It's Easier to Get Welfare Than to Work

But that doesn't justify funding dependency.


There are no jobs!" That is what people told me outside a government "jobs center" in New York City.

To check this out, I sent four researchers around the area. They quickly found 40 job openings. Twenty-four were entry-level positions. One restaurant owner told me he would hire 12 people if workers would just apply.

It made me wonder what my government does in buildings called "job centers." So I asked a college intern, Zoelle Mallenbaum, to find out. Here's what she found:

"First I went to the Manhattan Jobs Center and asked, "Can I get help finding a job?" They told me they don't do that. 'We sign people up for food stamps.' I tried another jobs center. They told me to enroll for unemployment benefits."

So the "jobs" centers help people get handouts. Neither center suggested people try the 40 job openings in the neighborhood.

My intern persisted:

"I explained that I didn't want handouts; I wanted a job. I was told to go to 'WorkForce1,' a New York City program. At WorkForce1, the receptionist told me that she couldn't help me since I didn't have a college degree. She directed me to another center in Harlem. In Harlem, I was told that before I could get help, I had to come back for an 8:30 a.m. 'training session.'"

Our government helps you apply for handouts immediately, but forces you through a maze if you want to work.

"WorkForce1's website says to arrive 30 minutes early, so I did," Zoelle said. "A security guard told me the building was closed. At 9:15, Workforce1 directed 30 of us into a room where we were told that WorkForce1 directs candidates to jobs and provides a resource room with 'free' phone, fax and job listings and helps people apply for unemployment insurance and disability handouts. This seemed like the only part of the presentation when people took notes.

"One lady told me that she comes to WorkForce1 because it helps her collect unemployment. One asked another, 'What do you want to do?' The second laughed, 'I want to collect!' One told me, 'I've been coming here 17 months; this place is a waste of time.'

"Finally, I met with an 'adviser.' She told me I lacked experience. I know this. I asked for any job she thought I was qualified for, and she scheduled an interview at Pret, a food chain that trains employees. At Pret, I learned that my 'interview' was just a weekly open house, publicized on the company's website. Anyone could walk in and apply. Workforce1 offered no advantage. Despite my 'scheduled interview,' I waited 90 minutes before meeting a manager. He told me that WorkForce1 had 'wasted my time, as they always do.' He said, 'They never call, never ask questions.' He prefers to hire people who seek out jobs on their own, like those who see Pret ads on Craigslist.'"

My intern learned a lot from this experience. Here are her conclusions:

  • It's easier to get welfare than to work.
  • The government would rather sign me up for welfare than help me find work.
  • America has taxpayer-funded bureaucracies that encourage people to be dependent. They incentivize people to take "free stuff," not to take initiative.
  • It was easier to find job openings on my own. The private market for jobs works better than government "job centers."

Yet now New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to expand Workforce1, claiming that it helps people "find real opportunities." I bet he never sends people in to find out whether they really do.

Once politicians figured out that welfare creates dependency and hurts poor people, they (logically) assumed that employment services and job training would help. Job training does help—when employers do it. But government does everything badly.

GeorgiaWork$, a state program in that state, provided such poor training that only 14 percent of trainees were hired.

The Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) operated more like a commercial for government handouts. It launched door-to-door food stamp recruiting campaigns, and gave people free rides to welfare offices.

America now has 47 federal jobs programs. They fail. Yet politicians want more. They always want more.

NEXT: Early Reviews of Atlas Shrugged Part II

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  1. I see no difference between shooting someone in the head and not helping them receive unemployment benefits instead of actively looking for employment.

    Did I get that right Tony?

  2. CETA was a glorious success. I read that in The Washington Post, which never prints anything that isn’t true.

  3. No dependency, no need for agencies to fund that dependency. No need for workers to staff that agency. What possible incentive does it have to get people off the dole if getting people off the dole makes it irrelevant? Incentives matter.

  4. Our government helps you apply for handouts immediately, but forces you through a maze if you want to work

    People who work might get some inappropriate ideas, like doing well in their jobs and moving up in position and salary. If that were to happen, they might start looking at their pay check stubs and wondering where all of those tax withholdings are going to. That could lead to them doing some research and finding out where that money they worked hard for is actually going. That could lead them to start thinking really crazy things, like voting for anti-tax small government types, or god forbid, becoming a radicalized Libertarian. We can’t have that.

  5. I actually know the situation in the workforce investment area pretty well.

    The career centers like the one in the article look like one office from the outside, but the staff inside are generally working on several different programs for more than one agency.

    If you qualify for youth programs and need a GED, they’ll have staff for that.

    If you qualify for Trade Adjustment Assistance (job training for workers laid off “due to overseas competition”), they’ll have staff for that.

    If you’re collecting UI, there are staff available paid from federal Workforce Investment Act funds to find you job training opportunities.

    But if you don’t fall into one of the niche target areas that qualify for specialized federal funding, all these centers are going to do is hand you a list of jobs from their database and point you to a bank of computers and phones. Like they did to the person in the article. You’re better off staying home and saving the bus fare and logging on to indeed.com.

    1. They should print what you just said on a sign and paste the sign to the main door of the office. Save everyone a bunch of time.

      1. Right, but a lot of other public assistance programs now have job search requirements. So food stamp recipients, for example, are supposed to go to the career center once a week to look for employment.

        That was what was scandalous to me about Obama redefining the work requirements for welfare programs. They wanted to allow states to change from requirements that people do actual work, to a requirement that allows people to do “extended” job search and job training. But in practice what that would mean is that they’d have people walk into the career center once a week and get their card scanned, and call that “enrollment in an intensive job search assistance program” to qualify for the waiver.

  6. America has taxpayer-funded bureaucracies that encourage people to be dependent. They incentivize people to take “free stuff,” not to take initiative.

    Duh, if they actually helped people find work, then the bureacrat’s own phoney-baloney overpaid government desk jobs would disappear. You wouldn’t want them to have to go get a real job would you?

    “You don’t know what it’s like out there! I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results.”

  7. Look guys, I jus want meh Obama buckz, ight?

    Jus leave meh alone and pay for mah sh*t.


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