Incentives to Get Off Welfare

Another spinoff from the discussion about Equality Under the Law clicked a switch in my brain. Nothing that Anti-PC Infidel says in his post should surprise anyone who has seen the discussion already, but for some reason the following statement made a connection to another issue that I have struggled to resolve for a long time:

This is often combined with the sin of destroying the recipients of {welfare} by encouraging them to be lazy and unproductive, irresponsible and greedy, by putting them on the dole.

I have long wished for some way to make it more difficult to vote for those who do not care to take the time to become informed. The thought struck me that we could make the right to vote contingent on paying at least as much in taxes as we receive in government handouts. This does not directly solve my original conundrum, but it would give incentive to those receiving welfare to find a way to become independent from government handouts if they desire to vote. Essentially, in addition to current requirements for voting, the payment of taxes equal to or in excess of any money received as welfare, food stamps, social security, unemployment benefits, rental assistance, etc. would give each person the right – like a shareholder – to vote in elections. This same rule should probably apply to board members of corporations that receive subsidies from the federal government as well.

I recognize that some will complain that such a plan would favor Republicans since poor people are statistically more likely to vote Democratic, but I would appreciate it if arguments for and against were framed in a way that was independent of party politics.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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35 Responses to Incentives to Get Off Welfare

  1. Reach Upward says:

    The trouble with this is that it would have to be pro-rated over a lifetime, since recipients of government benefits tend to receive those benefits in varying amounts over their lifetimes, and similarly pay taxes in varying amounts over their lifetimes. I don’t see that there would an equitable way to make this work.

  2. Marie says:

    Also, in the constitution it forbids poll taxes. I know this isn’t exactly like that, but it seems like a small step towards allowing only the rich to have a voice in the country. (just like only land owners, or only males) And as we find ways to disenfranchise members of our society it opens the doors for others to pull the vote out for numerous other “non-partisan” reasons.

  3. You have to take a test to get a license to drive a car so you can get to work every day and feed your family, but any moron can vote to decide who will control the military, the police force, the fire department, community finances, etc.

    The most positive aspect of requiring some type of property ownership, etc., for voting is that business owners and other property owners are usually more serious about what happens to the economy, and have usually learned a bit more about it from experience, than non-property owners. An inexperienced 18-year old kid with no property or any other real responsibility is not likely to have the capability of making an informed choice. And so, we get candidates like Barack 0bama who don’t know any more about economics (or anything else, really) than an inexperienced 18-year old kid with no property and no real responsibility. We get rainbows and unicorns. Yippee.

    Most people now, whether they’re on the government dole or not, seem to be so greedy that I think they’ll always vote in whomever they think will give them more of somebody else’s property. If we really cared about liberty, if we had any honor and integrity at all, we would vote only for those men who would do everything in their power to get the government out of our lives as much as is humanly possible.

    But we’re greedy cowards. We want that safety net to be provided by somebody else.

    I also have a feeling that the type of person generally on the dole isn’t likely to care much about voting anyway. It would take them out from in front of “Oprah” or “Survivor,” and make them put forth the effort to walk down to the polling place. That would be almost as bad as having to get a job.

  4. David says:


    The equitable solution, as I see it, is to have the financial qualifications be calculated every two years (one congressional election cycle). If I have paid as much in taxes as I have received in handouts over the last two years then I can vote, otherwise I have to sit this one out.


    I recognize your concern, but I think the question of what constitutes the proper electorate in a democratic society is one that should be open for discussion. Do you really believe that voting should be open to anyone willing to go to the polls? All of the limitations we currently have are open for debate as well (age, citizenship, criminal history).


    You obviously recognize the value in limiting the right to vote so long as we can settle on reasonable limitations. You should note that my suggestion would not prevent “an inexperienced 18-year old kid with no property and no real responsibility” from voting so long as he was not taking government handouts – he could be living with parents and still qualify.

    Also, I have heard (and opposed) calls to lower the voting age to 16. If we were to implement the restrictions I outlined I could even be persuaded to consider lowering the voting age since those receiving assistance would still be ineligible.

  5. Reach Upward says:

    I assume you are talking about only directly paid benefits. Or else how would you equitably assign value to benefits such as use of roads, police services, military efforts, the justice system, etc.? Equal assignment would present a problem because we do not all consume these services equally.

