On Welfare.

welfare

I have never received welfare as an adult. When I was at school a very long time ago, I got a study allowance that was $50 a week for a year or so. But once I left school I refused to countenance the idea. From 18 to 21 my life was characterized by a succession of mundane casual jobs as I struggled to find my way in adult life. Cleaner, bartender, laborer, waiter, musician, actor, sales assistant, there may be others but I can’t remember them. I only ever made enough to just get by, but I got by. At the time I viewed myself as a failure. Now I look back and I can raise a glass to that clueless young me. Because I never sold out.

Going on welfare is selling out. You sell yourself out. There used to be a stigma attached to welfare. It was a shameful thing to admit that you were receiving financial support from your fellow citizens. Remember that – from your fellow citizens, not the government. The state might dole it out but it gets the money by taxing the same people that you live amongst.

I made many mistakes in that period of my life but I am so grateful that I never succumbed to the narcotic effect of going on welfare. Without welfare I was forced to get out of bed in the morning. I had to eat, right? Better get out there and hustle. Find a job, any job. Ask people I knew, family friends, hustle hustle hustle. You learn stuff that way, about life and putting in. About how you need to behave in order to keep a job. You learn about responsibility because you are taking responsibility for your own life. It feels like you’re getting nowhere but you are moving, inexorably forward.

Or you can stay in bed until noon. Because you don’t need to go out and get a job today because you’re on welfare. It’s just enough to get by but you get by. So you stay there. This is what I mean by the narcotic effect. It dulls your ambitions, for yourself and for life. It teaches you to rely on others instead of relying on yourself. It’s an insidious trap that crushes the human spirit. Once you accept that first welfare check you’re on your way. You may as well have smoked a crack pipe, it has the same effect in the end. You live a life of nothing. If you don’t need to get out of bed then you have nothing to live for.

The worst type of welfare is not unemployment benefits, it is family benefits. These type of benefits teach people, women mostly for obvious reasons, that the more children they have the better off they will be. Having another child becomes akin to getting a raise. More money for me. There doesn’t have to be a father present, the government assumes that role. So why is this the worst form of welfare?

What are those kids learning? Do you think they’ll grow up with aspirations to get a job? Or will they too assume a lifelong dependence on their fellow citizens? The boys will go on unemployment benefits and the girls will copy their mother. Mum will be a grandmother at the ripe old age of 35. They will also believe that it is their right to receive this money. If you give someone something for a period of time they will become accustomed to it. Try taking it away and they will get upset. “But that’s my money!” they will shout. There are suburbs in Western cities around the globe where three generations of families have never had a job.

At this point someone usually points a finger at the Nordic countries, holding them up as shining examples of the welfare state in action. There are a few problems with this. Sweden had the world’s fastest growing economy in the 1930s. That’s during the Great Depression. The Nordic countries made all their money in the period from around 1850-1950 due to the world’s best free markets and very small government, an irresistibly effective combination. Then they spent all the dough while greatly increasing government and thus burdens on the free market. Over some generations the work ethic of Swedes has plummeted. It’s now so bad that Sweden and Denmark are both attempting to scale back their welfare states while enacting free market reforms.

The photo at the top of the page is of a Melbourne woman called Helen Liumaihetau. She is 31 years of age and she has eight children. In total she receives over $1000 a week in welfare payments. That’s more than $50,000 a year tax free. The equivalent income to receive net pay of that amount would be around $80,000. The title of the newspaper article that linked to is, “Put yourself in my shoes.” Ms Liumaihetau is upset that the Australian Treasurer, who I can only describe as being “mostly useless”, has his priorities wrong by attacking the culture of welfare dependency in Australia.

She said the Treasurer was out of line for targeting the “handout generation” and highlighting a ­future divide between “the taxed and the taxed nots”, noting things were tough for many. “He should put himself in other people’s shoes and live their life for a week and see how things are,” she said.

She had her first daughter when she was 18 and has been out of the workforce since. She is in a de facto relationship. She said some took advantage of welfare, but most used it wisely. “They should be using it for their kids. I think 10 per cent should go to the parents but the rest should go to the kids. Parents need petrol and other essentials, but other than that it should be spent on children,” she said.

“People might think because I’ve got eight kids that I’m loaded with money — I’m not. I’ve still got to pay rent … do the shopping, and on top of that, these eight kids want things.’’ There should be better pathways to employment than “just doing courses”.

