The Best Welfare Program Is a Job

Here’s another post with which I largely agree. At City Journal Peter Cove reacts to the idea of a Universal Basic Income:

The fatal flaw of the universal basic income is the same one that hampers most existing anti-poverty programs: a lack of emphasis on encouraging work. Instead, these programs have sought to provide directly whatever poor people happen to lack. The result has been more than 50 years of massive public outlays, with little benefit other than making recipients dependent on government. The ongoing rise in worker’s disability claims follows a long string of recent expansions of welfare programs, such as food stamps, housing assistance, and even free phones to boost the standard of living among poor citizens.

In the long run, this transfer-focused approach to welfare does more than create a disincentive to work. In his book The Welfare Trait, British neurobiologist Adam Perkins argues that dependence on welfare creates work-resistant personalities, which are often passed on from one generation to the next. As one review of Perkins’s work puts it, the welfare state “becomes a production line for damaged kids” and encourages parents in unemployed households to have more children than families led by breadwinners.

More and more men have become absorbed in an entrenched lifestyle of joblessness, with bleak consequences. Male joblessness exceeds 20 percent in six states—Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and West Virginia—and the number of fatalities from drug overdoses is well above the national average in each. According to economist Allan Kreuger, 44 percent of men who have left the workforce use pain medication—the fastest-growing form of substance abuse in the nation today.

There is no substitute for work, for gainful employment. We aren’t built for idleness. Jobs produce more than pay checks. They add meaning to lives. Even when the robots come for our jobs (something I think will not happen but whatever) we will still need to create jobs for people to do.

We would be much better off with a universal jobs program than with a universal basic income. IMO a UBI will produce crime, violence, and misery.

5 comments… add one
  • Gray Shambler

    Does all of that apply to people over 65?

  • Does it? As someone well over typical retirement age, I think that those who continue to work as long as they’re physically able are happier and healthier and even those who can’t work are happier and healthier when not idle.

    However, those over 65 don’t typically go around holding up liquor stores or shooting each other up in the streets. Idle hands are the devils workshop as Proverbs put it.

  • Guarneri

    Mr Cove just gave libs, or progressives, whatever a heart attack. But it’s the way I see it. And it’s been a poor policy choice for so long I question good motives.

    I’m well under standard retirement age, have probably three years until the portfolio is fully liquidated, but won’t sit idle after that, whether it’s refining the 50 yard bunker shot, assisting an incubator, doing the RV thing for a year, catching up on decades worth of reading or rekindling my modeling career. OK, I made that last one up……….

  • Gray Shambler

    Well, maybe it’s time to eliminate retirement social security completely. If your’e 92 and able to clean bathrooms, no payments for you. If you feel that’s unfair, you must apply for SSI disability benefits. available at any age provided you are disabled. Sucks that work will leave seniors no time to take the great-grandkids fishing, but you gotta work if you wanna eat Grandma.

  • Oh, I think we should focus on producing more jobs for people 18-65 long before eliminating Social Security.

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