    Moreover, if each person were allotted a share of the cost of these general services, I think few would qualify to vote, because our federal government is in the habit of spending far more than it takes in.

  6. David says:

    You are absolutely right, I am talking about directly paid benefits – for exactly the reasons you listed.

    I wonder what the federal government would do if nobody voted?

  7. Marie says:

    But isn’t the reason we have the electoral college (although they’re merely a figurehead now) to help “control” the masses? The more restrictions we place on voting, the easier it is to add more, possibly even unreasonable ones, which could lead to a minority of people able to vote instead of a majority, which can lead to an oligarchy. (and I recognize that we have a minority voting now anyway, but that’s by choice and not force)
    I do think your welfare vs. taxes amount is a good idea, and I recognize that it is actually not forced disenfranchisement. You can choose at any point in time to not take your welfare checks, or try to earn more money, so it is actually by choice and not force. Also, you’re more focusing on an incentive to get off welfare, not a way to control who votes. So in theory I think it’s great! In practice I’m afraid of government taking rights away from people.

  8. David says:

    That is certainly a justified fear. I believe that the risk of adding unreasonable restrictions is one that we face every day of our lives under any government. We can let the fear of that risk prevent us from making decisions about the proper balance between mobocracy and oligarchy.

    I don’t believe the purpose of the electoral college is that control the masses*. The purpose was to balance the rights of individual voters with the rights of individual states that were not equal in size, but were supposed to be equally sovereign within the republic.

    * Even if the electoral college were intended to control the masses it is only a factor in presidential elections and plays no role in congressional, state, or local elections.

  9. alliegator says:

    I don’t like the idea of limiting someone’s ability to vote based on welfare vs. taxes.

    I do like the idea of reorganizing welfare to avoid multi-generation welfare families.

    Rather than use the inability to vote as an incentive (I agree with infidel- I don’t think it would be a motivating factor for those who are abusing the welfare system.).

    I think the welfare system needs to be administered on a more local level, and cases need to be looked at individually. Then a case plan can be set up to establish what the family needs to become self supporting again. Then the plan could include job training, food, housing assistance, with a specific end date.

  10. David says:

    In other words, Alliegator, you favor a non-federal welfare plan. I think that’s a fabulous idea.

    Admittedly, the plan I outlined would not provide incentive for the multi-generational welfare types, but it would provide some incentive for people who don’t really need rental assistance, or unemployment benefits, or social security (meaning they could get by without it even though they qualify) to forgo their cash benefit if they are serious about voting.

    Obviously this idea was not completely fleshed out to begin with, but I think it’s worth stirring the waters with a new idea to see what comes to the surface.

  11. alliegator says:

    I wonder what my BIL would do- He’s in medical school and I know they receive food stamps (I guess it’s actually a card now…) and something else- WIC maybe, and they are on medicaid. (which drives me nuts because of how he rails against socialized medicine- but that’s another story.)

    Would he give up voting for the next several elections until he is done with medical school, or would he take out more loans?


  12. David says:

    That would be a tough conundrum under the proposal. My brother would have been in a similar pinch (law school) before he graduated this year.

    In each case that is a choice they could make for themselves based on their personal priorities. (Obviously it would be tempting but counterproductive to start making exceptions for apparently worthy causes.)

  13. Velska says:

    First: read all of this; I am not advocating for any party or candidate.

    Infidel sez: “any moron can vote to decide who will control the military…etc”

    This reminded that the reason Bush won the 2004 election over Kerry was that people felt they’d rather have a beer with George Bush than John Kerry. This, of course, is only one of the diverse arguments people gave, but among the independents this seemed pretty decisive. This seems to prove Infidel’s point.

    But to the idea of limiting voting rights based on government handouts vs. taxes balance. Brings back the original idea of what are reasonable limits to voting rights. I suppose that is a worthy debate in itself, and may be worth having. But then that would bring out questions about shareholders in certain industries that benefit directly from government policies, government employees, IQ limits, etc… All those could be reasonably well argued to limit certain people’s ability to make a really informed decision. I am more worried about the voter turnout in U.S. – low enough to make you wonder if you can still call it a democracy.

    Would you bar from voting based on the balance a disabled veteran who’s getting disability compensation because he/she just can not work with his disabilities?

