Would Progressives still defend welfare if they had to pay recipients directly?

A recent report shows that 86 million private sector workers are helping sustain 148 million Americans who draw from the system through social programs.

(CNS News) — In 2012, according to the Census Bureau, approximately 103,087,000 people worked full-time, year-round in the United States. “A full-time, year-round worker is a person who worked 35 or more hours per week (full time) and 50 or more weeks during the previous calendar year (year round),” said the Census Bureau. “For school personnel, summer vacation is counted as weeks worked if they are scheduled to return to their job in the fall.”

Of the 103,087,000 full-time, year-round workers, 16,606,000 worked for the government. That included 12,597,000 who worked for state and local government and 4,009,000 who worked for the federal government.

The 86,429,000 Americans who worked full-time, year-round in the private sector, included 77,392,000 employed as wage and salary workers for private-sector enterprises and 9,037,000 who worked for themselves. (There were also approximately 52,000 who worked full-time, year-round without pay in a family enterprise.)


In the last quarter of 2011, according to the Census Bureau, approximately 82,457,000 people lived in households where one or more people were on Medicaid. 49,073,000 lived in households were someone got food stamps. 23,228,000 lived in households where one or more got WIC. 20,223,000 lived in households where one or more got SSI. 13,433,000 lived in public or government-subsidized housing.

Of course, it stands to reason that some people lived in households that received more than one welfare benefit at a time. To account for this, the Census Bureau published a neat composite statistic: There were 108,592,000 people in the fourth quarter of 2011 who lived in a household that included people on “one or more means-tested program.”

Those 108,592,000 outnumbered the 86,429,000 full-time private-sector workers who inhabited the United States in 2012 by almost 1.3 to 1.

This brings us to the first category of benefit receivers. There were 49,901,000 people receiving Social Security in the fourth quarter of 2011, and 46,440,000 receiving Medicare. There were also 5,098,000 getting unemployment compensation.

And there were also, 3,178,000 veterans receiving benefits and 34,000 veterans getting educational assistance.

All told, including both the welfare recipients and the non-welfare beneficiaries, there were 151,014,000 who “received benefits from one or more programs” in the fourth quarter of 2011. Subtract the 3,212,000 veterans, who served their country in the most profound way possible, and that leaves 147,802,000 non-veteran benefit takers.

The 147,802,000 non-veteran benefit takers outnumbered the 86,429,000 full-time private sector workers 1.7 to 1.

Despite what I’ve been accused of, I don’t oppose safety nets for the truly needy.  People who have had some catastrophic event financially ruin them should be temporarily aided.  However, I don’t believe that the vast majority of those in poverty in America are in their predicament through circumstances beyond their control.  People are in their lot in life for the most part as a result of a lifetime of decisions they’ve made.

One of aspect of social program application and disbursement process I detest so much is how impersonal it all is.  You don’t even get to see how much of your hard earned money is being taken from you to be given to someone else.

But what if whatever portion of your federal income tax that goes to welfare programs was not automatically withheld from your paycheck?  Instead every two weeks you had to show up to a government office and had to hand over to the government their portion of the welfare tab.  I wonder how long it would take for even the most caring of liberals to get fed up with the takers?  Would they get fed up?  Would they eventually complain to themselves and others, “why are we still supporting these people?” or, “why am I working to pay their bills and mine?”?

What would it take for a Progressive to eventually apply the adage: Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for life.  I don’t think I can convince myself that Progressives who bash the wealthy who complains about excessive taxation, would perpetually continue to show up at the office with a good-hearted smile and hand over the cash, week after week, after week.

How long would your patience last when giving if you were assigned to the same person or family, and had to write the check directly to the individual!

The fact that the welfare process is so impersonal works in favor of the recipient.  Not having to show up to collect the “benefits” reduces the amount of shame in not being a provider for yourself and family.  Being poor is supposed to be uncomfortable.  That’s the only motivating factor that would drive someone to better them self. Removing the consequences of failure only perpetuates the problem.  Only a few decades ago, people had too much pride to let themselves be seen on television looking for hand-outs, now people proudly boast of applying for and receiving hand-outs.  Pride and dignity are a thing of the past, apparently.


18 Stats That Prove That Government Dependence Has Reached Epidemic Levels


  1. Of all those people who are among the working, how many of them are working for an amount of money that does not alleviate their own struggles to deal with their own bad decisions? This attitude of concern for the poor doesn’t really account for workers who are at the lower rungs of the ladder, but are working nonetheless to better their own lots. They, too, have tax money going to non-working people. What of them?

  2. paynehollow says:


    I don’t think I can convince myself that Progressives who bash the wealthy who complains about excessive taxation, would perpetually continue to show up at the office with a good-hearted smile and hand over the cash, week after week, after week.

    The short answer to your question, restated thusly – if there were an equitable way of having people pay into the safety net by doing so directly to an individual, would you support doing that, as opposed to paying taxes that then go to safety net programs? – I would answer that I am not opposed to that idea at all, if it worked. A program’s efficacy is my main concern. There is some research that suggests money paid directly to those in need can be more effective than programs designed to help those in need.

    Having said that, one could argue that this is what the Jubilee and Sabbath laws in the OT were all about – moving the provision of a safety net directly into the hands of individuals, rather than some more systematic approach… one could argue that, and then note that those OT policies appear to not have worked well or consistently because many people simply refused to abide by them and there was no consistent central system to ensure it happened.

    The problem with a straight “from my hands to the poor” approach are, it seems to me…

    1. There would be no oversight to ensure the money is being provided and that it is meeting the needs.

    2. Gov’t programs are not simply “from the haves to the have nots” cash transfers. There are case managers, social workers, mental and medical health workers providing direction and support in the context of established programs with established guidelines.

    3. A given individual donor may not be in a position to reasonably assess the needs and conditions of a receiver. “He looks healthy to me! I ain’t giving him no more money…” is not case management.

    So, I’m not opposed to the idea, I just don’t think it would be an effective method of assessing and meeting the needs. The system, as it is, is also less-than-effective, but I think this proposal would be much worse.



  3. paynehollow says:

    For instance, one of the gentlemen I regular deal with on the streets is, I suspect, mentally ill. But, while I have a background in mental health, I am not a psychiatrist and can not professionally diagnose that. On what basis, then, would I give him cash assistance? in what form? Is he mentally ill? If so, what sort of help does he need? Is his mental illness a primary cause of his homelessness? Secondary? Does he have a mild mental illness, but really, what he needs is some job coaching or just a simple kick in the pants to get him going? What will best meet his needs?

    This individual is willing to work and does work when he can. But, based on our conversations, I would guess that his perhaps mental illness(es) interferes with him keeping a regular job. But again, I’m not a professional or in a place to make that assessment. He needs a case manager, not some guy handing out cash.

    This is the advantage of having programs vs just handing out cash.


  4. paynehollow says:

    This report you cite mentions the many who have paid into and are receiving back benefits from Social security and unemployment. I’m thankful to let a gov’t flunkee manage that sort of in and out of my tax dollars.

    A large and complex society will have some systems in place that are, by nature of being a large and complex society, large and complex. I would love a way around it. I love the simple elegance of the Sabbath and Jubilee codes for dealing with systemic poverty issues. If we could figure a way to somehow – in our large and complex society – come up with a similarly simple and elegant solution, I’m all in favor of it.

    I would gladly pay my money directly to one in need if that were a workable solution. I just don’t think it is.

    I just don’t know of any easy solutions.


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