Welfare Can Discourage Crime More Than It Discourages Work

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Yves here. This article not only shows that welfare does produce broader societal benefits than previously assumed, it also demonstrates how unskilled/low skilled jobs had been hollowed out to the degree that crime was either an attractive or the only option for some young adults. Of course, another issue is that income from crime is tax free….

By Manasi Deshpande, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Chicago and Michael Mueller-Smith, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Michigan. Originally published at VoxEU

Cuts to welfare programmes have historically been motivated by concerns that they can discourage educational achievement and work. This column uses the natural experiment of the 1996 welfare reform law in the US to examine the effect of welfare programmes on a different type of ‘work’: criminal activity intended to generate income. The authors find that removing young adults from the US Supplemental Security Income programme increases criminal justice involvement, and especially illicit income-generating activity. While the programme does indeed discourage formal employment among young adults, its much larger effect is to discourage criminal activity.

In the past few decades, developed countries have seen substantial overhauls of social assistance programmes. In the US, the 1996 welfare reform law slashed welfare programmes and implemented barriers to enrolment, including work requirements and recertification. The austerity measures enacted in Europe during the Great Recession introduced similar cuts. Cuts to welfare programmes have historically been motivated by concerns that such programmes can discourage educational achievement and work – in effect, that they can make people lazy. Studies on the effect of welfare programmes on work have found mixed results. In general, they find that welfare programmes do discourage work to some extent, though often this is among individuals who would not earn much even in the absence of the programmes (e.g. Maestas et al. 2013, Hoynes and Schanzenbach 2012, Garthwaite et al. 2014).

In a new paper (Deshpande and Mueller-Smith 2022), we study the effect of welfare programmes on a different type of ‘work’: criminal activity intended to generate income. Using a natural experiment created by the 1996 welfare reform law, we find that removing young adults from the US Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programme increases criminal justice involvement, and especially illicit activity intended to generate income. We estimate that removing a young adult from SSI increases the total number of criminal charges associated with income generation (theft, burglary, robbery, drug distribution, prostitution, and fraud) by 60% over the following two decades. This increase in criminal activity leads to a 60% increase in the likelihood of being in incarcerated in a given year over the same time period.

Effects of Supplemental Security Income on Crime

We use a policy change created by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, more commonly known as welfare reform. Among its many restrictions on welfare programmes, the Act included a rule that children receiving SSI benefits for a disability had to be re-evaluated for SSI under the stricter adult rules when they turned 18. Under the new rule, any child with an 18th birthday after the law’s enactment (on 22 August 1996) was to be re-evaluated as an adult. Figure 1 illustrates the natural experiment we exploit. Most children who had an 18th birthday after 22 August 1996, were re-evaluated, and many removed from SSI as adults. In contrast, nearly all children with an 18th birthday before this date escaped the re-evaluation and were allowed onto the adult programme.

This rule thus created an unlucky group of young adults just after the birthdate cut-off who, despite being no different in health or earnings potential than the individuals just before the cut-off, were much more likely to be removed from SSI at the age of 18. Since the only difference between the young adults on either side of the cut-off is their likelihood of being reviewed and removed, we can compare the adult outcomes between the two sides to measure the effect of being removed from SSI at age 18. We focus on two main outcomes: formal employment (also evaluated in Deshpande 2016) and criminal justice involvement (new to Deshpande and Mueller-Smith 2022). To measure criminal charges and incarceration, we create the first-ever link of data from the Social Security Administration to criminal records using data from the Criminal Justice Administrative Records System.

We find that SSI removal at age 18 increases the number of criminal charges by 30%. The bottom panel of Figure 1 shows the sharp increase in the number of criminal charges at the cut-off, meaning that those young adults who received a review and were removed from SSI had more criminal charges as a result. Importantly, the increase in charges is concentrated almost entirely in illicit activities that are intended to generate income – i.e. theft, burglary, robbery, fraud, drug distribution, and prostitution. For men the effects are concentrated in theft, burglary, and drug distribution, while for women they are concentrated in theft, fraud (e.g. identity theft), and prostitution. In contrast, there is very little increase in violent crime or other non-income-generating crimes.

