Welfare Messaging – Look to Singapore

It seems that every time there is a discussion on welfare reform, the conservative in the discussion falls into the same trap. Even with the facts squarely in their corner, the conservative plays the part of the Seahawks, and snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. This pitfall is where the conservative starts talking about welfare recipients being lazy, just needing to get off their butts and work, or some other similar line of reasoning.

Instead of arguing, let’s try a new tactic. When the welfare reform discussion comes up let’s propose that we try something different.  We could approach it like this:

“What we have been doing with our welfare system since the war on poverty began hasn’t been helping those that it is supposed to help. ( insert facts showing how many people are on welfare, how poor they are, how few get off welfare and become self reliant.) Maybe it is time to try something different. Hopefully we can come up with something that will get better results.”

Don’t focus too much on these facts.  Just go over a few quickly, because we have a far more important point to get to, and we don’t want to get the other person on the defensive or the next step won’t work.

The next step is showing compassion for the poor and trying to work together with the person you are talking to. Singapore provides the perfect case study on something that has been wildly successful. Here are some great articles detailing what Singapore has done for you to study and become familiar with. You can lead the discussion to this case study with something like this:

“The other day I was thinking about how we could do better as a society to take care of the poor among us, and I came across this article about what Singapore has done.

“The article said that part of the reason that Singapore has been successful is that they have free market capitalism. Capitalism has done far more to bring people out of poverty than any other system in the world. The United States was the first true capitalism experiment, and in a relatively short period of time it went from an upstart nation to the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the world. Singapore is another example. When Singapore started to embrace capitalism, the per capita income in the country was $500 per year. Today it is $52,000 per year. Singapore has an average annual growth rate of 7 percent since the 1970’s. If we are going to help lift people out of poverty, we need to go back to what made America so rich in the first place and unleash our capitalist economy again.”

If you want to be prepared with other examples of capitalism’s success, look at the examples of Finland and Estonia. Estonia was under Soviet rule while Finland was free.  You can compare them as they were when Estonia was under Soviet control, and also now that Estonia is free from the Soviet Union and has embraced capitalism. Hong Kong also thrived under capitalism while mainland China lagged far behind under Communism.

“The second part of what Singapore has done is very different from the American or European models of welfare. They have created a saving rate that is withheld from every person’s paycheck and that every employer contributes to as well. This fund can only be used to pay for housing, schooling, medical expenses or retirement. How about instead of withholding money from paychecks for social security (which we all know is broke) and Obamacare, we put it into an account and let the people decide how much of those savings they want to use for their homes, their schooling, their medical expenses and their retirement.”

By using this tactic we have avoided falling for the trap of calling people lazy and looking like we don’t care for the poor. We have disarmed the other person by showing that we actually do think about the poor and how to effectively help them. We have asked them to reach across the aisle and help us think of a solution that can fix the problems that the poor have suffered from for so many years, and we have hopefully opened their minds to a whole new way of thinking.