A Terrible Starting Point

From today’s Boston Herald (via memeorandum):

The Tsarnaev family, including the suspected terrorists and their parents, benefited from more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded assistance — a bonanza ranging from cash and food stamps to Section 8 housing from 2002 to 2012, the Herald has learned.

It’ll be a hard press to find a better example of someone doing more harm than good by way of selective disclosure of information.

There are indeed people who abuse the social welfare system out there. There are also people with a strong skill set who can indeed reap the equivalent of a middle-class lifestyle from the social welfare system without “cheating.” In my day job, I sometimes evict such people when their income streams are disrupted for various reasons. I suspect that while such people exist, they are rare.

One hundred thousand dollars over the course of eleven years is not milking the system for all it’s worth. It’s an average of just over $750 a month. Compare to cost of living in Boston. Apparently there is some concern that the elder brother’s extended trip to Russia was somehow subsidized by the government. Indirectly, perhaps, but that’s still a very relaxed standard of rationality to apply to the information so breathlessly reported by the Herald.

$750 a month worth of public assistance is simply not enough to survive in a major metropolitan area. I doubt it covers rent — even in a bad neighborhood. Other income had to be coming in to that household.

So what’s the point of being outraged that the Tsarnaev family wasn’t doing well financially for a long time, and received public assistance? Why ought we to care?

If the point is to say that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are bad people, well, they demonstrated that rather effectively two weeks ago. It’s not like anyone is defending the morality of the bombings and the police chase.

If the point is to say that being on welfare somehow caused the boys being raised in that environment to morally malform, this is still an incomplete argument. We’ve gone well beyond the sphere of a reasonable chain of causation to say that because the household received Section 8, the teenagers decided to blow up the marathon. Something else happened because the one thing obviously does not lead inevitably to the other.

If the point is to say that people who get welfare are somehow morally bad and a bunch of cheaters by virtue of their receipt of welfare, well, maybe, but you can’t plot a curve from a single point. What does that have to do with these brothers being violent criminals? How is this anything but clumsy class warfare?

It shouldn’t be controversial to point out that the social welfare system is imperfect. Nor that there are people who use the extant system(s) as intended, as a safety net to get through periods where self-sufficiency is lost through no fault of the person’s own. We can all agree that there are people who extract benefits from the system for longer than and in an amount greater than what seems appropriate or necessary, even if we disagree on where the lines of appropriateness and need ought to be drawn.

So if the point is to say that we need to re-examine the breadth and actual use of the social welfare system, fine. Let’s not start that examination by being outraged at the most publicly-pilloried and morally despicable violent criminals America has seen in a decade. Let’s instead have that conversation after we’ve figured out a few more broad points.

  • Do we as a society have a moral and/or ethical obligation to use our collective wealth to help poor people? In an age of governmental resources which are contracting, to what extent are we willing to balance our need for collective fiscal discipline with that moral obligation?
  • What is the reason we have social welfare in the first place? Compassion? A step to realizing an advantage to society in general? Some sort of investment for which we hope to realize a return of some kind? Preventative maintenance against some worse expense later? An engine for social change?
  • Have we created any perverse incentives with the manner in which that welfare is allocated? Are those perverse incentives things that are susceptible of being controlled, or are they things that we can tolerate? Is it even possible to understand these incentives divorced from our own political perspectives?
  • Are there particular kinds of people we want to benefit? Why are they to be preferred?
  • What kinds of strings ought to be attached to receipt of social welfare? For instance, does the recipient give up a measure of privacy? Ought a recipient be required to obtain education as a condition of receipt? Are such conditions realistically achievable? In order to answer this question, we must be clear about why the social welfare system exists.
  • Is policing against abuse of the system economically efficient? Or does that even matter? Again, we need to remember why we have a system at all before we can address these issues coherently and effectively.

It’s not all that important to note that some people who receive welfare are criminals. Making the correlation does more harm than good. But until we understand, on both a moral and policy level, why we do these things in the first place, we’re going to get confused and incoherent policies created from a distorted set of priorities.

And it’s not until we have reached some degree of consensus about these questions that we can intelligently tackle questions of how we might reform and budget our social welfare systems. We ought to have these discussions — various forms of social welfare represent a majority of government spending at both the state and federal levels. It’s hard to have these discussions because they get tainted with other issues like race, fear, greed, and envy. It’s even harder to have such discussions when we let labels (like “conservative,” “libertarian,” and “liberal”) do our thinking for us.

