we manage to deal with ever-increasing numbers of such people? To reduce the proliferation of poverty, we have to reduce the rate of reproduction among the habitually poor.

I see four ways to accomplish this.

  1. Stop paying people to have babies. Those who can afford to raise children don’t need to be subsidized, and those who can’t shouldn’t have them.
  2. Make birth control readily available. Providing birth control does not encourage immoral or irresponsible behavior. Obviously, that behavior happens anyway. I’m far more concerned with the consequences to society of the lack of birth control than with making sure people who don’t care are aware of our disapproval.
  3. People who are too irresponsible, or stoned, or whatever, to use birth control are likely to be too irresponsible, or stoned, or whatever, to raise a child. Any children they end up having are at a high risk for the kind of irreversible neurological defects that exact a huge toll on society. While I’m opposed to abortions of viable fetuses, I do not oppose early-term abortions. In some situations, there are worse things than not being born.
  4. Sterilization should be made an option for people seeking abortions. For women seeking abortions at government expense, I’m in favor of offering a monetary incentive  for voluntary sterilization. It would be far more cost effective in the long run to pay a lump sum up front than to pay indefinitely after the child is born, and it would reduce the overall number of abortions as well as the number of future children to be raised at taxpayer expense.

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25 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is an amazing post. Could we do more though? Shouldn’t those of use who are reasonably well off have more children? That would make it easier for society to balance out the poorer kids.

  2. Go right ahead, Nate… ;)

  3. I think you’re a tad too quick to blame the growing amount of poor people on differences in birth rates. It’s a tad more complex an issue than that.

    “A great many people who live in poverty are drug and alcohol abusers.”

    I’d like to see some stats to try and back this statement up. It does cost more to house prisoners than it does to educate them when they are young so they can have better lives when they get older. Putting non-violent people in jail for minor drug possesion charges does no good to anyone.

    You are straying dangerously close to forcing people to have abortions that don’t want to or forcing people to be sterilized. Our society has already tried those kind of tactics out on people that were termed to be “retards” earlier in the 20th century, and I think that was an abomination. Just when I think you can’t get any more hard-heated, you always seem to amaze me with more…

  4. In my own experience living in a ghetto in NYC, many years ago, I saw an awful lot of drug abuse (and crime). Of course, not all the poor live in inner-city ghettos. Among the rural poor, alcohol abuse is a much bigger problem. I’ll try to find some statistics for you on poverty and substance abuse.

    I’ve never advocated putting non-violent people in jail for minor drug possession charges. (Read my post on There Ought to be a Law — Or Ought There?) What I’m suggesting is that people ought to make a choice — using drugs or having babies. It’s unconscionably irresponsible to do both.

    I have never suggested forcing people to have abortions, sterilization, or anything else. I don’t believe in coercion. I believe in offering people choices. You’re making the argument that it’s in their best interest not to offer them those options. I think it’s paternalistic of you to assume you know what’s in other peoples’s best interest better than they do. What’s so wrong with giving people more options than they have avaliable today?

  5. “I don’t believe in coercion.”

    But that’s exactly what your sterilization program will turn into. Get paid X-amount of money to never have a baby again. That sounds pretty paternalistic to me, and it’s a very dangerous thing IMO…the govt. shouldn’t get to decide who’s worthy or not worthy to give birth to someone.

  6. I’m not suggesting the government should decide. I’m suggesting the government should provide that option. Nobody has to accept the option who doesn’t want to. There are many women who have chosen lifestyles in which pregnancy is not only inconvenient, but that place any child they may conceive at great risk. Many of those women would be happy to have the option of not having to worry about it anymore. Today, that option is not available to them.

    The monetary incentive makes it a win-win. It’s a win for the woman because, not only doesn’t she have to worry about getting pregnant anymore, she gets some cash to spend on whatever it is she prioritizes more highly than having children. It’s a win for the taxpayers because they don’t have to keep paying for her future abortions or the care of her unwanted children.

    Again, it’s entirely up to her. If she doesn’t choose that option, of her own free will, her situation is no different than it is if the option isn’t available. You cannot make the argument that she’s worse off because she has more options.

  7. The strongest argument that I can make against this is that I think it’s repugnant to offer money to woman so they can become sterilized. It’s exactly like what was tried before with people that were deemed “undesirable” because of their apparent lack of mental ability.

    Where does this kind of thing end? Do we offer money to liberals or conservatives that are willing not to reproduce anymore? What about black people, white people, Asians, or Hispanics? Who’s going to decide who is worthy of getting a small amount of money to stop reproducing? The govt. is…that’s who. This isn’t China BTW.

