The Instigator
KnowItAll
Pro (for)
Losing
4 Points
The Contender
andyh
Con (against)
Winning
5 Points

Welfare Should be Abolished

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
andyh
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/24/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 7,898 times Debate No: 16111
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (7)
Votes (4)

 

KnowItAll

Pro

It is my contention that all welfare programs in the United States should be abolished. Welfare creates a dependent sub society and creates an opportunity for unethical people to take advantage of the system. There are times when people need a helping hand but there is no reason why private organizations cannot step into the shoes of government.

My opponent will argue that welfare does not create a dependent society and that private organizations are incapable of stepping into the shoes of government with regard to welfare.
andyh

Con

Many thanks for setting up this interesting debate.

I will argue that welfare should not be abolished (with specific reference to the United States), and that is in fact essential to

a) reduce poverty
and
b) promote social mobility

I will go on to argue that leaving social welfare to the private sphere would be irresponsible and not fitting of a 21st century developed state.

OPENING STATEMENT

I am proud to live in a country (UK) that has a welfare system. While I won't keep refering to the UK, as this debate is specifically about the United States, welfare is something that I very much expect the government to provide. It is a safety net that I know, that should something go wrong, the government will be there to help. None of us can say when we might have the misfortune to need it. It is one of the priviliges so many undeveloped countries do not enjoy.

My argument is primarily going to focus on two points that I mentioned briefly above.

1) That welfare has been shown to reduce poverty levels
and
2) That welfare promotes social mobility.

POVERTY REDUCTION


I would like my debate partner to consider that poverty levels in any country are very much an issue the government in question must deal with and not the private sphere.

It is empirically proven that welfare reduces poverty levels:

USA POVERTY LEVELS

[http://en.wikipedia.org...]
1970-1997

Before Welfare 17.2 %

After Welfare 15.1 %

This is not a massive decrease, but it is still notable. In other countries (e.g UK, Norway, Sweden, Germany) welfare reduces poverty levels by over 50%.

Thus, the question we pose should not be about abolishing welfare in the USA but how to reform it and bring it up to the same standards set in other nations. Taking it from the government sphere however would be dangerous and risky. This is a key government issue, and not dealing with it as such would have one serious implication:

taking away government accountability for poverty levels


WELFARE PROMOTES SOCIAL MOBILITY

We are not all dealt the same hand in life. Some are luckier than others. We do not all currently receive the same education, the same opportunities. Discrimination exists, it is a fact of society. Often the people we blame for 'taking advantage' of welfare have actually previously been failed by our society.

I will concede that there are those out there who may indeed simply take advantage our of lazyness. But there are those who won't. Why should we punish many for the actions of a few?

Welfare itself needs to be reformed and improved. More means testing needs to be implemented. But the idea of taking it out of the government sphere or altogether abolishing it is extreme and dangerous.

I look forward to my debate partners thoughts on the issues I have raised.
Debate Round No. 1
KnowItAll

Pro

Using my opponent's source I agree that poverty in the U.S. has decreased 2.1% since welfare was instituted. However, what is the cost for this 2.1% decrease? The U.S. spends approximately $1 trillion per year on welfare programs. http://www.bookrags.com... However, as Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security is included I will use a conservative number of less than half or $400 billion per year. Now let's take a look at the poverty thresholds in the U.S.A. In order for a single person to be considered living in poverty he or she must earn $11,639 or below.(http://www.census.gov...) The U.S. Federal minimum wage level is set at $7.25 per hour. (http://en.wikipedia.org...) Taking into account a 1 week unpaid vacation, a full time minimum wage worker will earn $14,790 per year. Even at a 15% combined federal and state income tax a single, full time minimum wage worker will be above the poverty threshold. The U.S. is spending over $400 billion annually to provide for people who cannot or refuse to obtain full time minimum wage employment is unacceptable. Additionally, the percentage of Americans on welfare has remained somewhat consistent. If welfare was such a tremendous success in uplifting people from poverty why has the percentage of Americans receiving aid remained somewhat consistent? It appears that welfare has done nothing more than to minimally decrease poverty levels at an astronomic cost while creating a sub society that is reliant on it. Outside of the U.S., many countries spend above 30% of their GDP on welfare. Giving from the haves to provide for the have not's is socially irresponsible.