Figure 1 SSI removal increases criminal justice involvement

Notes: Top figure plots the likelihood of receiving an age 18 medical review and the likelihood of receiving unfavourable age 18 review (i.e., removed from SSI at age 18). Bottom figure plots total number of income-generating charges between the ages of 18 and 38. Sample is SSI children with an 18th birthday within 18 months of the 22 August 1996 cut-off who reside in a county with CJARS coverage. See Deshpande and Mueller-Smith (2022) for details.

This finding suggests that many of these young adults attempt to replace the SSI income they have lost with income from illicit activity. In fact, over the two decades following SSI removal, the effect of SSI removal on the likelihood of having a criminal charge associated with income generation is about twice as large as the effect of SSI removal on the likelihood of maintaining steady employment. Moreover, the effects on criminal activity are highly persistent: even as the young adults approach the age of 40, the effect of being removed from SSI at age 18 continues to have an effect on the likelihood of facing a criminal charge. Much of the persistence can be explained by the Great Recession, which appears to have amplified the effects of SSI removal.

The increase in criminal charges resulting from SSI removal has real consequences for both the young adults removed from SSI and for society. For the young adults, the likelihood of incarceration in a given year increases from 5% to 8%, a 60% increase, as a result of SSI removal. There is substantial evidence that being incarcerated and having a criminal record have adverse consequences for future outcomes (Aizer and Doyle 2015, Mueller-Smith 2015, Mueller-Smith and Schnepel 2021, Agan et al. 2021, Augustine et al. 2021). Regarding the implications for society, we calculate that the costs of enforcement and incarceration nearly eliminate the savings to the government from lower spending on SSI benefits. Moreover, the cost to the victims of the increased criminal activity (Binder and Ketel 2022) is staggering: $85,600 per SSI removal based on our calculations using conservative assumptions.

Implications for welfare policy

What do the effects of removing young adults from SSI tell us about the effects of cash welfare more generally? To be sure, young adults removed from SSI are a specific population: they had disabilities as children and come from poor families. But other factors suggest that the results may be generalisable to programmes such as the expanded child tax credit or a universal basic income. Like those proposed programmes, SSI provides a sizable cash benefit to low-income households. The population of SSI recipients who are removed from SSI are more similar to the general population than the average SSI recipient. Moreover, we find effects of SSI removal on criminal justice involvement on every observable subgroup. Our results are consistent with other research suggesting that income affects criminal justice involvement (Akee 2008).

More generally, the results question the historical focus of welfare policy on the discouragement of work. We show that while SSI does indeed discourage formal employment among young adults, its much larger effect is to discourage criminal activity. For these young adults, maintaining steady employment in the formal labour market may not be feasible whether or not they receive SSI benefits. There may be insufficient jobs to absorb them into the labour market, or they may have insufficient skills to compete for employment. Many turn instead to criminal activity to recover the lost income after they are removed from SSI, with staggering consequences for their own lives and for society at large.

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  1. DJG, Reality Czar

    Of course, the article is heretical for the U of Chicago economics department, but is there anything in it that is truly surprising? Think of crimes as work. One loses one source of income, and one sharpens another income-drawing skill. It just happens not to be learning to run conduit.

    Also, the authors don’t seem to be willing to clarify what the young people are getting SSI for. Physical disabilities? Mental issues? Or is SSI now just a stand-in for welfare (which is fine, because kids need to be supported somehow)?

    The revelations come near the end of the article:

    We show that while SSI does indeed discourage formal employment among young adults, its much larger effect is to discourage criminal activity. For these young adults, maintaining steady employment in the formal labour market may not be feasible whether or not they receive SSI benefits.

