Saturday 10 January 2009

Brother, can you spare a living?

I got around to reading Brian Huycke's column about welfare in the Freep. It confused me a little bit. He starts off, all sympathetic, explaining that not all welfare recipients are lazy: "I am here to tell you that there are actually a small group of people who really need welfare." Then he finishes with: "We should have never started up the soul-destroying system." Huh? What about those people who really need it?

Worse, now that the "soul-destroying system" is in place, there is nothing that we can do about it: "The best the government can do is APPEAR to be doing something." What kind of an attitude is that? "oh well .. I guess we have to let these souls get destroyed. Too bad for them. I wonder if Dexter is on TV tonight?"

I agree that not all welfare recipients are lazy. I agree that the system is broken. I disagree that nothing can be done about it. The current system is set up such that any income earned by a welfare recipient is clawed back from their welfare payments. This why welfare is a "trap". There is a tremendous disincentive to getting off welfare because one would have to work many hours to earn even one extra dollar. Welfare recipients are also punished for saving money, making them more dependent on monthly payments. In other words, the current system encourages recipients to either cheat, or be lazy. Those are the two choices.

A policy change is needed to allow welfare recipients to keep a portion of their earnings if they choose to work, until they reach a certain income level at which point welfare payments would cease. The change should also allow recipients to build up some savings for emergencies or personal financial security. This will encourage more people to enter the workforce, save money, and eventually get off the dole. The government CAN do something to fix the system, so that maybe a few less souls will get destroyed. I suspect the political will to tackle this issue is missing though, because of a fear of public scorn from tampering with our sacred social safety net.


Anonymous said...

Raise the basic personal exemption to 15000 and lower the Welfare payout.

Anonymous said...

Our Elmwood-Transcona leaflets in 2008 highlighed some of what you are saying. We argued for the basic personal exemption to be raised to $20,000 and to tax pollution instead. Then, individuals could control their level of taxation and have large incentives to act sustainably.

In the same way, your arguement for structuring welfare payments to create incentive to work are very valid. We should encourage people to work - even if it is part-time. BUT, I say this while also recognizing that there are many individuals who need/deserve this support - particularly the children living in poverty. So, while we need to encourage re-engagement with the economy, we need to recognize that such a program needs to be structured to ensure that those people who "really need welfare" get proper assistance.

Curious: Does Huycke have numbers to show what percent of recipients fall into his "really need" category? Real data would help clarify the situation.

cherenkov said...

The only numbers I see in Huycke's column are "2 + 2". I don't think he put a lot of time into this one. Not sure how one would determine "real need" and collect data on that though.

Anonymous said...

What's with the noose that reads "support our soldiers"? Why would anyone in their right minds support Busharper's illegal war in Afghanistan? An war that's killed thousands of civilians and troops and cost taxpayers billions. Opium production has increased 80% since the invasion so maybe you figure that's worth dying for. The noose should read, "support our mercenaries".

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