Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A view of poverty from Chicago's West Side


A student's reaction paper on eliminating or reducing poverty.
While I was reading the article, “Policies to Reduce Poverty”, I noticed that there are two major things that must happen in order to reduce poverty.  One point is that we must remove the barriers or obstacles that stand in people’s way.  Barriers could be skill deficits, emotional or mental problems, racism, health problems, distance from employment opportunities, and so forth.  The other point is that we must help people find and keep employment that is satisfying and rewards them with an income that keeps them out of poverty, or if people can’t be employed, we must supply them with an income that eliminates their poverty. 
I did not know that there were two different types of poverty. The first type of poverty is absolute poverty. Absolute poverty is when people have an insufficient income to afford the basic necessities of life, such as food, rent and clothing. The other type of poverty is relative poverty. Relative poverty is when people have income significantly less than the average income for society. The American poverty threshold is set with an understanding that people need a certain income to be adequately fed and pay a certain portion of their income to secure housing, so in one sense the American poverty threshold is an absolute poverty standard.  But most people at the top end of poverty income distribution (those making more than 70% of the poverty threshold) probably do not face absolute poverty deprivation if they are getting the various welfare supports for which they quality. The people we read about in $2 A Day at the bottom 2% of the income distribution really are living in absolute poverty, insecure in their housing and food, and living with instability an real deprivation. 
I grew up on the Westside of Chicago, IL. Poverty is a huge problem in my neighborhood. There are areas that display a better side then what I see. This article made me think about how many people are laying on bus stops, sleeping in tents under the freeway, or even begging for change in front of stores. There has to be solutions to fix this problem. 
The article presents many possible policy solutions. The question is, “will they ever get approved?”. The first thing that caught my eye while looking at the list was reducing unemployment. I feel like the unemployment rate has lowered ever since Obama came into office. I really do hope that it stays the same. I’ve seen articles that has possible solutions that can help it, but I have not found any that has already reduced poverty. Increasing progressive taxes should reduce poverty. This could be the policy that take more the high income tax payers. Next, increasing benefits to the poor would also help, it would help because benefits that they receive now may not be enough. Being not able to feed your family, not able to pay for their medicine is too heartbreaking. While I was reading this article I saw that there should be a national minimum wage. The article states, “The government could increase the national minimum wage. This is an effective way of increasing the incomes of the low paid, and therefore reducing wage inequality.” I believe that the minimum wage should be higher so people can have a better lifestyle. There should be a national minimum wage that applies for everyone. 
Citation:  

Mary Bogle, Gregory Acs, Pamela J. Loprest, Kelly S. Mikelson, Susan J. Popkin. (August 25, 2016) “Building Blocks and Strategies for Helping Americans Move Out of Poverty” published at the Urban Institute. http://www.urban.org/research/publication/building-blocks-and-strategies-helping-americans-move-out-poverty  

Student Reaction to $2 per Day

The most eye opening thing I have learned in this class came from the book $2.00 A Day. I am appalled and shocked that how many adults and children are going without food. Families that have no cash safety net, because Clinton signed a welfare reform bill passed by a Republican Congress that was supposed to lower the amount of people on welfare by getting them into productive employment. He and the Congress, in reality, started an epidemic of people living well below poverty levels. How can we as Americans, not see what is right in front of our faces? Children are going days and maybe even weeks without eating. Their parents are selling SNAP cards for cash, which they need for bills, such as water and electricity. How do we give a family a card to purchase food and think this is going to help their situation? Take Rae, the mother of Azara, she lost her job at Walmart because she didn’t have enough gas to get to work, even though she had previously never missed a day. Now Rae has no job and no money for gas to go out looking for another job. It is a vicious cycle of sometimes having over $2.00 a day and than enduring spells of misery living under that.

This book helped me see, not only that I could be more appreciative of my life, but to feel more empathetic when I see people using the SNAP card in the grocery store. Reading the story of the town of Delta made me sick to my stomach. Children were turning to prostitution just to be able to pay the bills or put food on the table for their children. Clinton enacted the EITC, which is a policy that helps the working poor, however so many people are living without an income that this tax credit does nothing to help them. In this situation the policies force mothers to sell their children’s social security numbers for someone else to claim, just to receive not even half the amount the person who bought the number will be getting. Americans are so worried about the starving children on the television that need $1 a day for a meal, when we need to be worrying about the homeless children in our own neighborhoods. We need to care for children that take a shower in the library bathroom sink or move from shelter to shelter when their families time has lapsed at that location. 

