Voluntary Workfare

The 1996 TANF reforms turned the legacy welfare payment system from chronic support into something closer to an income-smoothing program. Recipients are eligible only temporarily, and subject to certain restrictions. Unconditional Basic Income proposals aim to reverse that idea, to deliver cash to everyone to do with as they please.

Contrast that with wage subsidies, or conditional income, where you’re eligible for transfer payments tied to good-faith efforts to stay employed.

I ask myself what the purpose of transfer payments are. Are they chiefly to help ease liquidity problems for people who find themselves intermittently employed, or are they chiefly to support people who, for reasons of accident or injury utterly unable to support themselves with the fruits of their labor?

Unconditional Basic Income may produce unintended, unwanted consequences. Workfare addresses some of these worries, but can it not carry with it the risk of heaving out the most vulnerable on their backsides? 

I’m afraid I see no good way for an omnibus repeal of the crazy ad hoc patchwork of transfer systems to stick given what I know of public opinion from my time spent questing in the realm of the General Social Survey. Workfare is a tradeoff, not a solution.

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