    You don’t say! The larger issues are two: General society has to buy social peace. If people have work, and if the work is meaningful, they tend not to disrupt society. As I watch the usual agonizing about the many Fourth of July shootings, I am reminded of the second major issue: that real jobs programs and income policy (along with a required raise of the minimum wage) would calm down social tensions in the U S of A. Yet the government’s jobs programs amount to “Let them be exploited at Amazon.”

    1. Tara

      One needs a diagnosis for SSI, and maybe medications, so yes it is a substitute for welfare, cause the T in TANF is temporary (assistance to needy families). And yes, these people do have trouble in the regular labor market. People need help, especially if a mental or physical disability disqualifies them from paid labor, but SSI is a life of poverty and sordid squalor. It is means tested, and there are appeals to get on it. A bug or a feature of SSI is, it takes people out of the labor force permentantly. Studying poverty is a jobs program that the poor cannot participate in. SSI shifts the poverty on to a disability that an individual has, not on a structural problem that requires people to cop to disabilities to they may or may not have to surivive– from a retired, San Francisco social worker

  2. PlutoniumKun

    Much as I am in favour of a strong welfare state, I think there are many different variables at work here. My Chinese and Japanese friends here in Ireland always express amazement that someone can get guaranteed money if they don’t have a job, or if they are single mothers. Most Asian countries have far weaker welfare codes (or the have much more rigid restrictions), and yet for the most part, they have lower crime than European countries with strong welfare states. So there are deeper cultural issues at work, in addition I think to details on how the welfare and job policy is applied. There is I think a fundamental difference between those countries that prioritize plentiful work, even at very low incomes (Japan, China, ROK, Singapore, Taiwan) and those northern European countries who accept a higher basic unemployment rate along with welfare.

    1. Adam Eran

      The Confucian system that’s widespread in Asia also encourages family involvement (as does Hispanic culture), which softens the blow of unemployment, and other welfare-related conditions.

      There’s also an extremely different kind of policing. T.R. Reid, former Washington Post bureau chief in Japan describes this in Confucius Lives Next Door. There’s an extreme culture of honesty–a dropped wallet in Japan will be returned to its owner, cash intact. There’s also an expectation from criminals that they will be caught. Reid describes letting his 10-year-old daughter go to Tokyo Disneyland with a friend, several bus and train changes away, something he says he’d never do in a big U.S. city.

      So…welfare is embedded in a larger narrative. Hispanics won’t do “Big brother/Big sister.” They think that’s the family’s job. Not much welfare in Mexico, either.

      Meanwhile, the job guarantee remains a possibility unexplored by the welfare discussion.

      Incidentally, the “end of welfare as we know it” was engineered by Bill Clinton colluding with Newt Gingrich’s congress. Before that end (AFDC) 76% of those needing public assistance got it. After (TANF), 26% (source Yahoo News).

      Yep, the D’s are the party of the poor, you betcha!

    2. fjallstrom

      Culture has an effect, but it is also policy and policy trajectory.

      After the full employment policies of the post-war era in Europe, comes the mandatory unemployment policies of the neoliberal era. With a permanent unemployed class in many european countries you get both paying people not to work and a pool for recruitment into a criminal career. Thesse are also often communicating pools, so when right wing politicians wants to punish the poor for being poor they increase recruitment to criminal networks, and then they can pose as tough on crimes.

  3. hogalan

    There is not link between poverty and ‘crime’. The definition of crime being used is one designed by the rich to target the poor. Welfare for the rich seems to have no affect upon the crimes they commit

    1. Adam Eran

      Ha ha! “The law, in its magnificent equality, forbids rich and poor alike from begging in the streets, sleeping under bridges and stealing bread.” (Anatole France)

      “Street” crime (muggings, burglaries, etc.) costs the public an estimated $12 billion annually, says the FBI. White collar crime costs ~$1 trillion.

      Meanwhile, the correlation between poverty and poor educational outcomes is much stronger than any of the proposed educational “reforms” (charter schools, merit pay for teachers, and testing, testing, testing).