In conclusion, I don’t understand why people still think that welfare was reformed? If President Trump wants to make America a better pace, he needs to start with the welfare system. We cannot have a program that has no cash safety net. We need a program that encourages people to work, however, once they do we cannot just take away their benefits; intern leaving them poorer that before they were working. I don’t know the solution, but something must be better than what we are doing now.


I think that outrage is the appropriate emotion when we read $2 a Day, or consider the lifestyles and hardships of any of the Americans who are trying to survive at the lowest 2% or 3% of the income distribution. These people really are suffering at a level that approximates what people endure in much poorer societies, and the emotional costs of this poverty are probably greater in North America, since by comparison the rest of our society is so affluent.  I do want to caution you about the moral issue of “why do we worry so much about X, when we should be worrying about Y” statements. Compassion and altruism are universally good.  Most ethical or religious teachings suggest that humans ought to feel compassion and altruistic concern for all other persons, and perhaps even all other manifestations of Life.  The persons you don’t know, who live far away from you, and have different experiences than you have, are not less valuable than the people you do know, who live near you, whose life experiences are shared in common with you.  So, in this sense, we “owe” people far away and people yet to be born just as much as we owe the people in our immediate families.  But, on the other hand, ethical thinkers and moral philosophers have generally reached a sort of consensus that there is just too much suffering and need out there in the world, and it is impossible for individuals to take care of all the people or all the beings on the planet, those now living and those yet to live, and so, we do as a practical necessity owe more to the people closest to us, and ought to concern ourselves mostly with the people we can see, where we best understand their problems, and can most directly help them. From this perspective, we do owe more to the poor in our cities and our nation than we owe to the poor of distant lands or remote future times. 

This leads to a practical suggestion: give more of your time and wealth to help local humans than you give to help far-away humans, but give to both; and give more of your time and wealth to humans than you give to plants and animals, but do give something to help animals and plants.  It’s not so much, “why do we care so much about distant problems when local problems are pressing” as it is, “we need to care about distant problems and attend to them, but we need to give more attention and concern to local problems and attend to them more.” 


You may know of the logical fallacy of the “false dichotomy” where an issue is framed as an “either this or that, but not both” problem when in fact that is no reason to exclude “both” or bring in alternatives to the limited choices (of “this” or “that”) presented in the argument.  It’s worth keeping this in mind.  Human minds seem especially vulnerable to simplifying problems into false choices between two positions or actions when in fact there are many positions or actions possible, and choices often do not stand in opposition so that one choice excludes the other. 

Student reacts to a blog post about living as a Deaf Asian Hindu in the United Kingdom

A social justice issue that I am interested in is the disadvantages of the disabled in everyday endeavors, specifically the workforce. Last weekend, I found a blog titled The Limping Chicken, a news site in the UK that shares news of interest to the deaf community. An article by Reema Patel named Growing up Deaf in a Hearing World was posted on March 28, 2012. Patel discusses her struggles as someone with minor hearing loss but also reflects on some solutions for such behaviors.  
Patel’s parents were really conscious of people judging her because she was deaf, so they did not really tell anyone she was deaf unless they it was absolutely necessary. Patel shares with us the three key reasons that she believes deafness is stigmatized in her culture. Born in a British Asian Hindu family, she explains that it is an environment that stigmatizes disability, deafness included. Here is a list of the three reasons and my reaction to her given statement:

1. The cultural bonds that tie people together in her culture are mostly visual and aural. Many rituals and practices consolidate around music, dance, recitation, and other arts.
She shares a story about a blind girl that picked up a minuscule sculpture of a Hindu God and felt around it so she could recognize what she’s touching. Someone immediately snatched it away from her, informing her that it’s a sin to touch a statue in such a way. The young girl only wanted to know what she was touching, she did not mean to offend anyone. The blind and the deaf share these instances of miscommunication across language barriers every day, making them feel excommunicated from the hearing world at times. 