This woman chose to have eight children out of wedlock with no visible means for supporting them because the State has allowed her to do so. She is not forced to take responsibility for her own actions because as we have seen the very nature of welfare removes all personal responsibility. Her need to feed, house, clothe, and school eight children is somebody else’s problem.

My wife and I do not have any children but if in the future we do decide to have some we will have exactly as many as we can comfortably afford. In the meantime our taxes will go towards paying for all of Ms Liumaihetau’s brood. I have no intention of putting myself in her shoes because that would be shameful. She should be ashamed but instead she is defiant. That is the problem right there.

If you are on welfare, get off it. The time is right now. Go down to your local unemployment office and sign yourself off. This will force you to get out there and hustle. Yes, it will be hard. Yes, it will suck a lot. Yes you might have to do things like get up at 4am and ride your bicycle six kilometers into the city in all types of weather so you can clean a nine story office block for five mornings a week before the workers get there.

I did that for three years. My buddy did the bathrooms and I did the office floors. I got to know every worker there just from their individual desks. Their photos, the way they set up their work station, the way they left it at the end of the day, their little mementos and other fun items, and I knew when they left because the photos would change. In three years I missed exactly one morning for reasons of ill health. I didn’t get paid for that day because I was a casual worker. I got paid for what I did, nothing more or less. But it gave me dignity and it gave me purpose and more importantly, it got me out of bed in the morning.

The time is right now. Stock up on food and sign yourself off. If you read this and you find some excuse not to do it today then you’ll never do it. Time to get hustling.

 

11 thoughts on “On Welfare.

  1. Back when woolly rhinos roamed the earth I dropped out of uni and was unemployed. At about the same time my then girlfriend announced that her parents would be visiting the big smoke and were looking forward to meeting me. Obviously I could anticipate the first question they were going to ask me. Panic time! This was back when young people actually had steady boyfriends and girlfriends, and when being neither in work nor study was not a good look.
    I searched around and within a couple of weeks I landed a shit-kicking job life guarding at a pool on the other side of the city from 5:30 every morning. Twelve dollars an hour.
    The parents arrived and they took us to a dodgy all-you-can-eat buffet where some of the vegetables were still frozen.
    “What do you do, Nikolai?” they asked.
    “Well, I’m taking a break from uni and just life guarding while I plan my next move.” Phew. “And you?” They gave me that empty squint old bogans have.
    “Oh, we’re on Centrelink.”

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  2. I made many mistakes in that period of my life but I am so grateful that I never succumbed to the narcotic effect of going on welfare.

    Unless you had a disability adjudication or you lived in a state which offered general relief payments, you, being young and male, wouldn’t have qualified for cash welfare. As of 1991, only 9 states had a general relief program. New York’s has a time limit of 24 months per lifetime.

    What would have been notionally open to you would have been housing subsidies, utility subsidies, Food Stamps, and Medicaid. Housing vouchers and berths in public housing typically have long waiting lists and the share of beneficiaries who are single, male, and not disabled is in the low-single digits (2%, IIRC), so that’s seldom if ever an option. Medicaid re-imbursements to your providers would be contingent on your use of the program, and at age 20 (or even age 35), you’d have been in the demographic segment which spends a mean of $600 a year on medical services through various conduits (barring car accidents and the like). The successor to Food Stamps (SNAP) has (IIRC) looser eligibility rules and such than the predecessor program. As we speak, a 1 person household can claim just shy of $200 per months in benefits. As for utility subsidies, they tend to be in the range of $100-130 per year for someone with a poverty-level income. So, in our own time, you’d have a prospect of about
    $2,500 per year in grocery and utility subsidies and a contingent claim on medical benefits which would in actuality average out to about $600 per year in re-imbursements.

    Aside from these, there’s unemployment compensation and workmen’s compensation. The latter requires you injure yourself (and want to risk retaliation by your employer for filing a claim). The former’ is time-limited and requires you meet certain eligibility requirements (re past work history and the circumstances of your termination).

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    1. Thanks for the outline of how welfare works in the US. But remember, I grew up in Australia and as Nikolai alluded to in his comment being on the dole, (unemployment and also known as Centrelink), can easily be a way of life here. Sure, they’ll make you jump through some hoops but once you understand what you need to do it’s not a big deal.