No segment of the public dialogue benefits from correlating the Tsarnaev family’s receipt of social welfare with the Tsarnaev brothers’ awful crimes. Class warfare — whether that come in the flavor of beating up on the poor or the flavor of sparking resentment of the wealthy — isn’t likely to prevent future violence.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. So what’s the point of being outraged that the Tsarnaev family wasn’t doing well financially for a long time, and received public assistance? Why ought we to care?

    We oughtn’t. But the Boston Herald isn’t the kind of publication to care about such things. Stoking outrage at ridiculous non-issues is its bread and butter, just like its New York equivalent the Post. Nothing about that paragraph surprises me, given the source.

  2. Didn’t you know? Only terrorists are on welfare. Or only people on welfare become terrorists. Whatever… same difference… right?

  3. I heard the Tsarnaev family likes orange juice, are pro-choice, and believe that Britney Spears was a superior American Idol judge to Nicki Minaj.

    What does that tell us about for juice, abortions, and American Idol?

  4. I don’t think it’s class warfare.

    Assuming that the brothers were terrorists who hoped to destroy American Society, the criminality is especially galling. This puts it in a different class of “resentment at the insufficient gratitude of others” than run-of-the-mill irritation at welfare recipients.

    • Why weren’t the 9 and 16-year-old brothers interrogated for pro-terrorist sympathies before aid was granted?

      • I’m not saying that “this is something that Social Services ought to have caught!”

        I’m more categorizing the nature of the “to add insult to injury!” attached to their mass murder.

        Assuming they were trying to destroy our society, of course.

        • I’m glad there’s going to be a full investigation into exactly how much aid they received, so we’ll know exactly how angry to be,

          • I’ll try to explain it like this, then: You know how it’s funny that Ayn Rand accepted Medicare?

            It’s kinda like that.

          • So we need to know exactly how much Medicare spent on her to know how foolish her ideas were, when we already know that from her books?

          • OK, auditing her benefits would be more fun than reading Atlas Shrugged.

          • Having a root canal done is more fun than reading rand’s “writings” but i dont think thats the new standard we should base fun on.

            Also going after a person or persons who had every legal right to seek gov aid because they did bad things? If we are going to start prosecuting people based on the crimes they have not committed I want an upgrade from Cruise to Cruz as the agent who takes me down.

  5. But until we understand, on both a moral and policy level, why we do these things in the first place, we’re going to get confused and incoherent policies created from a distorted set of priorities.

    Seeing as how I wasn’t alive when the US welfare state started to come into being, I have to wonder: Was there a national conversation about why welfare was being instituted (was that even possible, given the times)? Did it just happen by raw political will & the populace was stuck with it without understanding why? Or have we just collectively forgotten why welfare came to pass in the first place?

    • Of course we have. Kids wore brown bags on their head, to symbolize their invisibility.

    • There was this thing called the Great Depression, where millions of people became destitute through circumstances beyond their control, far exceeding the capacity of private charity. (In those days people thought it began in 1929, because they didn’t have the benefit of decades of heavily subsidized research proving it was created by the New Deal.) This created a consensus that it was a responsibility of government to help people in strained circumstances, something that was particularly popular in poor places like the rural South, until the CRA and VRA made it clear that government aid was for black people too.

      • Which government?
        “So for several months in 1936, the Los Angeles Police Department sent 136 deputies to the state lines to turn back migrants who didn’t have any money.”

        Those were fun times ehhh?

      • A nice blurb abut the history of, but not much about whether or not there was a national conversation. Did people petition the government for help actively, or was it something the members decided to do?

        • Well, they elected these guys called “Congressmen” and a guy we called “The President” and they all got together and voted for it.

          So, yeah. Unless you don’t count anything but ballot initiatives, in which case nothing the state or federal governments ever do is backed by the people. Ever.

  6. The point of articles like this is to gin up the right wing anger machine. If you don’t have fresh fuel, you can’t keep the anger burning.

    I already saw one facebook post by a friend of mine on the right bemoaning the fact that soldiers retire at only half their salary while immigrants can suck thousands of dollars from the government teat and contribute nothing to society. This kind of article feeds right into that sentiment and lends credence (at least in some people’s minds) to the notion that we need to scrap our welfare system.