2.  Generally, progressive attitudes towards disability come with greater awareness, education, and more time to reflect/think – the sort of education that many migrant communities don’t often have access to. 
I believe that what she is talking about here is that when someone is disabled in your community or home, it takes awareness, education, and time for reflecting to truly understand and help encourage and lift them to their greatest potential. It seems that people in her community don’t have access to time for this. I’m thinking that maybe in a British Asian Hindu family/community, things can be pretty hectic and some important topics and people can get put on the back burner. 
3. In Patel’s personal opinion, Hinduism has in practice rarely concerned itself with isonomy, social change, and liberalism. The teachings about the caste-system bolster attitudes of ‘knowing one’s place’ in society. They accept the hand life has dealt one as punishment for sins in your previous life.
Not only does her family/community’s culture not support Patel’s disability economically but religiously as well. In /Hinduism, what goes around comes around so if someone was rotten in a previous life, they could be disabled in another. That could make people think that being disabled is just this unbelievably horrible thing that no one can survive because it is marked as punishment for the rotten-spirited. People are surviving and thriving through their disabilities every day and being fabulous while doing so. 

Patel’s perspective on the stigmatization of disabilities in her community reminds me a lot of how the world does the same. One topic she did not cover that I thought would be an amazing addition to her article is assimilation. Social norms and institutions try to create things to help the disabled become “more like us” instead of creating things to help them be a better THEM. Patel offers three solutions for obliterating the perception that disabled persons, especially the deaf, are less likely to be successful. One, to provide the support to children that lets them challenge the perception themselves. Two, to provide a supportive environment that encourages self-worth and confidence. And three, to provide the right funding to open doors and opportunities. She believes that if these things are given, as they deserve to be, then they will be able to show and prove that they can be just as successful as anyone else, even more so. 



Works Cited

Patel, R. (2012, March 28). Reema Patel: Growing up deaf in a hearing world [Web log post]. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://limpingchicken.com/2012/03/28/reema-patel-growing-up-deaf-in-a-hearing-world/

Student reaction to minimum wage issue

In this reaction essay the student considered some of the issues surrounding the minimum wage, and also applied the issue to her own work experience at a local hotel. 

  In class, we have been discussing many different topics already, but one really stood out to me. On the week one schedule, there were a list of different videos that we should watch on Prageru.com. I watched a few and then I got to the one that really sparked my interest. "How the Minimum Wage Hurts Young People" which was not on the list, but it came up as a suggestion while watching the others. This video talked about the brutal reality of how the system works. This caught my attention because it actually applies to me. 

   First off, the video starts with an example. It talks about if you owned a nice piece of land and needed the grass cut, who would you pick? Since cutting grass does not require much skill, you would probably chose the person who is willing to do it for the cheapest, which works out until...the government gets involved. If the government got involved and created a law saying you have to pay 40 percent more than you have been, things would change. Since you have to pay more, you are going to want someone skilled in cutting grass, not just a young person in the neighborhood. Everyone wants more when it comes to spending more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people ages 16-19 had an unemployment rate of 15% in January 2017, while people at the ages of 45-54 had the rate of 3.3%. 

   As stated above, this subject personally matters to me. I work at a hotel here in Springfield, and we are going through this change right now. I work at the front desk and there is a front office manager, assistant manager, two full time employees, me (I work only one or two days on the weekend), and two night auditors. This is crazy if you think about it. There are 3 shifts at 8 hours each. There is no room for call offs, etc. but there is no money to hire anymore people. My manager has interviewed a lot of people throughout my time there, but maybe hired 2 or 3 and do not keep them for a long time. In addition to not being able to hire more workers, some periods of time hours get cut MAJORLY. During Christmas Break, I was lucky to get 8 hours each week, but luckily I got hours from our sister hotel, who coincidentally, was in the hiring process, and short on staff. Less revenue for the hotel means less money for the workers, no matter what age.

   I am very lucky because I am not working to survive, but if someone had my job and was trying to actually pay bills and live off of it, there would be no way to. People my age feel this "phase" that workplaces are going through because we have no experience yet and they want what they pay for, since they only have a little bit of money to spend on workers. It makes sense, but I wish our economy was not so bad that it had to be like this. I can see why a lot of people are in poverty. 

To wrap thing up, I just want to list a few pro and cons to this technique. 

