The Government-Dependency Dilemma

The so-called War of Poverty hasn’t conquered poverty.

Government dependency leads to more dependency. But according to a new book titled The Human Cost of Welfare: How the System Hurts the People It’s Supposed to Help, by Lisa Conyers and Phil Harvey, so does cutting off recipients who start earning money.

According to a Washington Examiner article about the booka welfare recipient told Conyers that she’d rather work. Part of the problem is that once recipients start earning money, the government might stop the benefits. The cut-off provides a disincentive to work:

Sometimes, tens of thousands of dollars in benefits can be threatened by earning a tiny sum. “The whole psychology about work changes when you’re on these programs. All the sudden, the value of the programs becomes greater than a job you could get,” Conyers said.

“Oh no no no, you’re earning a little money now. We’re going to have to cut your benefits,” Harvey said, quoting what one caseworker said to a woman on welfare. “Now that woman is afraid to earn any money at all now, exactly the opposite of what I think people in poverty want to do to themselves, and exactly the opposite of what we would like them to be able to do.”

Will sustaining a recipient’s present level of benefits once they begin working help them get off welfare? The book’s authors suggest a new welfare reform that could include expanding the earned income tax credit and providing a basic guaranteed income for everyone. But the Heritage Foundation’s The Daily Signal calls the latter anti-work.

“A basic income would not eliminate poverty—understood as a household’s ability to sustain itself above subsistence without depending on government. Nor would it necessarily increase economic opportunity.”

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