Welfare Reform

With the tax bill finally passing Congress and the benefits beginning to be felt by the overwhelming majority of taxpayers, some in Congress have begun to turn their attention to welfare reform. And well they should. According to Politifact entitlement spending constitutes sixty percent of the total national budget (16 percent goes to military spending). Don’t believe those charts that show military spending as in excess of fifty percent of spending because that includes only discretionary spending and ignores entitlement spending.

Let’s remember the former President Barack Obama nearly doubled the national debt from $10 Trillion to nearly $20 Trillion. The new tax bill is predicted to add another Trillion dollars annually based on “static” budget scoring – no allowance for economic growth as an effect of the tax reductions. Those using “dynamic” budget scoring indicate that it will actually reduce deficits. The jury is still out on that but my bet is that those using “dynamic” scoring will be a lot closer to the outcome than will the naysayers.

Regardless, even at $20 Trillion the budget deficits and the national debt need attention and you cannot make any progress on either of those unless you address entitlement spending including welfare reform. And the first step towards welfare reform is to wean the able bodied off of it. There is no good reason for the taxpayers to support those who are perfectly fit to take care of themselves.

Oregon is a prime example of encouraging welfare dependency for those who could be working. A recent article in the Argus Observer noted:

ONTARIO — Lack of workers was one of the common themes of an assortment of presentations made to the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Region Board on Thursday, as members discussed what issues to put their initial focus on in the near-and long-term.

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State benefits cause many to leave positions.
Leading off, Shilo Roubidoux, with Kraft-Heinz and Hector Herrera, with Fry Foods, both, speaking by phone, said their local plants each have 100 or more positions that are not filled.

“’We are trying to find qualified workers,’ Roubidoux said, adding the Ontario plant has 33 positions that are filled by temp workers.

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“Another problem is that it is easier for people to get assistance in Oregon, he said. Because of this, people leave the plant in order to keep their state benefits.

“Grant Kitamura, CEO of Baker & Murakami Produce, echoed those remarks about benefits, and suggested they be changed to allow the workers to get paid more at work and still keep benefits.

“’Our main competitor [to find workers] is government programs,’ Kitamura said.

“In his latest look at job listings post by Oregon Employment Department, there were 162 openings for the Ontario area, said Ontario City Manager Adam Brown.

“Brown said in 2013, benefits in Oregon amounted to about $34,000 while they totaled nearly $11,750 in Idaho.”

And there it is in black and white – by the numbers. Welfare benefits in a state led by liberal/progressives provide welfare benefits in excess of not just minimum wage but the new “living” standard being proposed by those same liberal/progressives – $15.00 per hour. A work year is judged to be two thousand hours. Multiply that by $15.00 per hour and you arrive at $30,000 per annum – 10% less than welfare benefits.

Let’s understand that most minimum wage jobs are hard, monotonous work. The type of factory work described by Shilo Roubidoux, Hector Herrera, and Grant Kitamara above is hard. Mr. Kitamara is absolutely correct that the primary competitor for workers is, in this instance, Oregon government. People are better off to sit on their arses and do nothing that to work at all. What kind of welfare system encourages people to leave their jobs so that someone else can support them – particularly when the “someone” is a dwindling percentage of the populace – taxpayers.

The differential in welfare benefits and eligibility causes “government-induced” migration as indicated by those working in Idaho leaving employment to garner higher income through Oregon’s welfare state. There is an argument to be made the welfare eligibility and benefits should be a part of the competitive basics that induce workers and businesses to locate and/or remain in a particular state. Those states that are generous with benefits and lax on eligibility – like Oregon, Washington and California will garner, not more workers, but rather more welfare dependents necessitating higher taxes to sustain both those who cannot work and those who will not work. States that are less generous, like Idaho, will garner lower taxes, more business activity and more jobs for those who will work.

In 2011, I took issue with an article published in the Seattle Times bemoaning the lack of pickers for Washington’s famed apple crop and blaming the “crackdown” on illegal immigration for the worker shortage. I pointed out that, similar to the situation described above, there wasn’t a shortage of workers there was simply a shortage of desire to work. Picking apples is hard work and when the Washington welfare state provides benefits that are in excess of what the pickers are paid, the government encourages people to not work – to instead depend on the state for their well being, and as dependents to ensure that they vote for the people who support the unfettered access to benefits. It’s not that they cannot work it is that they simply will not work.

The problem is compounded by each new generation who learn from their parent(s) that they need not work – that the government will provide a decent living. No one need starve in America. No one need to go without shelter in America. No one need go without adequate clothing in America. If you are starving in America, if you have no shelter or clothing it is because the person in charge of your life has decided to use your subsistence for other than its intended purpose.

I am not suggesting that we cut benefits or eliminate welfare. A country as wealthy as America can well afford to care for those who are unable to care for themselves – the aged, the infirmed, the disabled, working mothers, and those temporarily out of work. What I am suggesting is that those who are able to work – able to care for themselves – should be disqualified from welfare benefits.

As the welfare state grows in America our political class turns a blind eye on the failures of others who have pursued the welfare state – France, Italy, Greece, Portugal. Those same politicians who advocate for expansion of the welfare state also have failed to learn from the socialist experiments in Russia, China, Viet Nam, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and the list goes on seemingly forever. Even Norway, which liberal/progressives always hold up for a model, is criticized because the generous welfare benefits discourage children from pursuing higher education – redistribution of wealth has dampened the reward for hard work, even in education.

If you yearn for a European style welfare state – or even a platform for full-blown socialism a la the Sandernistas supporting Senator Bernie Sanders (Socialist-VT) then move to Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont, New York and New Jersey. And if you are tired of supporting such a ridiculous system, move from those states to places like Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Texas and those big square fly-over states that liberal/progressives love to ridicule.

Your choice. I made mine a decade ago.