Pros: employers will get more for their money, skilled people will produce quality work

Cons: Unemployment rate for younger people will increase, more poverty, more assistance from the government will be needed, no opportunity for skill training, more work for employers when someone quits, passes away, etc. 



When you say, “this technique” I suppose you mean the practice of having the government set a minimum wage.  Setting a floor to wages runs into a problem because the economy (or, more precisely, people who are in charge of setting up systems of creating and selling goods or services) sometimes require work that is so trivial or marginal that the person who does that work does not “earn” for their employer enough to cover the minimum wage. In this case, employers are forced by the minimum wage to “over-pay” their unskilled employees doing the fairly unproductive work. The employer could simply decide not to hire someone, or they could alter the job role so that the employee did “add value” at a rate matching or exceeding the minimum wage.  

Actual empirical studies of what happens when a government makes modest increases in the minimum wage suggest that the loss of jobs for unskilled workers is real, but not especially large.  For one thing, the increase in wages among the low-paid workers stimulates demand, as those workers spend their newly increased wages, and this increase in demand largely offsets the decline in employment.  Another argument is that increases in the minimum wages will force employers to increase the cost of their goods or services to cover the increases in labor costs.  This is also measured, and is real, but is of trivial significance.  The inflation in goods and services that follows a modest increase in the minimum wage in the actual world (as opposed to theoretical models), is tiny.  A comparison of the gains in human welfare from the increased wages provided to low-wage workers against the costs in terms of higher unemployment for unskilled and young workers and inflation suggests that, from a utilitarian moral perspective, modest increases in minimum wages provide far more benefits than harms, and are a net good.

You describe working at a local motel where there only eight employees, and you seem to be concerned that the motel really needs more staff, but the motel owner cannot afford to hire more, which leaves the employees overworked.  And yet, you also mention that hours are drastically reduced at certain times of year.  My own business experience is in farming, which also works a bit like the travel industry: there are times of the year when we need more workers and everyone works longer hours (holiday weekends, summer vacation, or times when the General Assembly is in session for motels in a state capital, and during harvest on a farm), and there are slack periods where fewer workers are needed, and those who are working get fewer hours (Christmas Break for motels, December through February on the farm). The economy generates some sorts of work like this where labor is seasonal, and employers would like to be able to quickly hire more persons, or lay off persons when work is slack (e.g., fireworks display operators work very long hours for a few weeks around the Fourth of July, but don't need to work much at all for the rest of the year).  I'm not sure in what way that connects to the minimum wage, however. 


I am not clear on how you are relating this observation about working hours to the minimum wage. If the minimum wage was lower, perhaps the motel would hire hire more staff, and that would reduce the work burden on all staff, but the newly hired workers would be paid less (since the minimum wage would be reduced). It may be a good thing that people are able to work for $6 or $7 per hour, since having a job is better than no job, and the work burden on everyone is lighter with more employees, but it may be a bad thing if workers can be hired for $6 or $7 per hour, if “living wages” are about twice that, and with a higher minimum wage workers would earn $8.5 or $9 per hour instead of $6 or $7.  

Monday, January 9, 2017

Income Taxes as a Fine for Being Useful

A former graduate student of mine; a very generous and friendly former student whom I greatly admire and with whom I've remained in contact for about a decade now since he graduated, recently posted a meme photo image of an Uncle Sam with the words: "Income Taxes are the Fine One Pays For the Crime of Being Useful and Productive".   I admit it's a cute meme, and there is some truth to it, in a broadly understood context. Yes, it’s logically true that producers contribute to the public good, and those who don't produce can't contribute as much or in the same way because they haven't produced anything to contribute, and for humorous effect, we can call "contributions to the public good" a “fine” (a punishment) we must suffer for doing the right thing.  Phrasing it this way is funny.  I get it.

But, some people might take the humorous idea of the meme seriously and allow it to reinforce some general misconceptions about how people contribute to the public good.  I therefore responded with this:

Income taxes are what one pays to sustain public goods, like education, roads, airports, national defense, space exploration, housing for the homeless and poor, food assistance to the poor and hungry, medical research (NIH and CDC), public lands management, enforcement of clean air and clean water.

The responses and my final response were interesting:

One person wrote (quite aptly, I think) in response to my observation:
Tell that to Springfield, think they forgot.