    • You know, I indicate that one of the questions I think people should ask is “Do we as a society have a moral and/or ethical obligation to use our collective wealth to help poor people? In an age of governmental resources which are contracting, to what extent are we willing to balance our need for collective fiscal discipline with that moral obligation?”

      So an answer to that first question might be “No,” or the answer to the second question might be “We just can’t afford to do it.” And indeed, those are acceptable answers to proffer up into the arena and defend through the process of argument. I don’t think those answers will withstand sober argument (John Rawls drove a spike through the first one more than fifty years ago, and the deficit is not yet large enough that the second one makes sense), but I don’t have a problem with someone giving it a try.

      Of course I realize that sober argument isn’t what the Herald’s article is aimed at offering.

      • There’s also the ever-thorny question of “does meeting our moral obligations entail strings being attached to our help?”

        The fact that we give EBT instead of direct cash payments indicates that we’re okay with *SOME* strings. The fact that there is huge support for, say, drug testing of welfare recipients indicates huge support for even more strings in certain parts of society.

        What strings can we not only attach, but feel good about attaching them?

        Is something like “loyalty to the concept of America” an inappropriate string to attach to welfare?

        • I’m uncomfortable with that string (“loyalty to the concept of America”) because the internal loyalty of someone is untestable and unknowable, and testing the external loyalty raises First Amendment issues. Is one “loyal” to America when one criticizes the country’s actions?

          • Well, let’s see if a line can be drawn at all: is it disloyal to bomb a crowd of more-or-less innocent bystanders?

            (Assuming, of course, that’s what the brothers were going for, of course. Maybe they were protesting something else that would be in line with the idea of “loyalty to the concept of America”.)

          • So, in addition to trying him, we’ll be sending him a bill for the money they already received?

          • Jay, it’s better to not create a rule which requires asking and answering such subjective questions.

            It should be illegal to murder people. With guns, knives, bombs, airplanes, bare hands, poison, or whatever else you want.

          • If I have a point, it’s that there are a lot of folks out there who seem to think that welfare comes with strings attached. I think that the strings attached are part of the price paid to get this moral obligation fulfilled.

            If the argument is that we shouldn’t have any strings attached to our benevolence, I guess I sort of shrug because it seems to me that, in practice, we do… and if we officially made it so that the strings would not be attached, the support for official benevolence would be less than even a plurality.

            The dynamic displayed by this article shows one of the strings attached to charity. I’m not interested in discussing whether it’s ugly as much as whether we can reasonably untie it without a lot of other things unraveling at the same time.

            (Assuming, of course, the motivation of the bombers was something entailing destroying, or at least doing great harm to, society.)

          • Doesn’t that presume all threads are identical? Why can’t we say threads relating to the use of the money in pursuit of its stated purpose (e.g., EBT) but those which constrain thought (e.g., loyalty oaths) or other behavior (e.g., drug use) are not?

          • Ergh… I meant to say that the former are okay and the latter two are not.

          • No one has mentioned loyalty oaths, Kazzy.

            If you’d like to have that conversation, please, write that essay. I’d ask that you not pretend that I’m having that conversation, though.

            If you’d like to argue that we shouldn’t tie any given string to our meeting of various moral obligations, that’s great. Please understand that there are a lot more people out there likely to say “I have to piss in a cup to get a job to pay for their welfare, why shouldn’t they have to piss in a cup to get it?” and calling their attitude “ugly” strikes me as unlikely to change the opinion of anyone who has already made up their mind. The light googling I’ve done on the topic tells me that drug-testing of welfare recipients is *VERY* popular. Like, overwhelmingly so.

            It seems to me that the question of welfare payments to people who are members of groups that advocate the violent overthrow of society will have a similar breakdown when it comes to public opinion… if not an even greater one.

          • Jay,

            How would one confirm one’s “loyalty to the concept of America” without some sort of loyalty oath?

            More importantly… what does this… “If you’d like to have that conversation, please, write that essay. I’d ask that you not pretend that I’m having that conversation, though.” … even mean?

            What conversation are you having? Because it often seems that you are having a particular conversation or are making a particular point up until the time when you declare that you have done no such thing. It can be confusing.

