Welfare

Would the Poor Be Better Off Without Welfare? A Debate Next Week in New York City.

Neera Tanden from the Center for American Progress vs. Tarren Bragdon from the Foundation for Government Accountability at the Soho Forum.

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"Fifteen million able-bodied adults on government welfare would have a better chance at economic betterment if they were taken off welfare."

That resolution will be debated by Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, and Tarren Bragdon, president of the Foundation for Government Accountability, on Monday, December 11 at New York City's Subculture Theater. The event is part of the Soho Forum, a monthly Oxford-style debate series that's sponsored by the Reason Foundation. Its mission is to feature "topics of special interest to libertarians" while enhancing "social and professional ties within New York's libertarian community."

Neera Tanden and Tarren Bragdon |||

Doors open at 5:45 p.m. and the event starts at 6:30. There will be a cash bar and food that's included with admission. Tickets are $18 ($10 for students) and must be purchased in advance. You can bring a friend for free.

For those who can't attend, we'll also be live streaming the event on Reason's Facebook page, where you'll be able to vote for the winner and drop questions for Tanden and Bragdon in the comments. We'll take a couple of the best and read them aloud at the event.

Later, we'll also run the event the event at Reason TV's YouTube Channel and on the Reason Podcast. For past Soho Forums, go here.

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  1. “Fifteen million able-bodied adults on government welfare would have a better chance at economic betterment if they were taken off welfare.”

    “First, let’s define ‘able-bodied’ and ‘economic betterment’.”

  2. The question is too vague. Are we talking the original “safety net” understanding, or the modern “lifestyle” understanding of the thing?

    1. I’m guessing that, by “fifteen million able-bodied adults,” they have certain welfare programs in mind. E.g., elderly and handicapped are excluded. (though abuse of disability benefits has got to be mentioned at some point, riiiight?)

      1. What happened after welfare reform was that social workers started encouraging people to apply for SSI (for themselves or their kids), so now SSI plays the role that “welfare” (i.e. TANF) used to. The $735/month a person can get with SSI is a lot stronger deterrent to bettering oneself than the less-than-$200/month most TANF recipients get.

        I work in vocational rehabilitation, so I have a problem with the “able-bodied” label not only because it implies mental disabilities don’t count, but also because there are plenty of people with legitimate disabilities who are able to work.

        1. The term ‘able-bodied’ can be read several ways, but from the framing of the debate parameters it seems to imply ‘people who are able to work’ which would appear to discount those who are actually disabled, either mentally or otherwise.

      2. Even within that cohort there’s room for nuance. We were on it for a few years due to circumstance when I was very young but there was never any question of it being a permanent thing. My mom got back in the workforce as soon as she was able. And we were better off for it. So yeah, the answer is yes, with minor caveats.

        1. Like morphine, public assistance can be helpful to those in need but if you give too much it can be addicting and destroy your life.

          1. Well, many of the current structures are even worse. As, rather famously, the threshold for losing benefits and actually making the amount of money to replace those benefits is quite large.

            I literally know people who had a very hard time getting off certain types of public assistance because they could not earn enough money working to make up for the benefits lost. That’s a real negative incentive that comes from the current system.

            Though, nobody needs to argue that the current system is very broken. More like we’d be arguing over what aspects are most broken.

    2. There is another ambiguity to the question as well. Are we talking about what will happen to the poor on welfare now in the short term, or what the state of the poor as a class would be in a system with less or no welfare. If welfare ended today, many people would doubtless be worse off in the sense of having less money/resources to provide the essentials. But without lots of welfare, “the poor” would be a much more dynamic and impermanent class/status.

      1. It says “would have a better chance at economic betterment.” While Tanden has the opportunity to weasel around the point of the question, I think a good-faith reading of the resolution is pretty unambiguous.

    1. not so bad for a Bajoran, actually.

      What’s freaky is that her name is an anagram for “Antenna Deer”. Coincidence? I think not!

  3. Why is Reason sponsoring this? There is no world in which the media coverage of this will be anything other than “heartless libertarians hate the poor.” That’s a symptom of how piss poor the media is at dealing with complex topics, but it is nonetheless the response that will arrive. The speakers will be depicted as monocle-wearing villains with waxed mustaches and orphan-skin gloves.

    If it were phrased some other way, maybe, but this will ? sadly ? just raise hackles and do nothing to promote the cause.

    1. There has been no media coverage whatsoever of previous Soho Forum events. Why would this one be any different?

      1. ^This^

        It doesn’t involve any celebrities being accused of sexual assaults from 30+ years ago or Trump’s tweets, so no one cares.

    2. There is no world in which this gets any media coverage. I think a couple may have aired on C-SPAN2, that’s about it.

  4. “There is no world in which the media coverage of this will be anything other than “heartless libertarians hate the poor.””

    By media do you mean Brink Lindsey?

  5. “Fifteen million able-bodied adults on government welfare would have a better chance at economic betterment if they were taken off welfare.”

    I’m thinkin’ that number’s a little light. We have 15 million able-bodied people living in tents in King County alone.

    1. The Jungle is a land of rich cultural value, they are lucky to get to live there while us hardworking schmucks commute from the ‘burbs.

  6. Poor people, better off without welfare?! I hope the person arguing for that absurd proposition doesn’t call himself any kind of libertarian.

    The libertarian solution to helping the poor is simple: expand the welfare state, while allowing unlimited immigration.

    1. Something about that doesn’t sound quite right to me.

      1. Well, maybe instead of expanding the welfare state, we could keep it exactly where it is.

        I’m sure unlimited immigration is part of the solution, though.

      2. Just try not to think about it, it all adds up, just don’t think about it.

      3. It’s because it’s someone’s weak attempt at performance art.

    2. Indeed, this is more or less the position of Reason overall. Ludicrous as it is, that’s their view. Somewhat ironically, it’s because of the ‘feels’ which is contra their reason for existence in the first place.

      It is the literal reason why I refused to give them any money, even while I give them tons of ad revenue.

  7. “Would the poor be better off without welfare?”

    Sounds like one of those loaded survey questions that make me want to scream and throw my computer at the wall.

    “Do you think the polar bear cubs who are being killed by global warming should just pull up their bootstraps and get a job?”

    “Do all underprivileged school children deserve an education and chance for a better life rather than being forced to work in a Koch factory until they lose a limb in unregulated machinery?”

    1. Dang those kids and their sticking their arms in unregulated Koch machinery!!!!!!

      I use to walk five miles uphill both ways to get my arm ripped off by unregulated Koch machinery. Kids don’t know how good they have it!

    2. “Do all underprivileged school children deserve an education and chance for a better life rather than being forced to work in a Koch factory until they lose a limb in unregulated machinery?”

      No, of course not. Why is that a hard question for you? Fauxbertarians.

    3. “Do you think the polar bear cubs who are being killed by global warming should just pull up their bootstraps and get a job?”

      Yes, I do. Stupid polar bears.

  8. Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?

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