Why Not Welfare 'SSI'?

I know around the time Pres. Clinton was in office, people were saying about welfare “mend it, don’t end it”. Yet for most politicians even now, “reforming” welfare means just that–ending it all for good.

One question I must’ve had for some time now, why can’t they just let people work (one of the biggest arguments for welfare reform) and then supplement their income with government checks?

I know they have this with social security. It’s called “SSI”. So why isn’t there a welfare SSI equivalent of this? Many people are willing to work, but “underemployed”. A supplement to their income is just what they need.


FWIW, we have this in Canada under the name Employment Insurance. When you work you build up hours that you can draw on if you are laid off (or quit under special circumstances which was the case for me). There is a maximum to the amount you can collect (55% of your best wages in the previous year) and a time limit to how long you can draw EI. However, you can work and be on EI at the same time. You just have to declare your income by filling out a form with how many hours you worked and what your wage was. You are allowed to make so much per pay period before EI holds back some benefits. In my case I think it was about $79 per week. So if I little to no hours at my job, I’d get a decent EI check. If I was getting good hours I’d get little to nothing from EI. It saved my bacon quite a bit.


If you supplement people’s meager incomes, you remove the motivation for them to get a better job!



If you supplement people’s meager incomes, you remove from the employer the responsibility of providing fair wages!


Though I don’t have a cite, I seem to recall some single mothers complaining that the jobs they were required to work in order to earn welfare netted them very little money after transportation and childcare are paid. Given the loss of bonding opportunity for the child(ren), such work can be regarded as of negative net value.

I favor some government-provided services with no means testing at all. This saves the bureaucratic costs and inconvenience of the means testing itself, and also makes incentives work better since low-income people now get full benefit from wage increases. We do this already with schools, police and fire protection. At a minimum we should do this with health-care as well.

You have to be disabled to qualify for SSI. I’m not sure in what sense it’s “equivalent”. You can work while on full Social Disability (SSDI) too, to a point.

Anyway, I’m not sure about other states, but in Florida we have the Short Time Compensation unemployment plan which allows employers with cyclical labor needs to “lay off” workers for a given number of hours per week, which makes those employees eligible for partial unemployment benefits.

I think you’re wrong, but you can easily convince me otherwise with a good cite.

That’s not done, to some degree, now? Are you proposing that we eliminate the Minimum Wage and replace it with cash payments?

This is actually the case in some states to a slight degree. In WA, only half of earned income (and only earned income, not unearned income) counts against your welfare amount, so if you made $400 a month from employment your welfare would only be reduced by $200. SSI is also reduced by other income you receive, so it’s similar.

But you have to keep in mind that the dollar amount of cash assistance is usually extremely low anyway, often just a couple hundred dollars a month even if you have no other income. I think most states ostensibly do have employment incentives, but welfare amounts are so low that there isn’t much room to give people partial benefits.

That happens already. In New York, at least, employment isn’t in itself a bar to TA (Temporary assistance). It’s strictly a matter of income/need. Largely, what welfare reform did was to set limits on the amount of time that people could receive cash assistance.

I would remove the whole welfare system as it is today. Completely. Replace it with this:

Government-provided “hostels”. Small apts (small) for families, roommate apts (2 per bedroom) for singles. Minimal functional furniture. For those who live there, food (basic, nutritious, in communal area) and clothes (basic, functional) are provided. Babysitting for working mothers is provided. Maybe minimal entertainment - basic cable in the room. You cannot “beautify” your apartment - cannot bring in your own furniture, your own TV, upgrade the cable, buy your own clothes, bring in outside food. No means testing whatsoever. You can leave at any time, but once you do you cannot return for 2 months. If you’re not residing there for more than a week, it’s as if you left. HEAVILY policed so they are safe.

It can be tweaked, but that’s the main principle. You need the safety net - there you go. But you won’t enjoy it or want to be on it for any longer than you have to.

Since you can come and go freely I would have LOVED this in my early 20’s. I could have done side work for cash for my drinking money, and partied at friends house’s then go home and sleep it off at my hostel. No getting up early for work, no bills, no responsiblity!

No problem. And since there is no means testing, you don’t have to do work for cash - you can get a regular job. You can be CEO of Exxon and still live in the hostel. You would have to dress like a drone and couldn’t have much creature comforts - but if you chose to live like that, sure.

Yeah that wasn’t meant to be a bash on your idea, just a random musing. You might be right, even with people misusing the system, it may end up being cheaper than all the paperwork and red tape associated with the others.

Imagine if the government provided free college level education. Sounds crazy, but they already provide grades 1-12, why not also an additional 4 years for a bachelors degree?

I know tons of people who flunked out of college because they were too immature at age 18 when they got scholarships. They were also too busy and had too many bills when they matured to ever go back.

Under this system people could just take off, live in the hostel and get an education for free. I wonder if the increase in college grads and a more educated workforce would outweigh the cost of the program in the long run?

“Welfare”, as most people think of it, has been over and dead since 1996. There is no more “welfare”, as such. It’s a GOP bogieman.

This sounds like less of a safety net and more of a permanent housing plan. What happens to people who own their own homes and are temporarily unemployed, etc.?

They buy unemployment insurance while they worked and live off that until they find work. Or, if they didn’t, they live off their savings. Then they sell their house.

The welfare/hostel route is the last resort. As it should be. And it would be permanent only for people who are willing to put up with the inconveniences and limitations of living there.

Up to a maximum amount of $485 per week, which after taxes, is something like $750 every two weeks.

Not really a king’s ransom after paying into the program for decades.

In light of our present situation, it seems kind of obvious that the latter is not much of a solution.

You can always sell the house. The question is for how much. If the price for which you can sell is less than the mortgage on it, you walk away.

That’s pretty much the current shelter system. the problem with that is that it’s both more expensive and socially disruptive than just giving people things like housing aid and rental assistance.


I go even further: I think we should revive the Basic Income Guarantee idea, with no requirements beyond, say, a minimum age and legal residency.

The idea behind this is to democratize the economy slightly: A citizen has the right to pay someone to provide him with goods and services, but without the capacity that right is not a practical right. A concentration of wealth breeds a plutocratic economy. But a society where everyone gets a minimum share of the nation’s GDP is one where businesses are encouraged to service the general populace, not just the rich.

Granted, it will also encourage some to try to fleece the general populace, but what else is new?