            Most importantly, it seems you are strawmanning here. Is anyone necessarily arguing against strings being attached to the receipt of welfare? If this is some assbackwards way of saying we shouldn’t have welfare because the way we do have welfare could eventually be constructed such that it requires people demonstrating “loyalty to the concept of America” which people might find untenable… well… yea, assbackwards.

            So, as clearly as you can state it… what is your point here?

          • Dude, I am not talking about “making some sort of public demonstration of loyalty”. I’m asking whether an expectation of that loyalty is something that those who are meeting their moral obligations is unwarranted.

            Is it silly of the people who are meeting their obligations to the less fortunate to expect them to not be terrorists?

            The response toward the people outraged that the terrorists were on welfare seems to be that they’re being ugly… and I don’t know that that is necessarily the case. Can we have a societal expectation of not wanting to destroy society on the part of those who receive benefits?

            I mean, Ayn Rand gets mocked for receiving Medicare and Social Security and she paid into those. Why is she mocked? Because of what she believed, what she said, the books she published. Is the contempt of people who are on the dole to be limited to conservatives, libertarians, and objectivists?

          • More importantly… what does this… “If you’d like to have that conversation, please, write that essay. I’d ask that you not pretend that I’m having that conversation, though.”

            If you want to talk about loyalty oaths, then talk about loyalty oaths. I just don’t want you to pretend (or believe) that I am the one who brought them up. I brought up an expectation of loyalty on the part of society. Not a demonstration of loyalty on the part of those on the dole. If I ask “is the former inappropriate?”, talking about the latter is talking about something that I am not talking about.

            I’m not going to tell you to not talk about it. Indeed: Knock yourself out. But please don’t pretend that you’re talking about it because I’m talking about it. I’m not.

          • Now I get what you’re saying. Thank you for clarifying.

            First off, I’ve never mocked Ayn Rand. To be honest, I really know little about her. I know she wrote “Atlas Shrugged” which seems to have a bit of a cult following among certain subsets of the population but that is all I know. Generally speaking, I don’t mock anyone for receiving government aid because I know most people in that scenario would rather not be… seems too much like kicking them when they’re down. I might point out the hypocrisy of people who vehemently denounce something while simultaneously indulging in it but that seems a different kettle of fish (but please correct me if that is simply self-serving).

            Still, if I read you correctly, it would seem that you are arguing that receiving government support puts an additional burden on folks not to be terrorists. I’m not particularly moved by this argument because I think everyone has about as heavy a burden as possible to not be terrorists; I’m not sure we can really up that very much. And that takes us down a long and winding road (e.g., Do white people have extra incentive to support the government because of institutionalized privilege?) that I don’t think is productive.

            Is there something interesting about the fact that these young men were (supposedly!) railing against a system that served their interests pretty well? Yea, I guess. It also presumes that they had much of a hand in being served as they did which, given their age, is unlikely. And it also presumes that we understand their motivations, which I’m still not sure we do. Terrorists hate our freedom, right? Do they also hate welfare and government support programs?

          • it would seem that you are arguing that receiving government support puts an additional burden on folks not to be terrorists

            It’s more that it has to do with expectations on the part of society. If society is meeting an obligation by providing a social safety net, do those who avail themselves of this safety net incur any special obligations?

            Because, lemme tell ya, that expectation is out there. There is very much a societal assumption that those who avail themselves of the net have obligations.

            The question on the table seems to be whether it is fair to say that these two boys failed to meet these obligations.

          • “The question on the table seems to be whether it is fair to say that these two boys failed to meet these obligations.”

            See, these boys failed to meet more basic obligations… seeking to determine their failure of higher obligations seems… pointless? Like, are we going to declare them doubleplusbad instead of just regular ol’ bad? I just don’t know what it does for us in this particular scenario.

            I think you really need to explore this phenomenon with an edge case… with someone doing something we might disapprove of but which we wouldn’t seek to intervene about… yet the fact that they are receiving government support might necessitate an additional obligation that they are failing to meet and which would justify intervention.

            Of course, this begs the question of whether we should view those who receive government aid as incurring additional obligations. I don’t doubt that there is likely strong support for certain measures to this end, but I won’t necessarily concede that that means such is right.

