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Maybe I oughta reconsider moving to Massachusetts after all...

Over the last week, both Boston papers have discussed the numbers of Massachusetts residents on welfare for various and sundry "disabilities." First, the Boston Herald looked into Governor Romney's to tighten the definition of "disabled" to match the federal standard, and require a bunch of people currently receiving welfare to actually go out and try to find work. Then, Monday, the Boston Globe did its own take on the story, discovering that over 1,800 people currently living off the public dole could most likely be returned to the work force (kicking and screaming, I'd bet) and become productive members of society.

But the Globe does do one thing that the Herald doesnt -- and it pains me to give them praise for anything. They spell out just what constitutes "disabled" in Massachusetts:

Under federal rules, a person with some symptoms of depression, such as a loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and feelings of guilt or worthlessness, as well as a ''marked deficiency" in concentration, could be classified as disabled. But under the state rules, a person with symptoms of depression and any problem concentrating might qualify.

Damn... under the federal rules, I meet four of the five on a daily basis. I only flunk the "appetite" part. But in Massachusetts, I could start suckling on the public teat tomorrow.

But I still haul my butt to work five days a week, put in my 40 hours, and slog on through. Guess that makes me the moron, doesn't it?

Years ago, I had an idea for welfare reform. One of the major problems with our welfare system is that it is filled with "perverse incentives." People who have children they can't afford to support are given more money if they have yet more children. Women without husbands are given more money than families where the father is present. Men who claim their children and try to support them are dunned and hounded for child support, while those who disavow their offspring go scott free. And those who try to get off welfare and return to work are punished for actually earning money.

I don't know how to clean up the whole mess (it's taken us 40 years to dig ourselves into this particular hole), but I did have one suggestion that might help a little: stop punishing people who try to move off welfare. As I understand it, as a person's income rises, their benefits drop. There are several tiers of support, and once a person crosses a certain point, they lose levels of benefits. So there's developed a "sweet spot" where they can earn just enough money to keep their benefits -- and they don't dare try to do any better.

I'd like to see that scrapped, with a simple change: instead of the current system, for every two dollars a welfare recipient receives, their benefits are reduced by one dollar. Suppose they get a thousand dollars a month in benefits (I'm just making up numbers here). They get a part time job flipping burgers, and start making a hundred a week. That works out to $400 in an average month. Their welfare would be reduced by $200, so they'd be netting a total of $1,200 a month. And if they get a raise or more hours and get $125 a week, they'd net $1,250.

I dunno how feasible it'd be, but I have a hard time thinking it'd be worse than the current system.

Comments (17)

Well...It is possi... (Below threshold)
Bill Cook:


It is possible that wages for already low wage jobs would simply be held down by this government subsidy of low-paying jobs. This is likely to occur because of simple market forces. So then you'd have the problem of people who are qualified only fgor lower-income jobs having to first go on welfare and THEN get a job in order to get by, when simply dragging your butt into work every day would be a better result from society's standpoint.

Incentives, both intended a... (Below threshold)

Incentives, both intended and unintended, should always be analyzed considered when policy decisions are made. It's amazing how many people in the business of making or applying policy think that their good intentions in making policy exonerate them from thinking about how the policies would actually work in practice.

I had something really good... (Below threshold)

I had something really good to comment...but I lost my concentrat...

OK...I knew what it was...Where's my check?

Once you got there you coul... (Below threshold)

Once you got there you could check out their crack too. Massachusetts has it all! What a great state to live in.

I think your onto something... (Below threshold)
Lew Clark:

I think your onto something with the "work related depression" thing Jay. However, we may have a "revolving door" here. You get depressed because you have to work. You go on government assistance for your depression and don't have to work. With the cause of your depression removed you recover, becoming ineligible for government assistance and you must return to work, where you once again succumb to depression and the cycle begins again.

O.K. I think every able-bo... (Below threshold)

O.K. I think every able-bodied person should work, but I do not see anyone upset over the amount of corporate welfare going on in this country? Well why not? Tax free zones in Louisiana now. X-military flunkies "blackwater" with no bid contracts for security, Haliburton with no bid contracts hey it's public money I want the competativeness of taking multiple bids for public work! How about all the money and lives WASTED in Iraq over lies! Oh wait a minute this must be a facist blog.