    BTW, multi-generational welfare families are mostly a result of a vicious cycle of no decent primary education -> no chance to have good secondary education -> no way to have higher education. This can be seen in Europe and America.

  14. >multi-generational welfare families are mostly a result of a vicious cycle of no decent primary education -> no chance to have good secondary education -> no way to have higher education.

    Actually, multi-generational welfare families are almost exclusively the result of an unwillingness to take personal responsibility for finding employment, work hard, and sacrifice luxuries for a time. Education is important, but hard work and self-discipline are far more important in getting off the dole. Without hard work and self-discipline, it won’t even be possible to become educated. (Even if you do end up getting socially promoted and graduated, you won’t actually be educated.)

  15. David says:


    You raise some good questions. I think the debate is worth having – in part because voter turnout is so low that democracy is hardly descriptive of our country and I think part of the reason for that is that we think so little of the right to vote.

    The questions of government employees, disabled veterans, and shareholders of Lockheed or Haliburton are valid questions in the debate. I would argue that the situation of all those groups is vastly different than people who simply live on various forms of welfare. The groups you mentioned are not simply being handed something.

    The disabled veteran has already sacrificed for their country and their payments are a direct result of that sacrifice.

    The government employees are trading the opportunity to work for some other entity.

    The shareholders are engaged in a business transaction, and if the only people voting were those who were paying a positive tax balance they might be more careful about subsidizing corporations unless those corporations were really delivering a service.

  16. alliegator says:

    Infidel- Hard work and self-discipline ARE very important, however, if you are raised by parents who have never learned how to work hard or have discipline because their parents never learned, and their parents never learned… it becomes difficult to overcome.

    Education becomes even more important for families like this because somewhere the chain has to be broken, and people do have to learn to work and discipline themselves.

  17. >Education becomes even more important for families like this

    What you don’t seem to understand is that students who don’t know how to work hard and exercise self-discipline will not get an education, even if they get into college, etc. Believe me, I fail plenty of them every semester because they don’t come to class, don’t do the work, and generally waste their time. They fail, get put on academic probation, then get kicked out of school. That just makes it harder for them to get back into school if they finally pull their heads out and start working hard.

    The hard work and self-discipline has to come first or it is 100% impossible for them to get an education.

    Most college students shouldn’t be in college in the first place, and certainly shouldn’t be getting diplomas.

    Or are you a fan of social promotion/graduation?

  18. David says:

    The hard work and self-discipline has to come first or it is 100% impossible for them to get an education.

    I have to agree with Infidel here – the self-discipline must come before any real education is possible.

    I was one of those students who should not have been in college after high school. I did not know how to work hard and be disciplined academically. I was intelligent enough, but did not have those skills. I have a Masters degree and even started a PhD (I had learned how to work by then) but all of my real education has come outside the institutions of education.

  19. alliegator says:

    I’m not a fan of social promotion, and at the college level, I would agree that students do need to master (to some extent at least) self discipline.

    I’m speaking of much earlier education. If parents can’t or won’t for whatever reason (maybe because they’ve never been taught themselves) teach their children self discipline and hard work, that has to come from somewhere.

    I wonder how many of the students of yours who fail and get kicked out of school are actually from “multi-generational welfare” families. I would suspect that a large number of them are from fairly well to do families where they were spoiled, and never expected to do any hard work. I don’t think it’s fair or accurate to assume that those students must be from families taking advantage of welfare.

  20. I get the whole range of student, from the variety of Affirmative Action type students to well-to-do families. But over the years there has been absolutely no pattern in economic conditions when it comes to performance. The only pattern is that the good students take responsibility to do the work, and the bad students don’t.

    If there is any other pattern, I would have to say that it is that the welfare/Affirmative Action types expect to be coddled more than the other students. In my classes, they get an education or they fail. I don’t do coddling.

    But the fact remains that no real education will happen without hard work and self-discipline, whether the student is in kindergarten or a PhD program.

  21. alliegator says:

    Good for you! (I’m not being sarcastic- I don’t think college students should be coddled).

    If no real education can happen without hard work and discipline, what do you do for children with parents who don’t know how to work hard or discipline themselves? Is sounds like you are suggesting that there is no way to break the cycle.

