, Salem, MA


August 28, 2013

Column: Labor Day is a time to reflect on workers and welfare


But: why are we comparing? There should be no comparison! For all of human history, working was the norm; that’s how human beings survived.

Most Americans support a basic safety net for the very unfortunate. But for healthy, able-bodied women? While it’s possible to make a mistake and have one child with an irresponsible man, a 21-year-old shouldn’t risk this again unless she can afford to raise two children (ages 1 and 4) herself. There should be no government incentive to be irresponsible.

The average Massachusetts welfare recipient, if she takes advantage of every available program, gets $20 an hour, which includes cash (EBT cards), food stamps (plus free government dairy products) and Medicaid. Forty-four percent of Massachusetts recipients get Section 8 housing; others get fuel assistance. We know from recent revelations about EBT card fraud that some of them had enough left over for out-of-state vacations, manicures and drugs, with thousands of dollars carried on the cards as surplus after essential spending.

Never mind the fraud, though, which is another entire column. The point of this Cato study is that, while all working people can compare our pay to welfare payments — perhaps favorably, perhaps not — the big difference is that we are working for ours and for theirs, too.

Some of the states that have the highest levels of benefits are, not surprisingly, the states that have the highest per capita tax burdens. Our Massachusetts has the second-highest welfare benefits (after Hawaii), and the second-lowest work participation after waivers from “workfare” in the nation, and the fourth-highest tax burden. Connecticut, which has the highest per capita tax burden, is third in welfare benefits. New York and New Jersey, second- and third-highest tax burdens, rank seventh and fifth in welfare benefits. In these states, we taxpayers are enablers of an addiction to dependency.

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