Regardless of we are not dealt the same hand in life how does welfare alleviate this and exactly how does society fail individuals? Is it the fault of society if someone fails to complete high school and cannot obtain employment because they don't have the qualifications for the position? Is it society's fault when someone who cannot afford to have children has 5? As I stated earlier, there are times when people need a helping hand. Private organizations are more than capable of handling the system.

Prior to government getting into the services business there were many private organizations that provided for society. They were eliminated not because they were incapable but rather they were no longer needed as government took the reins. Additionally, the U.S. welfare system contracts with many private organizations. (http://aspe.hhs.gov...) Government is so adept at providing for their "poor" citizens that they outsource much of the work? It is not the responsibility of government to provide for their citizens. The welfare programs in the U.S. and abroad is nothing but socialism. As a "free" society we should not be taxed to death in order to provide for the less fortunate. U.S. citizens already donate over $300 billion per year to charity. (http://www.philanthropy.iupui.edu...) Charities like Feeding America operate over 90,000 programs in the country already. (http://en.wikipedia.org...) To say that private organizations are incapable is simply not true.
andyh

Con

Thanks for a speedy response.

Costs_____________________

You have highlighed in round 2 the high cost of welfare, giving an (estimated) figure of $400 billion per annum, to reduce poverty by only a small percentage.

You do indeed highlight an issue, but I believe you are looking at it from the wrong aspect.

I ask you to consider that 1 in 7 people in the USA live below the poverty line.
[http://www.nonukes.org...]
This is something that has to be addressed. As I previously gave example of, welfare in many states goes as far as to halve the poverty level. Simply because currently it is not acheiving such results in the USA does not mean to go to such extremes as to abandon it entirely to the private sphere. It is by nature something that the government must be accountable for.

It may currently cost a great deal, but if you take into considerations the amounts spent on weapons, (the amount spent on nuclear itself reaches $40 billion per annum). When you think of it in this respect, it is little price to pay to improve the lives of 2.1% of the population. 2.1% of the American population is approximately 644,713 people. I'm sure you will agree that is not a completely insignficant number of people.

Indeed, American welfare is underperforming compared to in other states. But to excuse abolishing it entirely, you must provide futther proof that without it/or by putting it into the private sphere you will go further to

1) provide accountability
2) decrease the poverty level
3) promote social mobility



'Welfare in the US and abroad is nothing but Socialism'

This is an argument I find particularly frustrating. As a politics student I watched with interest and alarm as the healthcare reforms proposed in the US (though not to get into a seperate debate) were hounded by critics as being 'socialist'.

You used the example of 'is it societies fault that someone fails to complete high school'. Well, in some cases - yes. If you have the luck to be born into affluence, are afforded a good education and have plethora of opportunities then all is well and good. However social mobility does not exist for everyone. There is a divide. There is discrimination. And there is not eqal opportunity for all. The age old 'American dream' is far more acheivable for some than others - even if both work hard.

It is - in my opinion - the states obligation to provide equal opportunity at only a most basic level. And that level comes in part through welfare. This is not downright socialism as you might have it. This is merely facilitating capitalism.


'As a "free" society we should not be taxed to death in order to provide for the less fortunate.'

This is indeed a seflishness which appears rampant. Your definition of "free" may somehow differ from my definition.

In a perfect world everyone would have the opportunity to simply work hard and acheive success. Its a lovely idea, but not creditable - especially in a world where we both must accept that 1/7 Americans live below the poverty line. We both agree on the capitalist model it seems, but with one major difference. I believe that the capitalist model can only be implemented above the poverty line, and when ease of social mobility has been acheived.

I question whether a government who would be so gung-ho as to take away all responsibility for social welfare could really consider themselves to be part of a civilised society. Capitalism is an inherently selfish system, and it is necessary to regulate it - even if some may take advantage.




My final question you to you (though if you do not have space in your closing statement then don't worry) is:

Who becomes accountable for poverty levels in a society where social welfare is not the responsibility of the government?
Debate Round No. 2
KnowItAll

Pro

Considering that government it outsourcing a tremendous amount of the work to the private sector, the private sector is more than capable of handling the issue. I disagree that welfare by nature is something the government must be accountable for. I believe the role of government is to defend our lives, liberty and property.

