A Basic Income Guarantee is Never Going to Substitute for the Welfare State

Generations of welfare have destroyed budgeting skills.


I'm not going to address the macro issue of the Basic Income Guarantee, which is basically a check that everyone gets from the government, here. Just the micro one that it can be used as a substitute for welfare.

Current federal social welfare programs in the United States are an expensive, complicated mess. According to Michael Tanner, the federal government spent more than $668 billion on over one hundred and twenty-six anti-poverty programs in 2012. When you add in the $284 billion spent by state and local governments, that amounts to $20,610 for every poor person in America.

Wouldn’t it be better just to write the poor a check?

Each one of those anti-poverty programs comes with its own bureaucracy and its own Byzantine set of rules. If you want to shrink the size and scope of government, eliminating those departments and replacing them with a program so simple it could virtually be administered by a computer seems like a good place to start. Eliminating bloated bureaucracies means more money in the hands of the poor and lower costs to the taxpayer. Win/Win.

It might indeed be better, but it's not going to happen. The welfare state is premised on the inability of the receivers to manage their own affairs. That's the whole premise of ObamaCare.

The issue has never been mere poverty. It's the premise that the underclass is oppressed by some combination of elite supremacism and their own ineptitude. They're not meant to be anything except wards of the state.

So it's a trade off that is never going to be made. And the unfortunate truth is that a lot of the beneficiaries are not capable of managing a budget. Even a basic monthly one. The benefits they receive are structured so that they have some trouble wasting them. Food stamps are meant to go to food. Medical benefits are paid by the government. Etc...

Generations of welfare have destroyed budgeting skills.