Get Ready Pick Up the Tab (Again)

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ask me why I’m so gloomy about America’s economic future. I’m
not gloomy about America’s economic future — in the 22nd century.
I am gloomy about its immediate economic future. That’s because
we are in capital-consumption mode. Businesses are not investing,
and citizens are not saving. We are running a $500 billion payments
deficit and a U.S. budget deficit to match. The dollar will
fall. Count on it.

But my
concern goes beyond the failure of individuals to save. It goes
to the endless subsidies, at taxpayers’ expense, of those who
learn how to milk the welfare system. Consider these offers,
which appear on a New York City Web site. Please pay attention to the following phrase: “regardless
of your legal status.” Maybe you have not seen anything like
the following. That’s because you haven’t looked.


immigrants in New York City are eligible for public benefit
programs. Access to some benefits depend upon an immigrant’s
legal status, while other benefits do not. The following is
a brief description of various benefit programs that may be
of interest to immigrants.

Security Income (SSI)

or Supplemental Security Income is a cash benefit for the
elderly (65 and older), blind or disabled. When you receive
SSI, you should automatically receive Medicaid. SSI is a federal
public benefit administered by the Social Security Administration.

can apply for SSI at any Social Security office, or over the
phone. You can arrange for an appointment (English and Spanish)
to file your application by calling the national toll-free
service at 1-800-772-1213 (TDD 1-800-325-0778). An appointment
is not required, but may reduce the amount of time you spend
waiting in an office.

Food Stamp Program

Food Stamp Program provides coupons and Electronic Benefits
Transfer (EBT) cards to low-income families to buy food. This
is a federal program operated by State and local welfare offices.

can go to any HRA Job Center or Food Stamp Office (listed
below) to apply for food stamps. Please be advised that there
were recent expansions in immigrant eligibility for Food Stamps
and many immigrants who were not eligible previously may now
be eligible. See Food Stamp Flyer. There are 20 Food Stamp
offices in New York City, open Monday to Friday from 8:30
a.m. to 5 p.m. Your application can take up to 30 days to
be processed, but if you have an emergency you may be eligible
for an emergency benefit within 5 days. If you apply for public
assistance at a job center, you will fill out a Food Stamp
application at the same time. Visit the HRA Web site for a
list of NYC job centers.

Food Stamp offices are now required to translate all materials
into Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Haitian-Creole, French, Arabic,
Korean, Vietnamese and Yiddish. If you need an interpreter,
be sure you tell the office, and they will provide one for
you free of charge.

Food Stamp Offices Locations: . . .

Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is a federal program
that provides cash-assistance to low-income families.

the HRA Web site for a map of NYC job centers, where you can
apply for TANF and other public benefits.


children, regardless of immigration status, are eligible for
healthcare coverage in New York State, if their families meet
the financial requirements. All categories of low-income legal
adult immigrants are also eligible for Medicaid in New York.
If you have a medical emergency, you have the right to call
an ambulance and to receive care in an emergency room, regardless
of your legal status. . . .

School Breakfast/Lunch Program

School Breakfast Program (SBP) and the National School Lunch
Program (NSLP) are federally assisted meal programs that provide
free or reduced-price meals to schoolchildren at participating
public and private schools. In New York State, almost all
public schools participate in the program. For eligibility
guidelines, please visit the US Department of Agriculture
Web site.

for Undocumented Immigrants

regardless of status is eligible for the following benefits:

Prenatal care for pregnant women and infants. Call 1-800-522-5006
(Assistance available in any language).

Violence Assistance. Call: 1-800-621-4673 (Assistance available
in any language).

Abuse and Maltreatment Hotline. Call 1-800-342-3720 (Assistance
available in any language).

Housing Hotline. Call 1-800-994-6494 (English and Spanish).

Emergency. Call (866) 888-8777 (English, Spanish, Chinese,
Haitian-Creole, Russian).

Hotline. Call 1-800-825-5448 (Assistance available in any

or low-cost health insurance. All children, if otherwise eligible,
are entitled to Health Care. Many adults are as well. Call
HealthStat at 1-888-NYC-6116

children are also eligible for school breakfast and lunch

Legal Services. . . .

the Elderly. . . .

