Poll: Most Americans Blame Welfare For Persistent Poverty

Hammock

You have to wonder, if this poll is accurate, where were these people in November when the number of people on food stamps and other social programs were a major part of the campaign?

Two decades after President Bill Clinton promised to “end welfare as we know it,” Americans blame government handouts for persistent poverty in the United States more than any other single factor, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday.

Given a list of eight factors and asked to choose the one most responsible for the continuing problem of poverty, 24 percent of respondents in the poll chose “too much government welfare that prevents initiative.”

There’s an absolute correlation between the size of the welfare programs and things like unemployment. Put simply, there’s less impetus to return to work when a person can lean on a government program instead.

This is particularly true of unemployment programs. The more longer a worker can stay on unemployment benefits, and the richer those benefits are, the longer that worker will take before returning to work. The Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany concluded in a study in 2008:

The evidence suggests that benefit generosity increases unemployment. We view this evidence as fairly robust since the estimates are similar across alternative specifications. The magnitudes involved are rather substantial and appear to be relatively high compared to estimates available elsewhere in the literature.

This isn’t true of all citizens, of course. Many would rather return to work, and self-sufficiency, than become dependent on government programs. But many other citizens will happily take advantage of government programs for as long as possible, diminishing their productiveness and increasing their burden on society.

What’s truly problematic is that we tend to use enrollment in these programs as evidence of the need for these programs. As if enrollment were always the result of need, and not opportunity. It creates a vicious cycle whereby social programs and their cost to the taxpayers grow endlessly.

What’s also problematic is that these programs create a vicious cycle for poverty, wherein citizens are given less incentive to gain work experience and education necessary to lifting themselves out of poverty, and setting up their children for more prosperous lives.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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