  22. David says:

    Some parents who know how to work hard have children who do not seem to learn that lesson (I know this by experience) – likewise, there are parents who have not learned how to work hard who have children who do learn that (I believe this intuitively).

    I don’t believe that there is no way to break the cycle, but I do believe that any kind of a dole is not conducive to teaching that lesson to the next generation.

  23. alliegator says:

    I agree that a hand out is not the way to break the cycle. I asked, because I’m not sure how you’d go about that.

    Other than implementing my welfare system maybe…

    Give the parents job training, then phase them off welfare. Maybe that’s really the only way to make sure the cycle stops.

    • holly says:

      i,ll tell you a way the cycle can stop ask the president to lower rent payments , lower milk , lower childrens clothing, if the government wasn,t trying to get so rich there wouldn’t be so many on welfare

      • David says:

        If the government were directly controlling the price of rent, milk, children’s clothing etc. we would be in even worse trouble as a nation than we are now. The president does not have the power to lower those prices – all they can do is subsidize them as they are doing now.

        P.S. If the government were trying to get rich they wouldn’t do it by spending 50% more than they get in tax revenue. I almost wish they were affected by a profit motive.

  24. Anti-PC Infidel says:

    >Is sounds like you are suggesting that there is no way to break the cycle.

    The only way to break the cycle is to stop making it easy for people to stay on the dole. It needs to be painful to be on the dole. Regardless of whether or not people have learned from their parents to work hard and have self-discipline, they can choose to themselves, and that’s the only way they’ll do it. Too many people are blaming their bad choices on having had bad parents. When they’re small children, maybe they can blame their parents, but when they’re adults, they have no excuse whatsoever.

  25. David says:

    I think you are both saying the same thing now – a temporary assistance is useful in helping people not to starve, but the emphasis is on temporary. Those who want to live on handouts after a reasonable period of time (I would say that it should rarely exceed weeks) should not be able to do so on a government program. (They would be free to do so if they have willing friends and/or family to support them.)

  26. alliegator says:

    Yes, people can choose for themselves, but having parents who don’t teach you to work hard makes it much more difficult.

    Other than that, I agree 100%.

  27. alliegator says:

    David- even the church’s welfare (as far as I know) doesn’t have a set time limit. It is based on the individual needs and circumstances.

  28. David says:

    I believe you are right on the fact that there is no preset time limit on church assistance, but I don’t think there are any cases of perpetual (and especially multi-generational) assistance. Whatever it is in the church system that deters such abuse should be studied and emulated.

  29. mary says:

    I am a widowed mother of twin boys in school full-time to earn a degree and everywhere I turn, the county tells me no. I am looking for housing, but the section 8 housing list is closed until “they dont know”. And when I do graduate with my Bachelor’s in biology, they will no longer pay my daycare for further education. I want to enroll in a master’s program and get off of welfare for good, but the help they give you is so limited….its like they don’t want you to succeed!!!

  30. David says:

    That’s the funny thing about government solutions – they are not adaptable enough. Too often they give money to people who know how to work the system, but who should not be receiving the help and at the same time they often fail to help those who have the most need. That’s one of the reasons that private charity tends to be more effective – it is generally more adaptive to individual circumstance.

  31. Peter Piper says:

    My uncle served in Vietnam. He came home and four years later graduated with honors from the University of Michigan, got married and earned a decent living. He purchased some land and built his first and only home at age thirty-three. He was a volunteer firefighter as well as a volunteer at the local humane society. He was an outstanding citizen and always paid his taxes. Seven years ago my uncle lost his job due to the company going under. He took a lower paying job with fewer benefits in order to keep his family in the same town. Five years ago my aunt was diagnosed with cancer. The insurance company covered only a small percentage of what was required for her medications and treatment. They had to sell their home and two cars to keep up with the medical bills. They had to move into a tiny apartment in town in order to be closer to the hospital where my aunt had her treatments. My uncle could not afford to to pay the balance of his taxes for the past three years and has even had to accept food stamps and housing assistance to keeps food on the table and a roof over their heads. My cousins are in college now and work 35-40 hours a week to send as much money as they can to their parents. I recently graduated college and send what I can, but their expenses have caused them to rely on the support programs of the government. Are you saying my Uncle should not be allowed to vote?

  32. David says:

    I have copied the comment by Peter Piper to my new site ( and responded there.

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