** This
is a partial list of programs and eligibility rules

If you
want to know why New York City has been the destination of choice
for immigrants from Puerto Rico for half a century, here’s why.
The United States has open borders with Puerto Rico. But word
got out about the city’s welfare programs. Illegal immigrants
got their agents to demand equal protection under the law. You
have already seen some of the results: “a partial list of programs
and eligibility rules.”


It will
end when the money runs out. That will be when creditors will
no longer buy municipal bonds, and the Federal government no
longer subsidizes municipalities. When I say “creditors,” I
include the Federal Reserve System.

But when
will the FED cease to act as the lender of last resort? When
hell becomes a resort center.

will crank out money. Don’t worry about deflation. When it comes
to unbacked electronic money, there’s a lot more where that
came from!

When the
money ceases to buy anything of value, then it will end. When
the dollar is like Confederate currency was in 1864, then it
will end. Not until then.

The question
is: Will productivity continue upward, so that these tax-funded
wealth-transfers can still be funded? That’s where the lack
of saving by Americans becomes a crucial factor. We are being
funded by foreign investors, to the tune of $500 billion a year:
the payments deficit. Those investors expect to be paid. They
don’t care if our domestic welfare programs continue to be funded.
They want to be paid, either in interest payments (ha!), dividends
(ha! ha!), or capital gains (ha! ha! ha!). Have you seen what
interest rates pay these days? Or dividends? Considering taxes
and price inflation, interest on CD’s and bank accounts are
negative. Bonds break even, but the risk factor is high: rising
rates. As for dividends, they are under 2%. This means that
there must be capital gains. But foreigners face a currency
exchange risk. If the dollar falls, there must be capital gains
of equal or greater value after taxes. Fat chance!

So, the
welfare system will endure. It will continue to sap New York
City of revenues that should be used for improving the city’s
roads or protecting the public from crime. When was the last
time New York City or any major city granted tax cuts to residents?
The ratchet is always upward. That’s because there is always
greater demand for free services than there is supply. There
is always someone on the street who can be singled out by a
special-interest group as a poster child of people’s uncaring
attachment to their own money. “There’s more to be done.” There
will always be more to be done.

why it is not going to end until the money runs out, i.e., until
the purchasing power of the money runs out.


In 1775-76,
the American colonies revolted because of taxation without representation.
The total tax burden imposed by England was about 1%.

if anyone wants to pick up my share of the tax burden, I would
be happy to let him have my right to vote. Too bad that deal
is not available.

will be a revolt when the voters finally figure out that they
will not be able to milk the system for more than they are paying
in milk. The voters today look at the Federal Government as
if it were a cow with an udder with 290 million teats. When
the tax burden becomes too great, they will finally figure out
that they are part of the udder rather than the squeezing fingers.

But before
this happens, the FED will start picking up more of the tab.
The public will pay for the system, not by direct taxation,
but by indirect taxation: monetary depreciation. That’s why
I don’t worry about deflation. I look at that list of free goodies
to immigrants, and I know for sure that there will be no deflation
in my old age.

von Mises was once asked if he had an inflation hedge. He answered:
“Age!” He died in 1973. He was correct. He missed out on the
big push in the second half of that decade, plus everything
since then.

I don’t
have that hedge available to me (I hope). So, I will be asked
to do my share: to pick up the tab.


Old people
lose their ability to generate income. This is when they wind
up at the mercy of that milk cow. But that cow has too many
fingers grabbing for the available milk.

I made up my mind at age 17 never to become dependent on Social
Security. I had been warned about the statistical improbability
of that pay-as-you-go boondoggle. That has forced me to keep
looking for new opportunities to start side businesses. I want
passive income that I own. I will have to pay taxes on it. That’s
the price of my personal independence from Social Security.
I will not deliberately become reliant on the tender mercies
of the government. I can see the tax revolt coming. The rebels-to-be are all young. They will not look fondly on my white hair.

11, 2003

North is the author of Mises
on Money
. Visit
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