  4. Jesper

    For the career-criminal then I believe the social insurance (not a fan of calling it welfare) makes no difference for choosing to commit crimes or not. For them it is just a tiny bit of free money they can get or not while they pursue their careers in crime. However, I believe that the career criminals are a very tiny proportion of the population and basing policies on the worst might not be a good idea. Unless we start doing it for our leaders as well, presume guilt and demand they prove their innocence or face consequences.

    I believe that paying out insurance does hinder some (possibly many) from going into a life of crime, it seems that the data can be interpreted to support that belief/theory. I also believe that it is not some sort of ‘protection’ or ‘extortion’, it is simply including people in society instead of alienating them. Someone who believe that the wider society doesn’t care might find it easier to retaliate at that society. Including/helping them instead of pushing them away in their hour of need might be better for society.

    Alternatively, maybe sell it as making the career-criminals lazy and fat by providing them with unhealthy food and support unhealthy habits. The hungry hunt more and better than the well fed.

  5. digi_owl

    I have long held that most crime, at least the crime that affect the common man, are crimes of desperation (a subset of crimes of passion perhaps).

    Glad to see some numbers attached to such a notion.

    Sadly it will not move the thinking of the sadists that bay for increased punishment every time something hits the news.

  6. Watt4Bob

    Cuts to welfare programmes have historically been motivated by concerns that such programmes can discourage educational achievement and work – in effect, that they can make people lazy.

    Actually, I believe that this is the way that austerity is sold to the voters, but considering how little the electorate’s desires are actually considered, the real motivation must obviously be the wishes of the donor class.

    From that perspective, the ever increasing push towards austerity is actually aimed at ‘disciplining‘ the labor force at the behest of the 1%.

    The problem is, the 1% and their PMC minions don’t seem to understand that austerity can go too far, you can’t squeeze blood from a stone, and that poverty and criminal behavior go hand in hand.

    1. digi_owl

      Said donor class also see taxes as government sanctioned theft more often than not.

  7. anon y'mouse

    if i had any way to have an income at 18, i might have stayed in college then instead of only getting my bacc. at 40 (with marital support). so i wonder if some of these people are doing that with all of their free time too. i know that wasn’t within the scope of this study, but it should have been a follow on question: did tertiary education or finishing off GED increase among recipients?

    the need to earn enough to attempt to pay Bay Area rents, and the social dislocations of that and using exclusively public transit (available but an extreme time tax) severely impacted my time, energy and money to apply to any education. stressed out and underfed is not the way to try to attempt schooling, or at least not for me.

    other than that, welfare was what you had to do when the drug money ran out, for whatever reason or if you weren’t on the law-breaking side of the fence, when your job ran out. some of my relatives only ended up on welfare if their drug dealing spouses were in jail, or after the breakup of those relationships. a non-lawbreaker member was on welfare for the first five years of her child’s life (single parenting, no father involvement by his choice and only the state coming after his wages with much complaint from him for their own compensation) and then has worked steadily in a union job since, and that was right around the time welfare was being “reformed”. some never signed up for welfare, even if they would have been eligible (too much reporting, too many strings, and being seen as mooching off the system were discouraging). my grandmother raised 4 children (if you can call them “raised”, like chickens) and a grandchild on a government job with no support from the government but if she had had some extra support, maybe the kids would have gotten into higher ed. at some point but maybe not. it was the 70s/80s and they were totally at a loose end and didn’t really know how to break out of that pattern that had worked before then, when all one had to do was walk into any business or look in a newspaper and pick up some or any kind of work (habitus).

