Reason Podcast

Resolved: 15 Million Americans Would Be Better Off Without Welfare

Center for American Progress' Neera Tanden and Foundation for Government Accountability's Tarran Bragdon debate government handouts 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 was the provocative proposition debated at the most recent Soho Forum debate, held on December 11 at New York's Subculture theater in the East Village. Sponsored by Reason and moderated by Gene Epstein, the Soho Forum is a monthly, Oxford-style debate series that explores issues of particular interest to libertarians.

At the December 11 event, the Foundation for Government Accountability's Tarren Bragdon defended the proposition while Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress opposed it. As an Oxford-style debate, the audience (including those watching via Reason's Facebook live stream) voted before and after the debate, with the winner being the person who moved more people to his or her side. It's a lively conversation that features audience questions toward the end.

The next Soho Forum takes place on January 16 and features the proposition that "selfishness is a virtue." Yaron Brook, the executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, will defend selfishness and Gene Epstein will move from moderator to debater in opposing the resolution. Moderating the debate is Fox News' chief legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano. Tickets for the event are $18 ($10 for students) and must be purchased in advance. To buy tickets, go here now.

Produced by Kevin Alexander.

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  1. Uhh, would they really be better off if the only income they had left is the under-the-table income they’re not reporting to the government to receive those benefits?

    /sarc

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    1. It was resolved that we’d be better off without a functioning link.

  2. Those 15 million American people were just killed by Trump’s tax cuts. So this is a moot point.

    1. And that’s on top of the 11 million Mexicans he deported, the 1 million Muslims loaded into cattle cars and sent to “the camps”, the 5 million that died when Net Neutrality was rescinded, and of course the 100 million killed in the nuclear war he started with North Korea.

      It’s been a rough year.

  3. So, the War on Poverty was just a head fake.
    “The days of the dole in our country are numbered. Our American answer to poverty is not to make the poor more secure in their poverty but to reach down and to help them lift themselves out of the ruts of poverty and move with the large majority along the high road of hope and prosperity. ” Lyndon Baines Johnson, p 528 – Remarks Upon Signing the Economic Opportunity Act, August 20, 1964

    Over half a century and trillions of dollars later, they haven’t “lifted themselves.”

    1. An LBJ quote not involving the phrase “next 200 years” or his penis? I didn’t now there were any.

    2. p 528 – Remarks Upon Signing the Economic Opportunity Act…

      Yeah, that was LBJ. Good lungs, that one.

      1. And he buried the lede.

  4. Tickets for the event are $18 ($10 for students)

    What’s with the snowflake discount? If those whippersnappers can’t afford full freight let ’em take out another “student loan”

    1. SIV|12.20.17 @ 6:38PM|#
      “What’s with the snowflake discount? If those whippersnappers can’t afford full freight let ’em take out another “student loan””
      Give it a try, SIV. I’ll bet there’s an imbecile discount.

  5. I didn’t want to watch the whole video. Who won the debate?

    1. Every attendee except Neera Tanden is a libertarian. What is your guess about who won?

      The answer is also in the headline of this article; “Resolved…”.

      1. so the men libertariansplained their way to victory, ugh so typical…

        1. This is sarcasm, right?

          If it becomes difficult to discern parody from it’s source material, what does that suggest about the subject being parodied?

        2. Did you just assume the genders of the people for the motion? How DARE you.

      2. ‘resolved’ in the headline is not a description of the result. It is the form of the debate.

        1. Are you sure?

          My understanding of oxford style debates is that the topical declarative statement (at the start of the debate) is described as a “resolution” (or, “to be resolved”).

          Then, once the debate is over and voting is complete, the topical declarative statement (or its negation) is described as resolved.

          That is what I remember from college debate club circa 2007. I’m old now and my brain might be deteriorating though.