  8. Mr. Guy, I believe you’re deliberatly ignoring the point I keep making. It is not at all “like what was tried before with people that were deemed ‘undesirable’ because of their apparent lack of mental ability.” The difference is the element of free will. In the situation to which you’re referring, sterilization was not optional. The argument you’re making is like equating offering someone food to force-feeding them.

    You’re the one insisting the government decides who gets sterilized. In my proposal, the government does not decide. The individual decides. The option should be made available to all (regardless of ethnicity or political persuasion). Today, a woman is not allowed to make that choice for herself. They use an algorithm based on the age of the woman and the number of children she already has to determine whether she’s permitted to get her tubes tied. What could be more paternalistic than that? I’m saying that all women who have reached the age of majority should be assumed competent to make their own choices with respect to their own reproduction.

    As far as the monetary incentive is concerned, there’s no reason to offer monetary compensation to anybody who is not poor. Those who can afford to pay for sterilization should pay. For those who want to be paid, they have to weigh the pros and cons. Anyone who decides it’s not in her best interest doesn’t choose to do it. You’re the one saying she shouldn’t be given the choice.

  9. [...] last night and I wanted to comment on it this morning.   On the Government is not Your Daddy Blog  the author does a great job of laying out certain unfortunate [...]

  10. Mr. Guy, I tried to dig up some statistics for you on substance abuse and poverty but, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty:

    “Most data on drug use are based on self-reports that may be inaccurate due to underreporting.

    Estimates of current substance use among those receiving welfare range from 6 percent to 37 percent.”

    So, it’s difficult to find accurate statistics. However, I did find this in an article published in the March-April 2000 issue of Physician Executive.

    “Two ultimate contributors to poverty must be addressed to improve community health status: unwanted adolescent pregnancy and substance abuse. There is no end to poverty as long as they are rampant.

    1. In our HealthNet centers last year we delivered 1,100 babies. Fifty percent of these mothers did not want to be pregnant, another 25 percent were ambivalent. Adolescent pregnancy and the resulting social and family chaos is the fuel that perpetuates the poverty cycle. Pregnancy is 100 percent preventable.

    2. Substance abuse is everywhere–it destroys hope and potential in human beings and causes the impoverished community to devour itself.”

  11. NotYourDaddy,

    I agree with you for the most part, but I think 3 and 4 have issues as discussed above.

    I think a more indirect way of enticing people without means to have children NOT to have children is to abolish public education as we know it. We should force all to educate their kids. This would force people to take an active part in their kids lives. I think this alone will do more to curb poverty than many of the ideas you have presented. Kids could be tested by the state to make sure they are learning what they should and a system of punishment can be put in place to further make life for dead beat parents more difficult.

  12. Slacker, this idea is so absurd, I can only assume you’re joking. Otherwise, how would you enforce that?

    Most of these parents are even less fit to educate a child than they are to raise one. (How does a functional illiterate teach their kids to read?) How do you propose to “punish” the parents who aren’t capable of homeschooling their children? Throw ‘em in jail? Sorry, no room. Our prisons are already overflowing, and we don’t even have space to lock up violent criminals.

    Even if you could toss the parents in jail, what would you do with the hundreds of thousands of children with no parents to look after them because their parents are in prison for illiteracy? Just let ‘em run loose in the streets? Or would you have them become wards of the government (at taxpayers’ expense), and require the government to “homeschool” them? — Oh, wait, that would be public education, wouldn’t it?

  13. We could punish parents by garnishing their checks. We could also take away those hefty income tax rebates they get. Lastly we could stick the worst of the crappy parents in jail. The fines could go on until every bit of what the state has to pay is paid off. Also, I think the money we save in not having a public school system as we have now would more than pay for initially making an example of crappy parents and in the future punishing the worst ones.

    I am not saying that crappy parents will ever be able to teach their kids. What I am saying is that we can force would be parents to have an active part in their kids lives. Or, not to have kids. If a parent cannot teach their kids through high school level, then they should do the work and prepare themselves before having kids.

  14. We’re talking about poor people, slacker. You want to garnish their welfare checks? — The very money the government gives them because they have children? You can fine people all you want but, if they don’t have any money, what do you think you’re going to collect? — Unless you can find a way to garnish “unreported” income, but even the the IRS hasn’t figured out a way to do that…

    Your “solution” lacks any connection to reality.