            Now… if I wanted to be a nudge, I’d point to institutions like, say, the Catholic Church, which is given a privileged status via its non-profit status, but which seemingly confers no additional obligations, certainly not in regards to gender equity. IN FACT, it is the very same status from which they derive their non-profit status that they derive unique protections from intervention on behalf of their gender discrimination… so, oddly, they both receive de facto government support AND incur fewer obligations. But I don’t suppose we want to shake that tree…

          • Now, keep in mind: I’m a fan of a right to privacy to the point where you’d say that my idea of privacy is unworkable and my idea of a good social safety net is something akin to a “Negative Income Tax”.

            With that said, I sure as heck understand the the attitude of irritation that the bombers were doing their planning while taking tax dollars from the very people whose limbs they were going to be severing. It has nothing to do with whether the bombers were bad people (of course they are), it’s not the argument that being on welfare malformed them, and it’s not the argument that people on welfare are morally bad or a bunch of cheaters.

            It’s the basic idea that those who see themselves as providing the social safety net have expectations of those who take part in the social safety net… and *NOT ONLY* did the bombers kill innocent bystanders and cut legs and arms off of complete strangers for reasons that we don’t even know what they are yet, but they did this while abusing our Good Nature. Is this attitude beating up the poor? Is it even saying anything about other people on the dole?

          • I wouldn’t object to those people feeling that way. But I’d be curious to what degree the particular situation is serving as an… excuse seems too strong a word but let’s go with it because I can’t think of another one… to rail against the entire welfare system.

            I don’t doubt that there are some people who genuinely believe in the/a welfare system who might look and say, “These people violated the contract I willingly support.” But I’d venture to guess that a lot of these people voicing such objections are more widely critical of the system and these serves as a really convenient way for them to talk about “obligations” without coming across as railing against the poor.

            And part of my reason for being skeptical is that there are a number of social contracts we have all entered in to (or, if you prefer, have come to be entangled in) that carry with them a myriad of sometimes criss-crossing obligations and expectations, many of which are violated on a regular basis, for which we are all guilty. So, if these people’s objections to such are unique to this situation, it makes me think there issue is more with “welfare” than it is “breach of social contract”.

          • I’d also like to point out that “obligations” is not “railing against the poor”.

            The question of “what obligations do those who receive bennies from the social safety net?” is a question that belongs up there with Burt’s questions. If your answer is “they don’t owe a thing” then that’s your answer but the expectation that we all have responsibilities to each other is not *THAT* crazy a thought.

          • “I’d also like to point out that “obligations” is not “railing against the poor”.”
            Who said it was?

            “The question of “what obligations do those who receive bennies from the social safety net?” is a question that belongs up there with Burt’s questions. If your answer is “they don’t owe a thing” then that’s your answer but the expectation that we all have responsibilities to each other is not *THAT* crazy a thought.”
            Who said it was?

            Seriously… Has anyone made those arguments here? If not, can we just call this a strawman?

          • Turn it on its head. If they had founded a high-tech company that employed 100 people and pledged 10% of the profits to the local schools, I don’t think we’d be saying “Yeah, I know, but at least they gave back to the community.”

          • calling their attitude “ugly” strikes me as unlikely to change the opinion of anyone who has already made up their mind.

            Granted. And I’m well aware that this is a very popular notion about which I’m clearly in the staggering minority.

            I still say that attitude is ugly. I’ll go farther and say that it’s the ugliest possible expression of the least admirable trait of humanity… the trait of pretend charity. It’s the antithesis of charity.

            It’s one reason why I just can’t align myself with either of the politico groups and I’ll probably always be an outsider.

          • Kazzy, when you’re talking about people complaining without coming across like they’re railing against the poor, I assumed that your implication was that they were railing against the poor, they just wanted to avoid looking like that’s what they were doing.

            Patrick, I’d say that our social safety net is not set up to be “charity” but “meeting an obligation”. Perhaps if our net were set up more like a charity, that’d be another dynamic entirely. As it is, we’re left discussing our obligations… and if we’re discussing obligations, I don’t know that it’s “ugly” to question whether the obligations are mutual. Perhaps they only go one way. Let’s get that out into the open and then have a beauty contest for the responses of making that sort of thing official.

          • FTR I believe I did ask that question: “What kinds of strings ought to be attached to receipt of social welfare?”