      3. Do you know how a Harvard debate works ? The winner is not the party with the greatest support, but the one who has changed the most minds from start to finish.
        It is an advantage in that arrangement to start in a hostile forum. There are fewer people for your opponent to pick up, as they already have them.

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

    They’d be better off if they didn’t face effective marginal tax rates around 100%.

    Our welfare system is *designed* to expand the permanently unemployable underclass.

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

      Just don’t cancel their Mastercard.

    2. “Our welfare system is ‘designed’ to expand the permanently unemployable underclass.”

      I agree. The only way to design welfare so people choose work rather than welfare, is to make them work for it, and pay them less than they can get in the free market. When government writes rules about who qualifies, people read the rules and make sure they qualify.

      There are numerous articles about it, such as http://www.cato.org/publications/whit…..fare-trade which states:

      “Welfare currently pays more than a minimum-wage job in 35 states, even after accounting for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and in 13 states it pays more than $15 per hour.” That makes under the table work, dealing drugs, etc. an attractive opportunity for people on welfare.

  7. 15 Million Americans Would Be Better Off Without Welfare

    and my uncle recently decided that his grandchildren would be better off if his son disciplined his children once in awhile……and nothing else happened

  8. Actually, 285 million would be better off since they wouldn’t be paying to support free-loaders.

    1. Far fewer than 285MM are net payers. Far, far fewer.

  9. …and Without Warfare. Then again, they could join The Crusades Jihad and frag each other.

  10. Safety net? Not! Welfare for the most vulnerable is just as deleterious for the recipients as SS disability for a lazy SOB who could work but finds it “easier” to find the “right” doctor and lawyer to vouch for his “disability” and retire as a 38-year-old government dependent. The problem with welfare–a misnomer if ever there is one–has nothing to do with the recipient. The problem is the violence (or coercion by threat of violence), which must be employed by the state to collect the money to pay any welfare benefit. The violence is known as taxation. If you would rather not pay a tax, agents of the state will use all the force necessary to see that you do pay, and if you resist you may be killed. I call tax revenues OPM becuase it sounds like opium, is equally addicting, stands for other people’s money–forcibly extorted. A basic tenet of libertarianism is “taxation is theft,” although “extortion,” a form of theft, is more precise. There isn’t an iota of difference between the felony crime of extortion and taxation, only the extortionists (viz. tax collectors) are immunized by the state for their crimes. (http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/5924.127v1) The fact that the extortionist may use some of the lucre from his or her crime for some charitable purpose cannot excuse nor ameliorate the violent act.

  11. So I was curious if reason debate voters could make fair judgments on these debates or if they would consistently allow their political views to color their debate voting record so I looked through the results of all the debates. Shocker the Libertarian side won the debate every single time accept for 1. Kind of makes a mockery of the idea of a fair debate and does a disservice to libertarians by not requiring them to bring their A game to the debates because they can be 99% sure whomever is debating on the side of Libertarianism is going to win. Kind of sad because the debates are a genuinely good idea if only they could be judged fairly. On a side note this behavior is emblematic of the win at all costs/winning is more important that anything else attitude that’s taken hold in large swaths of the right. The tax reform vote is a good example. To hell with standard parliamentary practice let’s cram this thing through with 50 votes because passing the bill is more important than the rules of the senate or respect for the institutions norms. Don’t take this as some socialist poking a stick in your eye I have a lot of respect for the principals of Libertarianism. I just think the country works best when we’re all at the top of our game.

    1. You post might be the best example of Concern Trolling I’ve seen recently.

      Libertarians agreeing with Libertarian views in a debate does not mean the debates weren’t fair.

      I don’t think the crowd or debate voting matters a whole lot. Anyone can listen in and make up their own minds. Plus, this was a very respectful crowd. I see YouTube videos all the time where the speaker is up against an openly hostile crowd…it has never made me think “that guy is wrong/right”. So, it is not a mockery of a fair debate in the slightest.