My old student wrote a thoughtful question:
So we had no roads or education, national defense or assistance for the poor, prior to 1913? Wonder how people ever got by.

Another person posted something that got me thinking about how people perceive taxes and government spending:
Income Taxes may well have started out as a means to fund some of those things but today it is simply wealth redistribution.

And then my former student re-introduced some humor to the proceedings:
And extortion

Well, even though I think they are sort of joking, we now have a claim that income taxes are “simply wealth redistribution” and also “extortion” and I felt the need to respond, so here was my reply:

Are you open to learning something about taxes and federal spending? The biggest things that the government spends money on are: Social Security; Medicaid; Medicare; and National Defense. Social Security is paid for with the payroll taxes, which cover all but $200 billion, and that gap is covered by taking money out of the Trust Fund (for Social Security). Medicare is the next biggest spending item, and it's covered by premiums and the Medicare payroll taxes, and some money taken from the Medicare Trust Fund. So, Medicare and Social Security (which account for 39¢ of every $1 spent by the government) don't rely on income taxes. Income taxes go to the other 61¢ of every $1 spent. This is split into: 
1) Medicaid and health services (about 12¢); 
2) National Defense (about 16¢); 
3) interest on the national debt (11¢) and 
4) everything else (22¢). 

Medicaid is redistributive: it pays for medical care for poor persons who would otherwise simply remain sick or die or else get charity care (if available). People who can afford to pay are going to get hit with some of these costs anyway: if we didn't have Medicaid, many doctors and hospitals would feel ethically obliged to care for the sick who couldn't pay (the alternative of allowing them to suffer or die is generally contradicted by the teachings of Christianity, for example), and medical care charities would be more aggressive in fund-raising. The costs would be shifted (by health care providers and medical charities) to paying customers and those who were more benevolent and willing to be philanthropic. Medicaid simply distributes the burden to all of us taxpayers, so that the more benevolent don't end up carrying the cost while the stingy get away as free riders, and medical costs for the rest of us remain more affordable (because we are paying income taxes which support Medicaid so that our health care providers don't have to increase the costs they charge us in order to cover their costs of providing care which wouldn't be paid for without Medicaid). 

Defense is also redistributive (all government spending is). Our money goes to pay warriors, people who build things for our military, and so forth. It's essentially a way to provide jobs for engineers and soldiers and everyone who takes care of military equipment, builds military equipment, provides services to the military, and so forth. I would rather that we redistributed more money to people who are doing medical research, who are more likely to improve my quality of life and delay my death, and less money to the military, but that's evidently a fringe opinion. 

Interest on the national debt is redistributing money to people who hold U.S. Debt. That includes most people who have mutual fund investments, where a certain percentage of assets are usually in the safe U.S. Treasury investments. 
As for "everything else", (the 22¢ of every $1 spent by the government that isn't Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, interest on the debt, or Defense), it's a mixed bag of policies that redistribute money to the poor and policies that distribute money to prison guards, and research scientists, and people who build and maintain roads and ports and airports, and safety inspectors, and Census Bureau demographers, and FBI agents, and so forth. All of this is stuff that taxpayers evidently want done, since their elected representatives have voted for such things. 

As for the redistribution toward the poor, who are usually poor because they are disabled or chronically sick or mentally or cognitively impaired, or are children of adults who are unable to find and keep high-paying jobs, 11.3¢ of every $1 spent by the federal government go to things like school lunches, supplemental nutritional assistance, housing vouchers, public housing, unemployment compensation (which is paid for by payroll taxes paid by employers for the most part rather than income taxes), international development and humanitarian assistance, social services in education, community and regional development grants, etc.). About 3¢ of the remaining 10.7¢ goes to Veteran benefits and services, leaving about 7.7¢ for all the other discretionary outlays, like the budgets of the Department of Education, Department of Transportation, Department of Justice, the Census, NASA, the NIH and CDC, Disaster relief, Homeland Security, the State Department, and so forth. 