    just blathering, adding some context. i knew one person in our social circle who received SSI because of some relative of hers, but her outcome was determined by the family she lived in–biker adjacent, no value placed on higher education, pregnant and out of school at 15, 3 kids by 18 etc. her family were on the lawbreaking side, but i never heard anything specific about her although surely everyone around here was doing something illegal. she was near me in age and so our families always assumed we should socialize from the time we were kids, sometimes we were at the same babysitter for the same hours, but we didn’t have the same outlook on anything (i was a square, law abider trying to go to school and work at 17) and really had nothing in common. i always looked on her life as a cautionary tale and tried to do otherwise, but in the end she and i are probably in much the same situation now that we’re middle aged. i don’t know if that shows my personal failure, her success through all odds or the overwhelming determinative influence of family SES and class structure in this society. she lived her life like a poorer version of a trust-funder–no real direction, but so did i without any extra government money coming in except eventually Pell Grants and student loans for my degree.

  8. Oh

    It never ceases to amaze me how the majority of Americans begrudge welfare, unemployment and financial assistance to the poorer masses. Yet, they never question the millions of $$$ given to yuuge corporations in terms of subsidies, tax breaks, grants and out and out giveaways. For example, they love their football teams and support special tax districts to build them a stadium with the sponsoring entity (city or county) not even getting a share of the revenues nor ownership. The yarn that Reagan wove about the welfare mom collecting welfare payments while owning several Cadillacs cemented their lack of empathy for the poor. I’d rather see some money wasted on welfare cheats if the payments help the majority of the poor.

  9. Susan the other

    It’s not the unlucky – it’s the system. If China and Japan have low petty crime there’s another reason for that besides some isolated Asian morality. It’s probably closer to a sense of trust. So there’s a reason for that. And it would have to do with the entire social system. When government allows wealth to be extracted from the society in all the different ways costs are socialized in this country it leaves those with the least access to opportunity abandoned. And for the rich to arrogantly think they are not recipients of government largesse is absurd. When SSI kids turn 18 they don’t have enough money to buy groceries, but when rich kids turn 18 they can inherit vast wealth tax free? No wonder this country has lost all good faith.

    1. digi_owl

      I dunno about China, but i have read claims that the place kinda still runs on a extension of “family patriarch” idea (respect your elders etc).

      But japan has supposedly inherited from its feudal era this concept called giri. where back in the day the local lord was expected to look after the people in his fief, in return for their toil and loyalty. Something that has since been transferred forward to the modern Japanese corporation, and may explain why they are loath to fire people during downturns.

      BTW, there is an ongoing complaint that younger generations do not respect this idea of reciprocation. One example may be in the gaming industry where there have been some bruhaha about certain designers touting their own horn over that of the company they work for. This change is often attributed to western influence.

  10. Janie

    Oh, last sentence: rather see some money wasted on cheats if majority helps the poor. From my limited contacts, that seems to be a more European approach. Examples: a Swede told us something similar about his feelings regarding high taxes in Sweden. In England you weigh and label your own produce; Americans’ reaction – but what if somebody cheats! We don’t have a communitarian spirit here; there seems to be more suspicion that others are out to take advantage. I dunno, maybe my age is showing.

    1. fjallstrom

      As a Swede, I agree with the Swede in the example.

      I also think something interesting happened during 2020. For the last 20 years or so the sick insurance has been under much debate. The sick insurance isn’t to cover your medical care, which is payed with county taxes and from the state printing press. No the sick insurance is to pay you while you are ill. You stilll need to pay your rent and bills don’t you?

      Now, after Sweden entered the neoliberal system in the 90ies with mandatory unemployment, it eventually lead to more ill people, which the right used to undermine the sick insurance by claiming widespread fraud.

      However, that debate is pretty much gone now, after the sick insurance was pretty much put on the honor system in March 2020. Most controls were lifted, the system was made more generous and far as anyone can tell it worked as intended. Feeling a light sniffle? Do your civic duty and call in sick, stay home, and collect about 80% of missed pay check from the government (payed promptly too, often within a days of reporting it). I think a doctors note was needed if you were sick for more then two weeks, up until then it was up to you. Though the improvements were temporary, I think the support for the system has increased.