      You assignment of the the “winning at all costs” attitude as something “…of the right”, made me laugh out loud. As a famous person said not too long ago, “go out there and win an election”.

      Color me skeptical that you have respect for the principals of Libertarianism.

    2. The party who wins these debates is the one who changes the most minds, NOT the one with the largest absolute support at the end. A friendly forum is a DISADVANTAGE for that style debare.

      Further you are making exactly the same errors as Ms. Tanden was constantly.

      The debate was on a specific topic – she managed to find a way to flood the debate with every left wing nut talking point possible.

      Why was there any discussion of Minimum Wage ? Something that she is quite obviously CLUELESS about.

      Yes, there has been an active debate among economists – Over 20 years there have been two studies with poor methodology that even their authors are barely willing to stand behind – and only for trivial increases in the MW.

      The overwhelming majority of studies for more than 60 years are DAMNING.

      1. It is highly likely that MW increases will:
        Increase unemployment, and decrease minority employment.

        Regardless it is CERTAIN that the net result will be bad.
        Even in those rare instances where small increases do not result in increases in absolute unemployment.
        They do result in changes in the makeup of workers. MW increases tend to shift the workforce away from poor unskilled minorities and towards low to medium skilled older women.

        No employer is ever going to pay someone more than they are worth for long.
        Not worth in the left sense that all people have value – but worth in the sense that matters to businesses – their contribution to the bottom line of the business.
        If you cost $20 to employ ($15 + taxes and benefits) and you produce $10 in value, you are toast.

        Separately the nonsense about MW increases being somehow cost free brached multiple foundational economic principles and law.

        The only way to raise standard of living is to produce more value at lower human cost. There is not some shortcut around that. If you produce less or the same value for greater cost – we are WORSE off, not better.

        Further the laws of supply and demand are immutable. Demand curves slope down to the right. PERIOD.
        Wishing it were not so changes nothing.

        But if you still think there are economists out there with studies that refute the laws of economics, look at the results of the Seattle “experiment”. They are damning.

        1. A burger flipper today produces the dame value as a burger flipper 40 years ago.
          Your personal standard of living can only sustainably increase if you produce more value.

  12. Is there some reason that Tanden was jumping all over the place trying to fit every debunked left wing talking point into a debate on work requirements for government benefits ?

  13. There is data on government training programs all the way back through the 70’s.

    You are more likely to be able to get a job if you do NOT receive government training.

    Contra Tanden – the data coming from Seattle is damning to MW increases.

    No one in KS that I am away of promised that small tax cuts would result in tax revenue increases.
    But the cuts DID have the economic benefits claimed – and the subsequent tax increases harmed the KS economy.

    Further Tanden and Tarran are talking past each other on some of these numbers.
    Tarran is using data regarding individuals receiving benefits – i.e. there are alot of individuals receiving benefits that do not work. Tanden is citing families – if the individual is not working and someone else in the family is, as far as she is concerned that is an example of someone receiving benefits and working.

    Tanden repeatedly talks about people working 40-50 hours on MW – as if that is common.
    In the bottom quintile, the average household has .25 full time equivalent employed people per household.
    In the top quintile there are 2.8 full time equivalent employed people per household.
    If the bottom quintile worked at the same rates as the top – even at MW – they would be middle quintile not bottom.
    There are poor people working 50-60 hours a week – they are very very rare.
    They are unicorns.

  14. Where does Tanden get this crap ?

    I bought a top end refridgerator in 1981 for $1300 the MW was about 2.85. That is about 480hrs to buy the Fridge.
    Today a much better refridgerator costs $999 and the MW is 7.25 or about 140hrs of work.

    You can take nearly anything and get much the same results – food, gas. Census data tells us that those int he bottom quintile today have nearly twice as much wealth as those in the middle quintile in 1965.

    Why do people buy the garbage being sold by the left ?

    Anyone who has been alive for more than two decades should know from personal experince that we have more for less now.

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