The opinion that "it's mostly redistributive" is correct in the sense that all government spending is redistributive. The money paid in taxes goes out as benefits, wages, subsidies, or prices paid to workers, military personnel, retired persons, health care providers, children, and poor persons. But, the idea that most of the income taxes are redistributed to poor persons isn't really based on actual spending. Medicaid and all the other spending that goes to poor persons (actually it goes to the people who provide housing, food, and health services to poor persons for the most part, as the poor quickly spend the money they receive on keeping themselves from starving, becoming homeless, or dying or remaining sick) accounts for about 23.3¢ of every federal dollar spent, whereas all other spending that isn't covered by payroll taxes and trust funds amounts to about 37.7¢ (for defense, interest on the national debt, and other things that don't especially target the poor). 

As for it being extortion. This is stretching the meaning of "extortion". Yes, if you are a citizen and you live in a society and you refuse to contribute to the society in an amount determined by an assembly of representatives who were elected by you and your peers, you can be fined, or even jailed, so there is certainly coercive power involved. But, if you can afford a passport and a ticket to a low-tax or no income-tax society, you can always relocate yourself to the Cayman Islands or Somalia or Saudi Arabia or whatever alternative society without income taxes appeals to you more than this one. Income taxes (and government spending) are much lower in Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and the standard of living in those societies is pretty good, and in Taiwan and South Korea you would be about as free as you are in the USA. It's possible to build a fairly decent society with lower taxes. But even those societies use coercive power to take money from residents and citizens as contributions toward maintaining the common good (like defending from invasions threatened by North Korea and China, providing universal health care insurance, providing very modest retirement pensions, and so forth).

We had large taxes on certain goods before the income tax. Alcohol, for example, was heavily taxed. Before 1913 our ancestors' consumption of beer and whisky covered many government expenditures. Also, without the stabilizing influence of a public welfare and pension system, we had dramatic economic swings, with crashes and panics afflicting our economy every 3-5 years, during which the economy contracted by levels unimaginable by today's standards. The early 1890s and the 1930s were far, far worse than the Great Recession of 2008.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A student’s editorial in favor of Senate Bill 100 to end the School to Prison Pipeline in Illinois

Senate Bill 100


I have a friend was was a teacher in an alternative school in Peoria; she has since moved on.  She commented to me how kids coming to her school were so damaged and in a sense, many kids are just thrown away for different reasons.  She said it is so sad; the kids just need a chance to learn. They need that attention that they are not getting at home.  So, they act out and end up there, in her class.   

High schools have jumped on the bandwagon of zero tolerance when disciplining students; that way they don't disrupt the "good" kids.  The chance of African American kids being suspended or expelled is much higher. During the 2012-2013 school years, Chicago Schools suspended 32 of every 100 black students, compared to just 5 of every 100 white students.  These kids are then funneled through alternative schools, juvenile justice systems, then finally prison. This has got to stop!  This is known as the School to Prison Pipeline. 

Senate Bill 100 would eliminate the zero tolerance suspension and expulsion rules that are already set in place by the majority of schools.  Senate Bill 100 requires all public funded schools to only suspend and expel students as a last resort when coming across student discipline issues.  Therefore, requiring all schools to exhaust all means of intervention before expelling or suspending for more than three days.  The bill also prohibits fines and fees for misbehavior, and required schools to communicate with parents about why certain disciplinary measures are being used.  

Teaching is not easy; we do expect a lot of our teachers and very little from parents.  It is ridiculous to think that we have lost common sense when disciplining kids today. Why would bringing nail clippers or a wearing a  hair style that is distracting merit a high school student to be suspended? Or why do high schools feel the need the  bring in outside law enforcement to handle trivial issues?   The student now has a record before they are even out of high school!  This bill is long time coming and very much needed.  The cost of Senate Bill 100 in the short term, would be the cost of extra tutors, more qualified teachers, and special education services.  The long significant savings  of this bill, would amount to hundreds of millions when these kids do not end up in our judicial systems.


A key point in the justice argument is that the misbehavior of African-American students is neither quantitatively nor qualitatively worse than the behavior of other children (after adjusting for material deprivation and a few other things that contribute to negative behavior), and yet, when we control for those factors that explain negative behavior including income, the higher rate of discipline remains spectacularly high.  A counter argument you can anticipate is that "African-American students behave more badly more often, and that is why they are suspended and expelled more often" and you can anticipate that point and address it by showing the disparities in expulsion and suspension in Illinois schools was not in line with the differences in disciplinary problems.   

Legalizing Cannabis: An Incendiary Topic

An editorial written by a student... a creative student.