I believe the amount of military spending in the U.S. needs to be reduced but is a topic for another debate. $40 billion dollars is far from a reasonable price to pay in order to "assist" 2.1% of the population or 644,173 people. This equates to over $600,000 per individual. I think this number is far from reasonable considering the median income in the U.S. for a family of four is approximately $60,000 per year. (http://www.infoplease.com...)

American Welfare underperforms when compared to countries like Sweden as Sweden spends over 30% of their GDP on welfare programs compared to the U.S. which spends a little over 2%. In order for the U.S. to "perform" comparably with regard to decreasing poverty the U.S. would need to increase spending which already is at over $400 billion. Additionally, even in countries where the welfare system performs better with regard to poverty levels, poverty still exists.

If welfare were to be abolished the accountability for rising above poverty lies with the individuals. Poverty will continue to exist with or without welfare. A utopia where everyone is capable of caring for themselves and are able to hold themselves accountable does not exist in the world that I know of. I fail to see the correlation between welfare programs and social mobility. Individuals on welfare may slightly rise above the poverty level but by how much is not data that is readily available. Private organizations will be unable to eliminate poverty any better than the government but I'm sure organizations can do a better job than the government which is spending over $620,000 per individual.

Blaming society for the failure of a person to graduate high school is a poor statement at best. In the United States, all citizens are provided with a FREE public education. Instead of blaming society I choose to place the blame on the parents and the kids themselves. Some may need to work harder than others in order to achieve the American Dream but the American Dream is readily available. It depends on how bad the individual wants it. There will always be a divide between the rich, middle class and poor and welfare does little to nothing to close the divide. People born in the U.S. tend to have a feeling of entitlement and programs like welfare doe nothing to eliminate but rather enforces it. If the American Dream is not readily available then it must be a miracle that someone from China can come to the U.S. legally, open a business and provide for his or her family.

I disagree with your opinion that welfare facilitates capitalism. In my opinion welfare facilitates false capitalism. Capitalism is a for profit system where the capitalist earns a profit by providing goods and services for a price/profit and uses a portion of those profits to monetarily compensate others for their labor. For those who are unable to "feed the machine" the capable are taxed in order to provide the funds to the incapable. Forcibly taxing those who work hard in order to provide for those who cannot or refuse to contribute to society is a socialist policy. Spreading the wealth should be a choice.

In a perfect world everyone would work hard and poverty would not exist but there is no such thing as a perfect world in this day and age. I fail to see how forcing people to care for others make the world any more perfect. My stance may seem selfish to you but in reality I am not selfish. I am simply making a case that welfare does not work and handing it over to private organizations will not only be on par with the current system but would cost less and operate more efficiently. People in the U.S. currently donate over $300 billion per year to charity and if $400 billion per year were not needed by the government perhaps people, including myself, would donate more. There are varying degrees of success. To some success may be the ability to provide their families with food shelter and clothing where to others it may be purchasing a mansion, yacht and an exotic sports car. I fail to see the correlation between success and welfare.

"Who becomes accountable for poverty levels in a society where social welfare is not the responsibility of the government?"

I believe the answer to your question is quite simply the individuals that make up the society. If society feels that poverty is an issue organizations will arise to meet the need. Even with welfare in place there are approximately over 1 million non for profits in the U.S. (http://foundationcenter.org...) As the need arises, even more organizations will be created and people will continue to donate in order to provide assistance. Poverty will never be eliminated as there will always be people who live in poverty either through choice or circumstance.

At a cost of $400 billion per year in order to decrease the poverty level by 2% or a bit over 640,000 people is wasteful and does nothing to eliminate poverty. Even countries like Sweden where over 30% of their GDP fund welfare programs, poverty still exists. Welfare does nothing to improve social mobility and provides for the feeling of entitlement. Welfare does nothing more than to create a reliant sub society at an astronomical cost. I believe I also made the case that private organizations are capable as there are organizations that provide social services such as Feeding America in addition the hundreds of thousands that currently exist. I realize that there are times in life when people need a helping hand but the responsibility does not lay with the government, the responsibility lays within the society itself.

I thank my opponent for this debate and look forward to his closing remarks.
andyh

Con

WELFARE COSTS
You put a figure at $600,000 dollars a head, but that figure is drawn from nowhere. Whilst I gave a percentage that 2.1% were taken above the poverty line, this does not account for
a) all others that were helped and
b) all other examples of welfare that the expenditure figure you have given includes

So the $600,000 dollars a head figure is nonsense.