  15. Yep, I am talking about poor people too. I know a woman who has 4 kids who is ‘poor’. But oddly enough, she drives a nicer car than I do. She has a nicer TV than I do. She has a nicer stereo than I do. etc etc. Yes, we can cut the money she gets from welfare and everything will be alright. Yes, we can take away their IRS refund checks. If you haven’t been around a lot of poor people NotYourDaddy, then you probably don’t realize something. They perceive that they are fine where they at. They tend to not know that there is something better. Yes, we can make it much more financially difficult for them and there for encourage them not to have kids in which they cannot afford. Requiring parents to educate their kids is another way of forcing parents to care or not be parents.

    I have seen poverty first hand. My ‘solution’ is every bit as much in reality as yours is. More so!

  16. One of those studies that you cite also said:
    “Nationally representative data indicate that fewer than 20 percent of welfare recipients use illicit drugs in a given year.”
    Sounds like we debunked the claim that “a great many people who live in poverty are drug and alcohol abusers.”

    Anyways, I hesitate to bring the discussion on this issue to a screeching halt, but I think the following must be said. So, I dug a little into this wild idea that we should sterilize poor people. And what did I easily find? –

    “A dark medical history”
    http://media.www.michigandaily.com/media/storage/paper851/news/2008/02/12/Columns/Arikia.Millikan.A.Dark.Medical.History-3202978.shtml

    “Forced Sterilization in America and Canada”
    http://ezinearticles.com/?Forced-Sterilization-in-America-and-Canada&id=366331

    “A Look at the Indian Health Service Policy of Sterilization, 1972-1976″
    http://www.dickshovel.com/IHSSterPol.html

    “Sterilization Program Not All It’s C.R.A.C.K.ed Up to Be”
    http://www.law.uh.edu/healthlaw/perspectives/Bioethics/991008Crack.html

    “Sterilization Abuse: A Task for the Women’s Movement”
    http://www.cwluherstory.org/CWLUArchive/cesa.html

    “Racism Falling Through The Cracks” *excellent IMO*
    http://www.cwpe.org/node/166

    “Relf v. Weinberger – Sterilization Abuse”
    http://www.splcenter.org/legal/docket/files.jsp?cdrID=59&sortID=

    “Do not have children if they won’t be healthy!”
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=437879

    “Racism, Eugenics, and the Burdens of History”
    http://personal.uncc.edu/jmarks/interests/RIO.html

    This idea is older than I thought, and it based on a rich history of eugenics, racism, and sexism (rarely do I see decriptions of men having to be sterilized)…oh my! I say again…the issue of poverty in this country is *not* about just getting rid of the poor people!! We need to move past scapegoating & onto real solutions IMO.

  17. Again, you’re confusing offering someone a choice with imposing an involuluntary condition on them. I have no argument with you that forcing someone to be sterilized against their will is incontestably wrong and morally abhorrent. Offering people options is not.

    I expect that you would be appalled by the idea of force-feeding people. However, you probably don’t feel the same way about offering food to someone who’s hungry.

    I’ve been married for 25 years. We agreed before we were married that we didn’t want children. We would gladly have paid for a tubal ligation if the option had been available. It was not — even though we were willing to pay for it. I strongly believe any adult woman should be allowed to make that choice for herself.

    If it’s the part about offering poor people money that’s so reprehensible to you, that was really an afterthought and I have no problem skipping that part. (I think it’s a win-win, because people who need money get money, and the government saves in the long run. But it’s not essential to the effectiveness of the proposal.)

  18. Punishing the poor by monetary confiscations is so ridiculous.

    The Bible says we will always have the poor with us, but we should not subsidize it. Require even the unwed mothers to provide some labor to “earn” their way.

    Slacker: if a poor mother has a nice car, nice TV, etc. they are getting help from someone other than govt.

  19. Ever hear of the Good Samaritan hill??

  20. [...] presents How to Stop Propagating Poverty posted at Government is Not Your [...]

  21. Here is an idea- end welfare. All of it. No more section 8, food stamps, or “aide” to families with dependant children. This may need to be done gradually (say over the course of three years), in order to give welfare queens and baby daddys time to adjust to the new lifestyle (working for a living)and get their act together. What feeds poverty ? The idea that the government should support everyone, and drugs. By eliminating the first, these losers will have no choice but to realize that they too can make a living like everyone else. Also, legalize drugs- the crime rates in urban areas would drop rapidly, as much urban crime is committed by drug dealers. This would serve to cut off the second primary source of income for the poor, as welfare and drugs are the primary sources (this would happen as legitimate businesses take over the drug trade, cutting out the idiots on the corner that shoot up their friends and families’ homes). Thus, with no welfare checks and no ability to compete with large drug companies, the poor would have no choice but to adapt and become working or middle class. Of course, there will always be a few who just do not get it, and they would deserve what they get. If someone does not want to support themself and chooses to make babies with seven different men that is their right. I should not have to pay for it through government sanctioned extortion (taxes). I do agree with the previous poster that all schools should be privatized (as should just about everything, for that matter). If you want to have kids, thats great if it makes you happy. I should not have to pay 30-40 percent of what I earn (or any percent of what I earn for that matter)to pay for them. You chose an action (behavior that led to children) and it is you who must deal with the consequences.

