The Millennial Harvard graduate votes

A nephew starts from a base of “I consider myself pretty liberal, and a relatively big proponent of the welfare state.” (this is fortunate because he has embarked on a career in Silicon Valley where the labor shortage is not so severe that a company would knowingly employ a Trump supporter!)

The other day, however, he wondered if unlimited unskilled immigration can be consistent with America’s welfare state, a thoughtcrime most famously committed by Milton Friedman. He linked to this article from Atlantic about how Americans are happy to sit on the sofa and play Xbox if the government gives them free housing, food, health care, and Obamaphones.

A discussion among his friends, most of whom are Millennial Harvard graduates, ensued. A planned economy was popular, e.g., with “If employers were required to pay minimum benefits like living wage and health care to their employees, then the need for welfare reduces. … To stay competitive globally we require the same for overseas exporters, raising quality of life globally.”

The most interesting response:

I think ‘welfare system’ is poorly defined in this case. my hypothesis is that poor people would not leave the workforce if US welfare included mental health service, or in maybe more numbers based terms, whatever correlation there is between social services and high unemployment there is for the poor, there might be an alternate cause (emotional) that could be better served by actual better social services (mental health based)

This is from a woman approaching 30 with a STEM degree from Harvard. I was curious about her reasoning:

Medicaid (taxpayer-funded health care for the poor) does include mental health coverage. “Medicaid is the single largest payer in the United States for behavioral health services, including mental health and substance use services. Medicaid accounted for 26 percent of behavioral health spending in 2009.” (source)

With tens of billions being spent by Medicaid each year on “behavior health and mental health ” services, what makes you say that U.S. welfare does not include “mental health service”? Is it that you don’t think Medicaid qualifies as “welfare”? That what they purchase with these tens of billions is not truly “mental health service”? Or something else?

She answered

I don’t know — do you know what exactly that is? Not trolling — is it neighborhood clinics? Earmarked for nonprofits? I thought Medicaid only applied to people over 65 or with qualified disabilities

In other words, one of the most expensively educated Americans who will ever go to the polls is unaware of a government program that consumes $565 billion per year (cms.gov), roughly 3 percent of GDP.

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10 Comments

  1. toucan sam

    January 6, 2018 @ 12:51 pm

    1

    At least we can rest assured this unnamed millennial is smarter than president Trump!

  2. ScarletNumber

    January 6, 2018 @ 1:44 pm

    2

    I’m impressed the name ObamaPhone has stuck, since the Lifeline program that provides it goes back to 1985.

  3. bobbybobbob

    January 6, 2018 @ 1:54 pm

    3

    They will be obamaphones forever because of this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpAOwJvTOio

  4. Joe Shipman

    January 6, 2018 @ 3:00 pm

    4

    Medicaid, Medicare, it’s all so complicated! Why should someone with a STEM degree from Harvard be expected to know this? She didn’t major in political science, give the poor lady a break, all she needs to know to be an informed citizen is which is the correct mathematical function mapping the set {D, R} to the set {good, bad}.

  5. the other Donald

    January 6, 2018 @ 6:59 pm

    5

    Apparently she doesn’t know the difference between Medicaid and Medicare. NYT needs to disambiguate these terms like Wikipedia does.

  6. philg

    January 6, 2018 @ 7:06 pm

    6

    Donald: Her challenge was not one of nomenclature (based on some additional discussion). She was unaware that the Feds and states have been spending $600 billion (ish) on health care, including mental health services, for the poor. (And also for my multi-millionaire friends! See http://blogs.harvard.edu/philg/2016/05/02/obamacare-for-multi-millionaires/ some nearby rich folks on Medicaid (“MassHealth”))

  7. Mark

    January 7, 2018 @ 5:56 am

    7

    Phil,
    What was the woman’s reaction or reply once she realized what Medicaid is all about?
    Was she embarrassed?

  8. tekumse

    January 8, 2018 @ 4:02 am

    8

    I haven’t heard of a single proponent of “unlimited unskilled immigration”. This is just a straw-man argument from you.

  9. philg

    January 8, 2018 @ 8:29 am

    9

    tekumse: Generally the folks who advocate for “unlimited unskilled immigration” are advocating for unlimited immigration without any conditions (but not for dogs? why not?). Here’s a professor at SUNY: https://fee.org/articles/immigration-is-a-fundamental-human-right/ . He says that maybe you could make immigrants ineligible for “welfare” for 10 years, so perhaps he doesn’t realize that the U.S. has literally hundreds of different welfare programs, many of which are explicitly prevented from checking immigration status, or maybe he is defining “welfare” to be just the TANF program that sends Americans Federal checks, or maybe he simply disagrees that access to health care (via Medicaid), shelter (means-tested public housing), and food (via SNAP) are human rights–the guy doesn’t explain what happens when an immigrant shows up with an exotic and life-threatening medical condition; is the sick immigrant denied the $5 million in health care and rehab that he needs? left to die in the U.S.? put on Hillary’s Gulfstream G-450 (no airline would want to carry someone this sick!) and dumped back in his or her home country?

    https://www.aclu.org/issues/human-rights/human-rights-and-immigration says “that no human being can be illegal'”

    https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2164939 is by a UK professor who says “This chapter argues that people have a human right to immigrate to other states.”

    If they are not arguing in favor of unlimited immigration (including unlimited unskilled immigration), what, in your review, are Americans who wear “No human being is illegal” T-shirts arguing for?

  10. philg

    January 8, 2018 @ 8:50 am

    10

    Mark: She was not embarrassed by her ignorance. After all, as a Harvard graduate it is not possible that her education is lacking in any way. She quietly dropped her line of argument that (purportedly currently non-existent) taxpayer-funded mental health services would enable Americans who are not in the workforce currently to get up at 0700 every day and go to work.

    Actually if you think about this a little more, her faith in the mental health industry is a little more shocking than her ignorance of one of the largest programs being funded with her tax dollars.

    For starters, why does she think it is a sign of mental illness to stay home and play Xbox, hang out with friends and family, shop with an EBT card, and pay $50/month for a brand-new apartment in a “mixed-income” development, etc.? The Ancient Greeks and Romans wouldn’t have expected anyone to work, absent a physical necessity.

    If it is indeed a sign of mental illness to let others dwell in cubicles 50 hours/week and pay your bills, why does she think that drugs and talk therapy will cure this illness? She’s probably seen various friends consume mental health services with much less dramatic results.

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