This Thanksgiving, if one of your right-wing relatives starts mouthing off at the dinner table about the welfare system and how it enables freeloaders to bilk the taxpayers out of their hard-earned cash, show them this article.
Some of the more persistent myths about welfare recipients and the welfare system have been thoroughly debunked thanks to economic research. Busting these offensive and insensitive myths can help us better understand how to simultaneously help impoverished families become economically stable and save taxpayers’ money.
Myth #1: Welfare encourages people to not work.
One popular right-wing talking point is that there are all these jobs that aren’t being taken because people would rather take a welfare check than get a job. But an overwhelming majority of welfare recipients work—according to a 2014 study by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, 73 percent of welfare recipients are working at least part-time.
When looking at the numbers by industry, half of the nation’s fast food workers and nearly half of America’s home health care providers are receiving public assistance either in the form of food stamps, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or the Earned Income Tax Credit. 46 percent of childcare workers rely on welfare, as do one-fourth of adjunct college professors.
The real issue is low wages: Since 1979, costs of living have steadily increased, yet wages have stagnated and even declined. The Economic Policy Institute found that the average low-wage worker is actually earning 5 percent less today than they were in 1979.
Myth #2: Welfare recipients can milk the system indefinitely.
Contrary to popular belief among conservatives, the welfare system is actually extremely rigid for recipients. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which replaced the Aid for Families with Dependent Children program during the Clinton administration, has a federal lifetime limit of five years. If a family were to use TANF for 5 years, during, say, a severe recession or depression, that family could never again receive welfare benefits were they to fall on hard times again.
In one of the richest countries in the history of the world, the social safety net has essentially been completely cut out from under the nation’s most vulnerable populations. In addition to the rigidity of federal welfare programs, welfare recipients also have to deal with conservative bureaucrats heading welfare offices who are all too happy to withhold assistance from the needy for arbitrary reasons.