  22. While not all poor people are poor by choice, or out of laziness, there are certainly a lot of poor people who do not need to be poor, but find it easier not to struggle for survival when the government hands it to them for free. I also agree with you that legalizing drugs would take the profit out of the black market, reduce the cost of drugs so addicts wouldn’t need to commit crimes to support their habits, and the taxes from legalized drugs could support drug rehab programs for those who are tired of wasting their lives and want to become productive human beings. Plus, we could save a whole lot of money on law enforcement and use that money to actually apprehend, prosecute, and lock up dangerous criminals that prey on society.

    I also agree that I shouldn’t have to pay for other people’s choices. There is nothing so sacred about having children that should entitle those who choose to do that to be subsidized by everybody else. But, if we must have publicly funded education, it should at least be a free market system where parents can choose where and how their children get educated. That would not only be more cost-effective, but the next generation would have a better chance at getting a real education. But that’s a whole other topic…

  23. I think most of you try to think of the most ignorant things to say to seem like you got some smarts to ya when in fact poverty is caused by the government which you all defend so dearly.when people beg for tax breaks they say “well we can’t afford to give tax breaks.” when not once have they asked the American people can you afford a tax increase? The cost of everyday life has gone up like 40% when the income has stayed the same.So how is one suppose to survive in a world that says well your gonna take more of your money in taxes and the cost of living is going up yet you WILL not be paid more you don’t need it,you need to learn how to budget your money.How can you budget money you don’t have?…and the money you get back from taxes is because they took to much and had your money sitting in a bank collecting interest on it. Another thing is why is it A guy making 35k a year breaking his back and government officials can be in “session” 4months and 1week and make 100k+? So poverty isn’t caused by poor people having children because most genius’s were infact born into poor families.It’s the government wanting to take more and more. Bigger government is the problem, always has been always will be.

  24. Mr Guy displays lots of logical fallacies in his argument. He compares forced sterilization to willingly exchanging sterilization for money.

    No, I don’t think the government needs to offer money for sterilization, but it can’t offer money to reproduce if it wants poverty to be reduced.

    Moreover, there’s nothing wrong with offering money to someone to become sterilized. I plan on having a vasectomy this year or the next, I’d love to get PAID to do it! If a person believes a few hundred bucks is worth them not reproducing, then who are you to say that’s the wrong choice? And who cares if black people, actors, engineers or anyone is offered money to become sterilized? As long as everyone is offered the choice, then adults should be able to make that decision.

    Your argument argues against itself, Guy. By implying that these adults “don’t know any better” to be offered the choice of sterilizing themselves for money, you show us that these adults aren’t smart enough for us to want them to have kids anyway.

    “I don’t believe in coercion.”

    But that’s exactly what your sterilization program will turn into. Get paid X-amount of money to never have a baby again. That sounds pretty paternalistic to me, and it’s a very dangerous thing IMO…the govt. shouldn’t get to decide who’s worthy or not worthy to give birth to someone.

  25. “He compares forced sterilization to willingly exchanging sterilization for money.”

    The two concepts *are* related because one concept (the money part) has grown out of the other (the forcing part)…as I have *clearly shown* with the links that I’ve highlighted here in this very thread.

    “it can’t offer money to reproduce if it wants poverty to be reduced.”

    The govt. simply doesn’t do this at all, period.

    “there’s nothing wrong with offering money to someone to become sterilized.”

    Sure, if you have no morals maybe…sheesh…

    “And who cares if black people, actors, engineers or anyone is offered money to become sterilized?”

    It’s called eugenics when specific groups of people are targeted!!

    “By implying that these adults ‘don’t know any better’ to be offered the choice of sterilizing themselves for money, you show us that these adults aren’t smart enough for us to want them to have kids anyway.”

    Thanks so much for showing us an excellent example of the type of “logic” that’s used to try & back up eugenics proposals. You prove my point about what is *really* behind these kind of schemes…”we’ll decide who can & cannot have babies”. BTW, why are we dusting off an argument from almost a full year ago??


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