Economic Researcher Debunks Right-Wing Claims That Welfare is Too Generous

August 22, 2013  |  


Craig Harrington, an economic researcher, slammed the researchers behind “The Work Versus Welfare” report, which claims that welfare recipients make more than entry-level workers. “Unfortunately…Tanner [the study’s lead author] nor his counterparts in the right-wing media seem to have any clue how anti-poverty programs function,” Media Matters reports.

As MN has reported before, the study insinuates that federal assistance is much too attractive. Welfare pays its recipients more than the minimum wage in more than 30 states. According to the report, government assistance pays more than a $15 per hour job — Hawaii dishes out $29.13 an hour to welfare-dependent Americans, it said.

Harrington is questioning the credibility of the study. Tanner’s research falsely assumes “that recipients take full advantage of every single benefit program that is potentially available to them,” he added.

“Right-wing media are promoting a flawed study that claims it is more lucrative for low-income Americans to accept government benefits than take low-paying jobs,” Harrington said. “[A] notion that reveals the conservative sphere’s ignorance on how anti-poverty programs work.”

While Republican rhetoric has worked to convince constituents that welfare checks are too appealing and therefore discourage job search, previous studies have debunked this argument. More than 90 percent of federal and state benefits have gone to the elderly, disabled, or working households, “not able-bodied working-age Americans who choose not to work.” Those who are not aged, handicapped, or employed only received nine percent of distributed benefits.

Among that nine percent, recipients are using government assistance for medical care, unemployment insurance benefits, which only supports individuals with significant work history, and Social Security benefits.

“If you’re making, in California, $44,000 a year and your boss offers you a raise to $50,000, you would probably say, ‘No thanks. Cause I don’t want to lose out on things like food stamp benefits…’” Charles Payne, a Fox Business News commentator said.

Well that’s funny, because a California family that earns $44,000 would “almost never qualify for food stamps,” Media Matters adds. Secondly, studies have shown that government safety nets aren’t keeping Americans poor, they’re actually keeping them out of poverty. “[T]he poverty rate in 2010 would have been twice as high without a social safety net,” Media Matters said. Welfare recipients are more, not less, likely to experience income mobility and escape poverty.

Tanner, the lead researcher, points to welfare as the culprit behind unemployment in poor households, but he neglects to take the poor economic climate into account. “Bad” positions are plaguing the job market. About 47 percent of workers didn’t have health insurance coverage in 2010 while 53 percent of employees had jobs that paid less than $37,000 a year.

Tanner believes that raising wages for workers would only increase unemployment. “This conclusion, of course, flies in the face of all evidence to the contrary and simply futhers conservative attacks against living wages,” Harrington said.

While Tanner’s flawed study is spreading like wildfire, this proves just how the malleable public is easily fed fallacious information — and believes it.

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