February 24, 2007

"Being Poor Is a Full-Time Job"

via Brad Plumer, an old entry of his with an extensive quote from David K. Shipler's The Working Poor on the horrific obstacles welfare bureaucracies put up to discourage eligible people from getting assistance. This sort of thing is probably why Rawls opposed the welfare state and favored universal guaranteed incomes.

Private charity might be less bureaucracy-ridden, but I doubt it's the answer either, because it's designed not to be universal. A polity that cared about the problems of poverty rather than viewing the poor as Other might help, and a system that wasn't full of perverse incentives for state welfare departments would be nice too.

Posted by Matt Weiner at February 24, 2007 09:24 PM

Oddly, the notion of universal guaranteed incomes had a prominent *REPUBLICAN* supporter in the past. I am, of course, talking about President Richard M. Nixon, who in 1969 proposed what he called a "Negative Income Tax" plan that would have basically been a universal guaranteed minimum income. It disintegrated upon encountering Republicans and Southern Democrats in Congress, of course...

Posted by: BadTux at February 25, 2007 12:24 AM

Thanks for linking to that.

Not only have I been on welfare myself, I also spent three horrendous weeks temping in the welfare office in Hamilton, Ontario. One of the striking things about that place was how the set-up of the office and the procedures and rules in place were meticulously devised to reduce face-to-face contact between case workers and "clients" as much as possible. It made getting assistance much more difficult and inconvenient for recipients, and for the most part it was totally unnecessary.

I have to conclude that the point of organizing things in that way was to prevent bonds of human sympathy and concern between the case workers and the clients.

Posted by: alif sikkiin at February 25, 2007 09:20 AM