      Disability is a lot more interesting. I was reading the other day that 20 or 30 years ago in Australia it was very rare to find someone on a disability pension due to the fact that they preferred to go out and find meaningful work. There was still a big stigma attached to it back then, even if it was for a disability. Now it’s just about unheard of for people with disabilities to try and get into the workforce. And it’s common to get such a pension when you may be undeserving. There’s a high profile case over here of a woman who hasn’t worked for almost three years, (on the disability pension), because of a few lines that some students wrote on facebook which were about the place where she worked, not even her personally. She’s claiming “mental anguish” or “post traumatic stress disorder” or some other ridiculous ailment. It’s all too easy for people to do this because the system wants us to believe that everyone is a victim.

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      1. Mission creep in disability programs is, I suspect, a problem everywhere. The problem can be substantive (the definition of disability), procedural (a deficit of timely follow up reviews), dispositional (public choice theory applied to the Social Security Administration), and cultural (specificaly, the culture which prevails between attorneys and hearing examiners). Some problems can be addressed by altering substantive definitions (e.g. restricting ‘psychological’ disabilities to retardation, autism, and schizophrenia and defining circumstances which can be adjudicated with paper testing and those which require contingent circumstances which are evaluated by a hearing examiner; right now, addicts can get disability awards). Others by providing follow up reviews. Still, it’s going to be a problem. Local cultures can influence propensity to award. At the extremes some years ago, it was discovered that 25% of all applications in Tennessee were successful, but 50% in Connecticut). One difficulty with fixing the program is that tightening of definitions or procedures will lead to some people with facially valid claims to be denied, and the auxilliaries of the Democratic Party in the press corps then put ’em on the nightly news. Disability reform in 1981 was short-circuited by the press stirring up trouble in just this way.

        The foundational disability program here (enacted in 1956) addressed amputees and the blind, so stigma wasn’t keeping people off disability in that era. As late as 1970, the demographic profile of disabled workers and there families wasn’t much different from the surrounding population. Nowadays, over 80% of those collecting disability are single persons living alone.

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      2. The government likes dole bludgers moving on to disability pensions because it lowers the official unemployment stats.
        Basically, about 3% of the population in developed countries are unemployable due low intelligence or poor life skills like not being able to turn up on time at the right place sober and wearing trousers. That percentage is going to increase because robots don’t need trousers and keep their grappling claws out of the till.

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  3. The government likes dole bludgers moving on to disability pensions because it lowers the official unemployment stats.

    The current administration likely does, but the problem with disability programs has been notable for more than a generation, all through administrations superintended by men of passable integrity. The thing is, let’s hypothesize that half of all disability awards would be seen as facially invalid by a jury of ordinary people. You would have to then add approximately 7 million people to the labor force in this country. That’s a one-off increase, btw. That would require a growth in the number of employed persons of about 4.5% to maintain unemployment rates at the antecedent level, something that could be accomplished in five years even at the wan rates of employment growth registered since 2009. Note, the AFDC rolls were cut by 2/3 (from 12 million to 4 million) after 1996 with little discernible elevation in unemployment rates.

    Basically, about 3% of the population in developed countries are unemployable due low intelligence or poor life skills like not being able to turn up on time at the right place sober and wearing trousers.

    Says who? Our Social Security Administration offers a categorical dispensation only to those with IQs below 60, i.e. 0.3% of the population. Another 2% are offered disability pensions if they have certain supplementary disabilities on top of low intelligence. The real problem re disability programs is granting pensions to addicts. That’s not something made necessary by social circumstance and it exacerbates some of their personal problems.

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    1. That’s interesting, that the US cut disability pensions without seeing a rise in unemployment. Possible reasons: absorbed by falling wages (evidence?), investment moving to labour rather than tech, increase in jobs that people could otherwise to themselves (cleaning, gardening etc).

      As for the unemployable 3%, I wonder what would happen to these apparently useless people if all welfare stopped? How many would sink (starve) and how many would swim (find a low-level job and eventually get the hang of it/steal/deal drugs/enter prostitution)? An interesting experiment. If I ever become king of the world, build a rocket.

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      1. Again, cash welfare for the working-aged was directed at people with disability adjudications and at mothers with bastard children. General relief payments were a Depression-era feature that lapsed in most states (I think during the war, for the most part). Even in New York, general relief has been a chintzy program with severe time limits.

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