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home : opinions : commentary May 26, 2016

12/11/2012 1:05:00 PM
My Turn: America’s safety net has become too comfortable
Jim Barber

To paraphrase Jim Lovell, commander of Apollo 13, “America, we have a problem.”

Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare has released a study concluding that a single woman with two children is financially better off with a job paying $29,000 than one paying $69,000 due to entitlement benefits. With $6300 food stamps, $16,500 Medicaid and child healthcare insurance, $4300 rent subsidies, $5000 (low) earned income tax credit, school lunch programs, family assistance programs, she has more disposable income.

Of course, there are variations from state to state, but the facts are ominous. Our “safety net” has become a hammock, sucking the work ethic from a once dynamic population seeking, through hard work and initiative, the “American Dream.” America is notoriously generous, but the unintended consequence of that generosity is that, through increasing welfare payments – now exceeding $1 trillion a year, excluding Social Security and Medicare – we increase the incentive to not work.

Today, expectations are different. A recent Wall Street Journal article, “What’s wrong in Fort Wayne?” told of employers with job openings that go wanting. Part of the problem is a lack of skilled workers, but part of the problem is “a mismatch between…available and desired pay.” When being unemployed is made comfortable enough, a pay scale commensurate with the skill level required for some jobs is not incentive enough for many to give up that comfort.

In this highly technological age, new jobs are constantly being created that require new skill sets. Technology is also changing traditional areas of employment, such as manufacturing, requiring fewer workers to accomplish the same job. That means that those entering the labor force need the tools – education and initiative – to acquire and adapt to ever-changing technology. It also means that those who fail to get those “tools”, mostly the consequence of poor life-choices such as dropping out of school, substance abuse, having children before becoming adults, etc., are destined to fill those jobs at the bottom of the economic ladder. And, unless they overcome those poor life-choices – return to school, get clean, go to night school, etc. – they are destined to stay there. For most of those job seekers just entering the labor force, those low level jobs are known as “entry level” employment – a transition stage from teenage to adulthood in which they learn what is necessary to gain and hold a good job, such as showing up ready to do whatever is required.

The safety net was intended for those who, through no fault of their own, lose their job, are injured, chronically ill or are otherwise unable to work. It was not meant to support those who make decisions that relegate them to a lower economic status. Unfortunately, it has become a popular theme by liberals to place the blame everywhere but where it belongs – on the individual. Under our runaway welfare spending, no one has to live below the poverty line, even if they fall into that economic stratum. With the various subsidies and grants they easily attain the lower-middle class lifestyle. Too many are perfectly comfortable there. Meanwhile, the country suffers a labor shortage, the inability to create jobs, and a class of citizens permanently dependent on siphoning the fruits of the labor of middle-class America.

Yes, we need a good safety net. But it should be for the helpless – not the clueless.

Jim Barber is a resident of Camp Verde

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, December 15, 2012
Article comment by: Walk in their shoes

Me thinks MJ desires to be like the poet "Gubmint Cheese" but does not have the intellectual capacity to do so . . .

All you conservative Brainiacs . . .

Go to the food bank, no one gets cheese anymore, you can have all the bread you want. Mostly you get canned goods and cereal.

No meat, no milk, no eggs . . . there has been a lot of fresh food offered lately, it is in many stages of mold and decomposition.

Try feeding your family on refried beens, carrots and corn flakes . . . oh and don't forget the bread, sometimes you can get it without mold.

MMMmmmmm, mighty yummy. Everyone should be poor and live this good!

Posted: Friday, December 14, 2012
Article comment by: oh for a slice of 'gubmint' cheese... .

with which to live with ease...

described as luxury
by those of the GOP

life without want or need
spending 'their' money on weed

or sodas and candy
my my how handy

pain the whole with the tint of the few
as you complain about it while you chew

on steaks regulated by the FDA
fed grass paid for by the USA

holier than though, high and mighty
How about $1.40 per meal and then nighty

NJ mayor cory booker ate SNAP for a week
after 7 days he stated to get weak

phone and flat screens
the exceptions not the means

fat and happy you sit and judge it
while assuming their fantasy budget

well live reality for a week
and maybe learn of what you speak

feigning that you know all
really shows you know nothing at all

grumpy men and women
forget the poorest enter heaven

so WWJD in this case
tweak the poor's nose and rube it in their face
or have compassion and assume their place

judge not the books says of others
for they are your sisters and brothers

the rising tide floats
both rich and poor boats

scoff and discount as you like
pillory the words on a spike
reality care not what you like...

Posted: Friday, December 14, 2012
Article comment by: M J

The working and non working poor are easy pawns for cowards and fools to justify thief.
The working and non working poor are easy pawns for cowards and fools to justify the abuse of government power.
The working and non working poor are easy pawns for cowards and fools to be used in their quest for power and control.

Posted: Friday, December 14, 2012
Article comment by: M J

I don't think reading comprehension is your strong point.

Posted: Friday, December 14, 2012
Article comment by: a person

More BS. Remember Reagans imaginary welfare queen. Sure, in a laboratory one could formulate a welfare mother turning down a $50,000 + job but once you breathe the air outside the lab and find reality tell me where would a welfare mother find such a job they're qualified for. If you're angry and want to believe all these people are ripping you off then no facts will move you to rational thought further more media pimps will do anything to gain attention and an audiance ince they have a financial interest in the publics rage. The working and non working poor are easy targets for cowards.

