NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

August 31, 2013

Labor Day: time to reflect on workers and welfare

Here so soon: Labor Day, originally the celebration of the Labor Movement, that has grown to be celebrated by all of us who work for a living and, I must add, though I’m not there yet, all who worked for a living and are retired.

As the children head back to school, to learn skills that will enable them to work for a living, they and many of us working people try to take a long weekend off to enjoy the last phase of summer. Of course, other working people have to work over the holiday weekend. Note my frequent use of the four connected letters w-o-r-k.

So, how timely that the Cato Institute has just released a study by Michael Tanner and Charles Hughes titled “The Work and Welfare Trade-off: 2013”, which begins:

“The value of the full package of welfare benefits for a typical recipient in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia exceeds the poverty level. Because welfare benefits are tax-free, their dollar value is often greater than the amount of take-home income a worker would have left after paying taxes on an equivalent pretax income. ... In 40 states, welfare pays more than an $8-an-hour job. In 17 states, the welfare package is more generous than a $10-an-hour job.”

The Cato Study is a narrow one; it doesn’t get into the able-bodied men and illegal immigrants who are getting taxpayer-funded benefits. It defines the typical welfare family as a mother over age 21 with two children ages 1 and 4, no known father, none disabled, all American citizens. The average Massachusetts welfare family “makes” $42,515 a year from the government, which is the equivalent of $50,540 of taxable income earned by working here.

It’s not quite that tidy; not all welfare recipients get all the possible benefits. And those working people who are comparing should add the value of their health insurance to their total, as Medicaid is included on the welfare side.

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