          • @Jaybird

            Count me as one of the minority who doesn’t think people who receive welfare should have to “piss in a cup”.

            Then again, I think it should be illegal for an employer to ask you to do so as well, unless you operate heavy machinery or work with children.

          • Or are a product tester for piss cups.

          • Well, Bill Clinton was at one point trying to remove 4th Amendment protections for people who lived in public housing so the police could conduct random sweeps of the projects, going door-to-door rounding up guns, drugs, and anything else they found. That idea was shot down rather quickly, but as I recall it centered on making them sign away some of their Constitutional rights as part of the subsidized housing agreement.

          • Oh, I’m sorry Burt. I swear, I deliberately read through the questions a second time to make sure that I didn’t look like an idiot when I said that.

            For what it’s worth, I think that that particular question is one that has a knee-jerk “no, of course not!” response among the educated elite… except for the things that they agree should be there but that’s not a string it’s just common sense (or what have you).

          • Jay,

            I think some people DO want to rail against welfare and will use this as an excuse to do so. Not all people who object.

            But if all you want to say is, “People who feel they violated a social contract,” than just say that. We could have saved a few hundred words.

            All I want to say is that there is a difference between saying, “They violated a social contract,” and saying, “See? This is the problem with welfare/liberals/terrorists/Obama/Obama/Obama.”

          • Do we have anyone who has said that? Or do we just know that this article is a dog whistle and we have an obligation to argue against that position even though no one has technically said the argument, we all know what they really mean?

          • From the article:

            ““The breadth of the benefits the family was receiving was stunning,” said a person with knowledge of documents handed over to a legislative committee today.”
            $750/month is stunning?

            ““I can assure members of the public that this committee will actively review every single piece of information we can find because clearly the public has a substantial right to know what benefits, if any, this family or individuals accused of some horrific crimes were receiving,” said state Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick), the committee’s chairman.”
            What good will come of that?

          • $750/month is stunning?

            I think another way to phrase it might be “$100,000 over 11 years is stunning?”

            I think that there are quite a few folks out there who might wonder about the 11 years. That’s quite a few years, there.

            There’s also an angle that I tend to argue in my pro-immigration arguments: “The people who want to come here and be on welfare aren’t the type to up and move themselves to a new country! The people who are the type to unass their couches are the people with gumption!”

            Now I’m wondering how many immigrants are doing such things as moving to the US and doing things like collecting $100,000 in benefits over 11 years.

            I think that there are quite a few folks out there who believe that we should be spending our money on “us” rather than on “them”. While it’d be fairly easy to paint these people as, oh, I’m sure that there’s a term for them, I do think that it’s fair to wonder whether there is a limit to what we, as a society, should be expecting to dole out to people who come here from other countries.

            What good will come of that?

            Perhaps we’ll find out that, at the end of the day, they only got $750 a month and, really, that’s not that much and we’ll all stop worrying about it.

          • Let’s play it straight…

            This family, or at least the two young men accused of the bombing, will not ever receive another dime of welfare. They won’t live in Section 8 housing again. They won’t be getting any aid or grants for college. That’s not going to happen going forward.

            And it appears that nothing they did prior to that fateful Monday would have disqualified them.

            So if the question is, “Should we give welfare to people who bomb America?” I’m pretty sure everyone, myself included, will answer with a resounding, “NO!”
            If the question is, “Should we give welfare to people who might one day bomb America?” Well, we get into some pretty tricky areas in terms of how we determine who, exactly, is going to bomb America.

            I see little to no value in evaluating what they may or may not have received from the government prior to that Monday. Up until that point, they were ordinary citizens. It seems to be needlessly kicking a hornets nest that is unlikely to produce anything fruitful.

            If you want to have conversations about welfare and the social contract and all that jazz, lets have them. But having them in the context of these two guys is a pretty shitty way to go about having an actual dialogue.

          • I don’t know why we’re pretending that this isn’t about why we let Those People into the country at all, much less pay them while they’re plotting against us. Next thing, they’ll want to put one of their terrorist training centers near Ground Zero.

            I honestly don’t recall anyone asking how much the military paid a terrorist while he was plotting to blow up a day-care center.

          • Mike, keep in mind: I’m one of the “let’s return to Ellis Island levels of immigration” folks on the board.