  11. JBird4049

    Has anyone taken a look at just how magnanimous (really, I mean pathetic) these payments are? SSI is a maximum of $941per a month with one dollar taken out for every two dollars earned by work. To oversimplify, If you make $900 per month they take out $450 from the monthly SSI payment less certain exclusions.

    Still, it is not much at all. It might cover food, utilities, plus incidental expenses, maybe. But not rent especially as there are no counties in the United States that has affordable on a minimum wage job. In the Bay Area, a room costs about a thousand and an apartment, an old, crappy one, costs two thousand.

    If they paid out SSI without the the deductions, then that might be honestly considered Supplemental Security Income, but jumping through the hoops, answering the unpleasant questions, and then getting the extremely meager, easily shrunken, amounts is a form of torture. About the only way to use SSI long term is by working under the table.

    This just shows how much nonsense American “welfare” is. Any American, Asian, or European who wants to be surprised or complain about people getting paid ought to consider the lack of work that pays enough even just to live, the difficulties of getting this welfare, and the ease of losing it, plus the penalties joyfully given for even honest mistakes by the recipient. Then add that the increases in payments by Social Security never seems to match inflation, which means that it shrinks a little bit each year. We are ruled by fricking sadists, we most certainly are.

  12. Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

    My wife once worked for a charity that “adopted” a freshman high school class in an impoverished part of Chicago. The children were given free tutoring aid, if they asked, and were told that if they successfully completed high school, their college tuition and expenses would be paid for.

    At the end of the 4-year high school period, some of the students had refused the free college education. The primary reason was discouragement from their parents, who needed them to work and earn money for the family.

    To no one’s surprise, those children who went on to college, particularly those who finished and received a degree, did much better financially, later.

    We didn’t track crime statistics on the group, but I would be willing to bet, that those who didn’t get a college degree were more likely to wind up in prison.

    The public, especially the right-wing, has endless money for punishment — the police, judges, and prison systems — but not enough money to prevent crime and its costs by reducing poverty.

    The rich, who run America, want a desperate public who will toil for low wages.

  13. David in Santa Cruz

    Another point bears our scrutiny: What is so darned magical about one’s 18th birthday?

    In the USA!USA! a young person generally has not even completed high school by that magical milestone. This study looks at young persons deemed to be in need of SSI support on one day and ineligible the next, simply by crossing the magical threshold. This practice offers that young person nothing less than concrete evidence that government and society are little but arbitrary and capricious oppressors.

    The 18th birthday of an American became a magical event as a legacy of the Vietnam War draft. There is no other reason to define “adulthood” at such a young age. In my many years working in the juvenile justice system I learned that current neuroscientific research suggests that based on brain development “adulthood” shouldn’t be conferred until age 21 in women and age 23 in men — if we define “adulthood” as the developmental maturity and skill needed to hold down a meaningfully remunerative livelihood. American militarism is a gift that keeps on giving.

    The only surprise here is that cutting-off these young people merely results in a 30 percent increase in criminal involvement. It suggests to me that the authors under-report the problem.

    1. Angie Neer

      Excellent points, David. I recall, though I was quite young at the time, when the U.S. constitution was amended to set the voting age at 18. I believe the impetus behind that was the obvious unfairness (and this is the USA, so it had to be 2-by-4-upside-the-head obvious in order to get any traction) of sending 18-year-olds off to Vietnam to kill and die, then saying they can’t be trusted to vote. Of course, I would have preferred they raised the kill-and-die age instead.

      1. David in Santa Cruz

        Of course, the Pentagon needed 18-21 year old men as cannon-fodder precisely because they were not yet past the age of irrational risk-taking and submission to group-think required of an infantryman. Grown men make lousy foot soldiers — why our military today is so reliant on airplanes and drones to kill remotely.

        Ending the war and the draft would have been the better option than giving children the vote, but that option was inconceivable to the Washington DC elites…

        1. JBird4049

          Grown men in wars like Civil War, World Wars One and Two were numerous, but in the War on Terror, which seems to be inflicting it on as counties as can probably be done, it is harder to get people to die for the Military-Industrial-Complex.

