How government programs trap people in poverty

I often disagree with Albuquerque Journal columnist Winthrop Quigley, but once in awhile he hits upon a very important issue and sheds some real light on it. His recent article on problems with America’s “anti-poverty” programs. The problem can be illustrated in the chart which accompanied Quigley’s column:

Basically, as an individual (in this case a single woman with a child) works harder, improves her skills, and earns more money, the various government programs conspire to limit her improvement in living standards. So, she works harder, invests in herself and her education and winds up back where she was before (or arguably worse off because she is working harder).

Libertarians have argued for a variety of reforms including simply giving the cash equivalent of these programs to the poor. Others have argued that anti-poverty programs should be block-granted to the states where the “50-state laboratories of democracy” can come up with better ideas than a one-size-fits-all policy dictated out of Washington. Still others argue that private charity is the best option.

No matter what changes are made to current welfare programs, it is hard to say that those who are out to dramatically reform the current welfare system “hate the poor.” Rather, it is the current system that keeps the poor trapped in a discouraging cycle.