Posted: Friday, December 14, 2012
Article comment by: John A. Bond

@ Totally:

Apparently, YOU missed my point. The hyperbolic representations made by Mr. Barber are so absurd as to warrant nothing more than a similar response. Anything more is a complete waste of time and energy.

Hopefully, he WILL get the point. If not, so be it.

Posted: Friday, December 14, 2012
Article comment by: Lynda Kuglitsch

Just for the record..as a long, long ago employee of a government program to rehabilitate mental health patients for community placement and having a daughter-in-law who works for AZ DES, it is very difficult for an employee of a social welfare agency to weed out the leeches from the truly needy. Reason being is government programs are not fine-tuned enough to do this. The resources are not there to investigate suspected fraud and the parameters set to qualify for these programs cannot be so complicated that truly needy people fall through the cracks. Solutions are difficult to find and the crafty people who know how to work the system will always find a way around them.

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Article comment by: Phil Falbo

@ Peter, YC, again.

Pssst, as anyone with half a brain and any kind of common knowledge knows, anything good that happened under Clinton was because of Reaganomics, you fool...wait for it...wait for it...

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Article comment by: M J

Actually falbo I was thinking about your family.

Re: don't know what to say
lets go over your post.
"many ignorant folks who are taking advantage" - ignorant? hardly ... they know what they are doing.
"totally eliminating this kind of assistance" - please! ... stop being a drama queen ... no one said anything 'bout totally eliminating assistance.
"narrow neocon mindset" ... hummmm let us see ... we have a liberal on here who posts how she wants censorship and everything is some kind of conspiracy ... yet I have the narrow neocon mindset
The word neocon is a liberal dog whistle for liberals to grin and snicker at each other like the idiots they are ..... tweeeeeeeeet tweeeeeeeeeet!!

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Article comment by: OMG M J

Wow, thank you for that belly laugh! Did you even read what you wrote??? Censorship and cronyism is the very soul of control!!! And then you write and say that liberals protesting censorship are "controlling"?!

AH hahahahahaha...................

Whoa, gotta stop and catch my breath here.

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Article comment by: Totally missed my point, John

Oh for heaven's sake. Dude. Being "on your side" was just an expression. Only side I'm on is the truth-seeking one, too, and that "side" forms an all-inclusive circle around everything. I also speak my truth without regard for acceptance or rejection, and was not challenging your right to do the same.

It just hit me that being the wordsmith you are, you might be able to appreciate how *clever* turns of phrase and that kind of alliterative repetition inspires more eye-rolling than serious consideration. That's been my experience, anyway. If it doesn't match with yours, out the window with it. I do know you want to be as effective as you can with what you write.

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Article comment by: Phil Falbo

@ m j

Do you mean the parasites in your brain that affect your thinking?

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Article comment by: M J

There goes Lee Cali advocating the liberal position on censorship once again.
Why are liberals such control freaks?

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Article comment by: nutso fasst

A primer for the search-skill deprived...

First search string:
pennsylvania public welfare $29,000 $69,000

Look for a web page in a domain with some gravitas. The first I found is senate.gov, Rand Paul's page:

On that page is a chart that has Mr. Barber's numbers, and below the chart is a link to the entire presentation. But even if you miss the link, simply searching on some phrases in the chart, e.g.:
"Gary D. Alexander" "Secretary of Public Welfare" "welfare cliffs crop up"
returns the PDF of 'Welfare's Failure and the Solution' as the top item:

On the Rand Paul page there's also a link to an AEI article about the chart, along with a variety of comments pro and con, including some from employees in the PA welfare system:

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Article comment by: Peter, Yavapai County

Following the Welfare Reform Act in 1996, and the prior to the "Bush tax cuts" in 2001, America was in a "sweet spot".

Unemployment rate
Before Bush (2000): 4%
After Bush (December 2008): 8% and climbing rapidly.
Now: 7.8%
Conclusion: We’ve experienced a huge net job loss following the Bush tax cuts.

Consumer Confidence Index (CCI)
Historical average: 93.4
Before Bush (2000): 144.7 (an all time high).
After Bush (February 2009): 25.3 (an all time low).
Now: 73.7
Conclusion: Bush tax cuts did not favorably impact consumer confidence.

Gross Federal Debt (GFD)
Before Bush, the federal debt had declined to $5.6 trillion (at end of Clinton administration), due to a budget surplus.
The Bush administration oversaw the addition of $5.1 trillion to our federal debt.
After Bush (December 2008): GFD = $10.7 trillion
At the end of 2010, when tax cuts were extended beyond their original sunset date: GFD = $14 trillion.
Conclusion: The Bush tax cuts failed to prevent an explosion of federal debt.

Food stamp assistance for the poor
During Clinton: - 8 million souls
During Bush: + 14 million souls
During Bush tax cuts (2001 thru 2010): additional 27 million souls receiving food assistance.
Conclusion: The Bush tax cuts have coincided with many more folks being dependent on our federal government.

Jim, let's go back to what was working before Bush, and stop the pointless fighting.

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