          1. David in Santa Cruz

            Not debating who should conduct America’s meaningless bullying and murder in support of our elites’ hegemonic delusions.

            Just demonstrating the cruelty of foisting “adult” personal “responsibility” and “accountability” on dependent young people who lack the developmental milestones necessary for success. The natural impulsivity and risk-taking that are part of an 18-21 year old’s developmental stage place them at high risk for criminal activity in order to survive. If they are sucked into the American mass incarceration gulag, they are unlikely to ever recover.

            Taking SSI away from eligible dependent children on their 18th birthday is cruel. But as always The Cruelty is the Point.

  14. Felix_47

    I have worked in the system and many Black mothers push us to declare their sons mentally disabled for this very reason. This is a well known issue that has been going on for a long time. It makes the providers and the clients and the mothers be dishonest. Likewise we have the school loan fiasco. Many of he mothers I see in a Junior College setting admit they are taking a few easy courses to qualify for student loans which pay for housing, transportation, child care, food and virtually anything one needs to survive. They realize they will never be able to pay these loans off when they sign for them and they have no intention of paying them off. But they see no other options since the fathers of their children do not pay child support and are often the very men who have just reached age 18 and are entering a career of penury, drugs and petty crime. So the student loan fiasco is, interestingly, related to the SSI fiasco. If we want to give kids and equal chance in the US we need to be sure the mothers have a reasonable income. We could afford to pay every mother of a Black child 5000 per month and cover her social security and health insurance. The young men who are the fathers of these children need to be employed with a jobs guarantee from the government. No one, including those on SSI, should not be working even if it is picking up cigarette butts in the local park. And if they do not show up for their job there should be significant punishment so they learn that coming to work Mondays and Fridays is a social value. We need to face the reality that the private sector cannot afford and will not hire young Black men in the US, care and nurture them, teach them work habits and skills. All the employers I work with want immigrants or Hispanics who have already learned these things. To make something like that happen and our society sure needs a lot of work to be done would require a level of authoritarianism that Americans are unlikely to ever approve. Financing it would be easy with a massive inheritance tax to make sure inheritance plays no part in US economic life so that the poorest Black kid has the same chance as a rich white kid, and appropriate cuts in the war budget. Right now with its laissez faire view towards childbearing the US government is acting like a dead beat dad. Kids are being produced willy nilly and dad is not paying support.

  15. JBird4049

    The United States would not have to been authoritarian, American society would just have to be demanding it; Programs like SSI and SSDI are difficult to be accepted for, even when clearly the applicants truly qualify and need it, the aid given is very inadequate, and the requirements are meant to discourage efforts improve their situation. If the aid given was truly worthy, people would demand that work be done by the applicants. Instead, trying to be productive can get you barred from the programs, even when you cannot support yourself.

    As an example, for SSDI or Social Security Disability Income, during the application and appeals process, which can take three years or more and is usually a minimum of a year, unless it is a terminal illness like cancer, the applicant can not have so much a dollar from any work, even baby sitting or mowing the lawn. Any amount of earned income during a period that often is years long is an automatic denial of eligibility. For SSI, one dollar is taken for every two dollars earned, and for SSDI earning more than $1350 gross in a month automatically drops a person from the program. Since disabilities are often variable in their effects over time, which means a person’s ability to work can change weekly, monthly, or even yearly, while the income limits have not kept up with inflation, it has gradually become harder to stay on these programs. In the Bay Area, a room is a thousand dollars and an apartment two thousand with the effective minimum wage at $17 dollars.

    Not only is the aim point for income apparently an inadequate $1,500, the whole system is designed to prevent, push off, and punish people who are often very disabled, poor, and lacking in resources like a family while giving an appearance of assistance. Really, it’s a means of quietly storing and disposing of those deemed worthless and labeled unwanted. Rather like the Democratic Party.

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