PRIVATE SPHERE DANGER
You want to take away government accountability for welfare and make it lie with individuals. We're talking about old people here, the handicapped too. People who rely on welfare and use the power of their vote to make a difference. Taking welfare into the private sphere is incredibly dangerous - accountability must be recognised as being a necessity. Also you then increasd your figure of spending per head to $620,000. Again I must repeat, this figure is nonsense.

SOCIETY
You speak of society in a rather cut throat manner. While I ackowledge that the USA is one of the biggest givers (domestically, not internationally) in terms of charity, you cannot simply rely on this to keep functioning. You know as well as I do that when times are hard, charities suffer. During recession or other financial crisis, its often charities who suffer as people tighten the purse strings. You speak of a capitalism whereby the system in itself is inherently selfish, and the people must look after themselves and themselves be responsible for welfare. This is irresponsible.

SUMMARY

My debate partner has successfully highlighted issues regarding the state of welfare in the United States. While he admits it is proven to reduce poverty, he slates it for being expensive, and suggests we abolish state welfare and look to remove it to the private sphere.

He does not however provide a successful defence for privitising welfare, or the private sphere as a replacement. The issues he raises would be better dealt with through reform rather than abolishing for an alternative that he himself can give little detail of or account for.

The arguments against welfare all too often become ideological, and he highlights this by slating the whole idea of welfare as being 'socialist'. Simply labelling something with a brand goes nowhere to provide serious critique.

Finally, the figures my opponent cites at $600,000 dollars a head are simply untrue as I have shown above, and cannot be taken seriously.

CONCLUDING REMARK

Welfare is relied upon by a large number of very genuine people, including the old, handicapped and poor. Privitising it and thus taking away accountability from the government is incredibly risky, and is playing with peoples lives. I firmly believe and protest that the government represents us as a collective, and that even in a capitalist system we have a duty to our fellow man. While reform needs to be made to the current welfare system, it must be the government who is held reponsible for poverty & social mobility and not private organisations. I can come to no other conlusion than the abolishment of welfare would be unforseeable and unforgivable.


Thankyou for an enjoyable debate and I look forward to having more with you in the future!


Debate Round No. 3
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by andyh 3 years ago
andyh
well done for an excellent debate. you made some very strong arguments
Posted by Cobo 3 years ago
Cobo
Excatly opinionator. That's what I was trying to get at.
Posted by THE_OPINIONATOR 3 years ago
THE_OPINIONATOR
shouldn't your opponent be arguing "Welfare should NOT be abolished"?
Posted by Cobo 3 years ago
Cobo
Most of the time your opponent argues against what your arguing for.

But what your doing is
YOU:Arguing that Welfare should be abolished
OPP: Arguing welfare does not create a dependent society and that private organizations are incapable of stepping into the shoes of government with regard to welfare
Posted by KnowItAll 3 years ago
KnowItAll
"Lol Telling your opponent what to argue?" I find it necessary to point out the obvious.
Posted by Cobo 3 years ago
Cobo
Lol Telling your opponent what to argue?
Posted by phantom 3 years ago
phantom
Agreed.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by Cobo 3 years ago
Cobo
KnowItAllandyhTied
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Total points awarded:02 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro told Con what to argue which lost him the conduct point, And I was able to flow con Arguments easier. I could've given Con the Argument point aswell but did not see any major arguement(Even though I was sort of leaning towards con at the end)
Vote Placed by quarterexchange 3 years ago
quarterexchange
KnowItAllandyhTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Con never explained why the government should be allowed to step in to fix every problem. Citizens have trouble keeping staying bathed, getting fat, etc, should the govt. then provide free bars of soap and excercise equipment?
Vote Placed by Jillianl 3 years ago
Jillianl
KnowItAllandyhTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro spent all his time attacking the current welfare system, but did not prove that abolishing welfare would not result in and even further wealth gap and increased poverty. Con's view was more realisitc and frankly, unselfish
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 3 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
KnowItAllandyhTied
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: Con did not refute why welfare was necessary, yes it has benefits - but why is it needed vs actually working, and in particular did not fully refute the opening conditions of pro - which was more suited to a LD debate. This however was well presented on both sides so only 1 point to Pro.