Over the last week, both Boston papers have discussed the numbers of Massachusetts residents on welfare for various and sundry “disabilities.” First, the Boston Herald looked into Governor Romney’s to tighten the definition of “disabled” to match the federal standard, and require a bunch of people currently receiving welfare to actually go out and try to find work. Then, Monday, the Boston Globe did its own take on the story, discovering that over 1,800 people currently living off the public dole could most likely be returned to the work force (kicking and screaming, I’d bet) and become productive members of society.
But the Globe does do one thing that the Herald doesnt — and it pains me to give them praise for anything. They spell out just what constitutes “disabled” in Massachusetts:
Under federal rules, a person with some symptoms of depression, such as a loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and feelings of guilt or worthlessness, as well as a ”marked deficiency” in concentration, could be classified as disabled. But under the state rules, a person with symptoms of depression and any problem concentrating might qualify.
Damn… under the federal rules, I meet four of the five on a daily basis. I only flunk the “appetite” part. But in Massachusetts, I could start suckling on the public teat tomorrow.
But I still haul my butt to work five days a week, put in my 40 hours, and slog on through. Guess that makes me the moron, doesn’t it?
Years ago, I had an idea for welfare reform. One of the major problems with our welfare system is that it is filled with “perverse incentives.” People who have children they can’t afford to support are given more money if they have yet more children. Women without husbands are given more money than families where the father is present. Men who claim their children and try to support them are dunned and hounded for child support, while those who disavow their offspring go scott free. And those who try to get off welfare and return to work are punished for actually earning money.
I don’t know how to clean up the whole mess (it’s taken us 40 years to dig ourselves into this particular hole), but I did have one suggestion that might help a little: stop punishing people who try to move off welfare. As I understand it, as a person’s income rises, their benefits drop. There are several tiers of support, and once a person crosses a certain point, they lose levels of benefits. So there’s developed a “sweet spot” where they can earn just enough money to keep their benefits — and they don’t dare try to do any better.
I’d like to see that scrapped, with a simple change: instead of the current system, for every two dollars a welfare recipient receives, their benefits are reduced by one dollar. Suppose they get a thousand dollars a month in benefits (I’m just making up numbers here). They get a part time job flipping burgers, and start making a hundred a week. That works out to $400 in an average month. Their welfare would be reduced by $200, so they’d be netting a total of $1,200 a month. And if they get a raise or more hours and get $125 a week, they’d net $1,250.
I dunno how feasible it’d be, but I have a hard time thinking it’d be worse than the current system.