Weaponizing Employment the Poor

  1. According to the US Census Bureau poverty rate was 12.3%, a 0.4% decrease from the year before. The poverty rate has fallen 2.5%. So if the current trend line is a declining poverty rate why is a harsh condition like work requirements for the poor necessary at this time?
  2. This effort was last tried under Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich with their 1996 welfare reform legislation. We’ve had a couple decades to see how that has gone and studies like those from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and in the book Making Ends Meet (Edin and Lein) show that despite short term marginal improvements in employment they were not sustainable, mostly due to necessary and increased living expenses, absorbing any work generated financial gains.
  3. Where are these jobs that the poor are supposed to get? If you’ve spent most of your life in poverty chances are quite low you can pick up a knowledge-economy job quickly. We’ve all heard how the traditional manual labor jobs are drying up, so what’s left? Lousy-waged part-time jobs with unpredictable and changeable hours is what’s left.
  4. If the government feels the need to pick on somebody shouldn’t it be the employers of vast numbers of unskilled and low-skilled who pay their workers, including the working poor, insufficient wages that in turn need to be underwritten by the American tax payers?

Now one place where there could be political agreement is in the government providing subsidized high quality work training requirements targeted to actually helping the poor get the knowledge and skills needed for a globalized and digitized economy. Currently, training requirements can be in lieu of work requirements, but their effectiveness remains questionable.