Welfare Shouldn't Pay Better Than Employment
Joe Carter writes at Acton Institute:
In eleven states in the union, welfare pays more than the average pretax first-year wage for a teacher. In thirty-nines states, it pays more than the starting wage for a secretary. And, in the three most generous states a person on welfare can take home more money than an entry-level computer programmer.
Those are just some of the eye-opening and distressing findings in a new study by Michael Tanner and Charles Hughes of the Cato Institute on the "work versus welfare tradeoff."
"Welfare benefits continue to outpace the income that most recipients can expect to earn from an entry-level job, and the balance between welfare and work may actually have grown worse in recent years," say Tanner and Hughes. "The current welfare system provides such a high level of benefits that it acts as a disincentive for work. Welfare currently pays more than a minimum-wage job in 35 states, even after accounting for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and in 13 states it pays more than $15 per hour."
...The state-by-state estimates are based on a hypothetical family participating in about seven of the 126 federal anti-poverty programs: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; the Women, Infants and Children program; Medicaid; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; and receiving help on housing and utilities.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, that translates into a package of $49,175 in Hawaii, $43,099 in the District of Columbia ($43,099), $42,515 in Massachusetts ($42,515), $38,761 in Connecticut, and and $38,728 in New Jersey. The state with the lowest benefits package in 2013 was Mississippi, at $16,984, followed by Tennessee ($17,413), Arkansas ($17,423), Idaho ($17,766), and Texas (18,037).
"If Congress and state legislatures are serious about reducing welfare dependence and rewarding work," say Tanner and Hughes, "they should consider strengthening welfare work requirements, removing exemptions, and narrowing the definition of work. Moreover, states should consider ways to shrink the gap between the value of welfare and work by reducing current benefit levels and tightening eligibility requirements."
He points out that this is not about refusing to provide for the truly needy but taking away an incentive to work for those who are able.
The thing is, if we go by that standard -- and I'm certainly not suggesting we starve the children of the irresponsible women who keep pumping out daddyless babies they can't pay for -- we'll continue to have a problem.
But what's the answer? As long as we subsidize this behavior to this extent, we'll continue to get more of it.
How do we stop incentivizing the behavior without punishing kids for the circumstances of their birth?