Jay - thats actually a pret... (Below threshold)

Jay - thats actually a pretty fair plan... and might be worth while - except, it might be hard to enforce.

I think the first thing tha... (Below threshold)

I think the first thing that needs to be done it to asses the impact of the problem. Look in any institution, whether it be government, operations, unions, guilds, associations, boards, schools, universities, you name it, there is some level of corruption. What percentage is normal for our particular culture I can’t say, but it has effect at all levels.

What I don’t know is if it has a big impact on the operating budget of various levels of government. At the federal level all means-tested welfare combined is only about 120 to 140 billion dollars total. That means that “cheaters” are some % of that number. Now I don’t know what the numbers are and neither does anyone else here, but the fact is that there are so many other things in the budget that will have a bigger impact on reducing federal expenditures then trying to rid the welfare system of those who cheat or have marginal claims. I’m not saying it should not be done but to put any energy right now into saving such a small amount of money seems like tilting at windmills.

That said I find some of Jay’s proposals interesting as he is correct that the current system often supports bad choices and I would tend to support some of his suggestions. But other commentators are right, it could easily become simply a wage subsidy for companies that make their profits off the backs of those who do the work.

"They get a part time job f... (Below threshold)

"They get a part time job flipping burgers, and start making a hundred a week."

Ah, there you lay your finger on what was a real problem with public cash assistance (at least before Welfare Reform) Many of the people receiving assistance actually did have jobs. Cash/on-the-sly jobs. We used to use cash-only day laborers all the time when I worked in the construction business, many of whom also received welfare checks.

Years ago, I proposed that people on welfare must report somewhere for the 8 hours a day that most people work. I didn't care if they went to school, watched movies or played checkers during that time. They would have been forced to choose between work and the dole, not dole as supplimental income. None of my representatives listened to me then and I don't know whether it was a good idea or not since it was never tried ;-)


I think that we should just... (Below threshold)
Purple Amish People Eater:

I think that we should just eat the poor. Im hungry. Theyre not really doin anything too important. Everybody wins.

And since Frank, here is so concerned about corporate welfare, i guess we could have an all you can eat Warren Buffet. Or does he spell it 'Buffett?' either way-- hes getting eaten.

We Just need a catchy slogan. How about:

"Feed the Homeless to the Hungry"

or maybe:

"In Your Stomach, You know Your Hungry"

Kinda catchy dont ya think? Beats the hell out of "Bridge to the Twentyfirst Century"

Hey Purple,I bet y... (Below threshold)
Orange People Processor:

Hey Purple,

I bet you that frank is poor and on welfare. That's why he is so pissed off.

Maybe we could start with him.

Hey frank, come over here and sit in this big bowl of nice vegetables.

frank,What the hel... (Below threshold)


What the hell is an X-military flunkie?

FYI, to work for Blackwater you have to have 5-10 years of special forces experience -- our special forces. The same guys that are out there protecting your freedom right now.

SF guys sacrifice years of their lives to protect our country and then they retire. They then have the right to go out and earn a paycheck like anyone else -- they sure didn't get it in the military. We are lucky that all of the money that our government spent training them can be applied in the RW.

It that's a flunkie, sign me up.

Soylent Green is People!!!!... (Below threshold)

Soylent Green is People!!!!


Aw, dang -- I need to get m... (Below threshold)

Aw, dang -- I need to get my hearing checked. I thought they were saying "Soylent Green is purple." And that was just plumb confusin'.

Hmmm.The key is to... (Below threshold)


The key is to think of welfare as not giving money to people but as the government employing people in a novel way. Thus people on welfare don't need to find jobs, they already have one provided by the government.

Which means the government gets to pick them up in the morning with a bus, take them to a government office building to clean and mop it, and then they get transported back home. Every single workday.

I give welfare a couple weeks before imploding.

while collecting your welfa... (Below threshold)

while collecting your welfare for depression, don't forget to head to the common to exchange your dirty heroin needles and remember to get to one of the citys many methadone clinics by 10am to receive your free medication (might want to do this before you pick up your free needles and condoms).remember, this is all possible due to your highly outragoues state tax.

Is teddy kennedy interested... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

Is teddy kennedy interested in what happens to the people who are always reelcting his to office all the time?






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