First, I would like to preface this article with the fact I do not engage in recreational drug use. I refrain from engaging in such activity for personal reasons and, quite honestly, have never felt the desire to pick up such a habit. I understand the moral reasons why some people refrain from casual cannabis use and also the health benefits that some cannabis users claim justify their use. While radical conservatives –even Democrats—may balk at the moral fabric of our society becoming compromised if marijuana is legalized for recreational use, many fail to recognize the economic benefits legalizing marijuana could produce; this is my focus and position for believing marijuana should be legalized.
 As Illinois lawmakers and officials march forward waving figurative signs of protest backing their respective causes, our state flops around like a fish out of water, on the brink of total economic chaos. Proposed budgets ooze with either too many Lucky Charms marshmallows or not enough enough cereal in the bowl to prevent starvation, and the population sits precariously on the edge of their seats waiting for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters to begin his famous walk through the cities eating everyone’s pensions and entitlements for dinner. Instead of opening dusty doors with potential gold nuggets sitting on the other side, our state legislature continues to staple bright yellow caution tape over them to see if everyone will just ignore the doors and move on to something easier to open like boxes of municipal bonds. The problem is that we can all see the rectangular shape of the doors under the layers of bright yellow nonsensical caution tape. We see state after state legalizing recreational marijuana and joining the increasing number of fiscally responsible governments that care about opening the doors instead of finding every possible way to keep them locked. 
Illinois legalized medical marijuana several years ago, and then completely destroyed the financial opportunity by regulating the manufacturers as if they were opening proxy headquarters for the NSA or CIA. How can a viable business break out when the red tape is wrapped around its potential, like titanium shackles? Does each medical marijuana plant in the facility really need to be monitored, tracked and witnessed through Illinois State Police spy cam feeds? Why do we throw away the potential tax windfall from this billion-dollar industry when we are Kung Fu fighting over crumbs? It is unbelievable to think that our elected officials would rather whine and moan about how to fund various programs, while the American Civil Liberties Union estimates that it costs America over $3,600,000,000 to enforce marijuana laws at the local level (Poindexter, 2014).  Law enforcement officers could be spending their time and our tax dollars on more pressing and serious issues, than making it a point to bust “tokers.”  However, Illinois’ recent decriminalization of small time marijuana users will undoubtedly ease the burden on our state’s economic back by  trying to suck money out of the pot smokers instead of spending debt based money to incarcerate them, yet it is just a token of what could be earned from the honest taxation of a fully functioning reefer market. 
How much could Illinois gain, financially, from legalization? We need to look at the experience of other states that have legalized.  Colorado has only had a working recreational marijuana industry for a few years and they are already puffing on an additional $135,000,000 in tax revenue from the almost $1,000,000,000 fledgling industry (Poindexter, 2014). There isn’t any way the United States will ever eradicate recreational marijuana smoking, so why not allow it and tax the puffers? As the residents of Illinois watch their sales taxes, property taxes and medical insurance premiums continue to fatten like a pet wooly mammoth, can there be any wonder why ever higher percentages of the population want to see this prohibition go up in smoke? Every day we read of folks in more enlightened states discovering an increasing number of new uses for the plant, but our ridiculous, overbearing legislative parents maintain the myth of the diabolical gateway drug. 
Marijuana has been proven to be less addictive and much less harmful to the human body than both alcohol and tobacco, yet the cloudy gateway drug argument is continuously used as a rickety old platform from which to stand on by rickety old control freaks who never seem to understand when they have outlived their usefulness in the state legislative body. On the contrary, cannabis has been proven to have legitimate medical benefits, so why require individuals to jump through hoops in order to smoke it legally, when they can purchase without a doctor’s order and use at leisure to alleviate physical discomfort? Cannabis has been shown to reduce discomfort associated with AIDS, chemotherapy, general pain, and glaucoma. Cannabis has also been shown to provide relief from spasms that result from multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease (Poindexter, 2014). 
Illinois taxpayers want to see freedom ring and watch as this budding industry provides another much-needed income source that does not involve the forced theft of a greater percentage of their hard-earned paychecks. 


References

Poindexter, O. (2014) Available at: http://www.alternet.org/drugs/6-powerful-reasons-new-york-times- says-end-marijuana-prohibition