            Step One: Show up.
            Step Two: Have your last name changed arbitrarily.
            Step Three: Have a nice life.

            I’m told that this is not particularly workable anymore because of, among other things, the requirements imposed by the social safety net.

      • The reason government resources are contracting is that conservatives spent the last 30 years reducing revenue streams and throwing vast amounts of money into the military. The reason they did the former was so that they could claim that a social welfare system was unaffordable and use that as an excuse for gutting it.

        It becomes fairly obvious when conservative governments do the same thing in multiple different countries. Canada’s Conservatives have done the same over just seven years. Run up deficits while claiming that it’s liberals and the left that are fiscally irresponsible, and then use the deficits as a justification for why we can’t afford government.

    • soldiers retire at only half their salary

      The thing that boggles my mind about this is that everybody – and I do mean everybody – that I know that did a twenty in an armed force is now doing better than average for the middle class.

      Half of your salary after 20 isn’t enough money to retire on, sure. But you usually have more-than-another 20 of working age coming up.

      Every armed forces site or military support site I’ve seen has a blurb just like this one:

      Military Retirement Overview

      The military retirement system is arguably the best retirement deal around. Unlike most retirement plans, the Armed Forces offer a pension, with benefits, that starts the day you retire, no matter how old you are. That means you could start collecting a regular retirement pension as early as 37 years old. What’s more, that pension check will grow with a cost of living adjustment each year.

      Emphasis mine.

      Doing 20 and getting your half-salary as gratis for maybe thirty additional years is a huge win for retirement planning. Even granted that you’re likely underpaid while you’re serving.

      • I’m USN-Ret with a disability pension. I was only an E4 when I retired, but even then I got ~$600/month, above & beyond my VA Vocational Rehab. Now it’s over $800/mo & pays my student loans, my wife’s, and makes part of the car payment.

        Not a bad deal (disability aside).

        • Yes, but you’re still in the inactive reserve, which means the country will put you back on the front lines during the zombie apocalypse. Since you’re Navy, this probably means that you’ll sail to a zombie-free island, lounge on the beach, and drink the last surviving Coronas while the rest of us are boarding up our windows to hold back the hordes of undead. The rag-tag bands of survivors will still have to fight their way to the post office by April 15th so you can get your full active-duty pay, otherwise they’ll get hit with late fees and penalties.

          Some might find that perverse, but it’s not nearly so much so as feeding hungry Islamic radicals instead of fasting in sympathy for them during Ramadan. Or maybe I have that backwards. Anyway, at least this time people aren’t running around trying to ban pressure cookers.

          • Please note the mention of disability – I left the NIR a loooong time ago.

          • No, the want to ban gun powder instead.

  7. Does this mean the US Gov gave material aid to terrorists? Are we now state sponsors of terrorism?

    • “Are we now state sponsors of terrorism?”

      not to be mean kazzy but did you miss the whole CIA trying to kill castro thing? Iran-Contra? Supporting that wonderful freedom-fighter OBL before he became that terrible freedom-hating terrorist?

      when have we not been a state sponsor of terrorism. at least in this case we did not know about it. sponsoring on the third hand as it were.

      (really is meant to be more snarky then it sounds i think, 31 straight awake makes my perceptertron go off. and right now i cant figure out how to say it better. no offence meant.

  8. The great philosophers Huxley and Carlin have figured this out.

    “What is the reason we have social welfare in the first place?”
    Preventative maintenance against some worse expense later.

    People aren’t going to go away quietly. I would rather have taxes go towards social welfare than have random taxation fall upon me in the form of robbery and violence.

    In the words of Julius Caesar:

    Let me have men about me that are fat;
    Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o’ nights.
    Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
    He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

    • that the best argument for social welfare for the rich of course. some of us hope the Conservatives really do get their dream of killing the welfare state. because within 20-30 years of that we can enact the great depression again and this time get you torch and .45, we gonna have dinner in that rich mans house.

      but then i come to my senses and realize that the party that kills SS or Medicare or even SNAP i think will be sliced into little pieces by the voters. Yet another reason I wish the president would JUST STOP HELPING on the debtmaggedion stuff. Wish he really was the 11th dimensional chess player sully thinks he is. because i am tired of getting rolled when we are right and have won.

      • Shoowee, you think they ain’t gonna follow Dubya down to Uruguay?

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