Democrats label lazy welfare recipients as ‘working families’

Democrats label lazy welfare recipients as ‘working families’

Welfare is often unpopular with the voters who fund it through their taxes. So California politicians and academics who support it are now redefining welfare recipients as “workers” even if they do almost no work, and as members of “working families” if they live in the same household as someone who does a tiny bit of work. By doing this, they hope to brand critics of welfare as “anti-worker.”

Fifty-six percent of welfare recipients are in “working families,” according to a misleading recent report by the University of California at Berkeley’s left-wing Center for Labor Research and Education. But the report reached that false conclusion by defining even very lazy people as “workers”: “We define working families as those that have at least one family member who works 27 or more weeks per year and 10 or more hours per week.”

But working just ten hours a week for only about half the weeks in the year doesn’t make you a typical worker, or show industriousness. As Breitbart notes, “If someone is only working ten hours a week, there is probably time to find a second job, rather than rely on government assistance.” The Center that put out this ridiculous “study” is funded not just by taxpayers, but also by government employee unions like AFSCME whose members are hired to administer such welfare programs.

That slanted “study” coincides with a recent push by California’s governor to expand welfare for so-called “workers” who actually do very little work. The Associated Press reported that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is

proposing a $380 million earned income tax credit” for “as many as 825,000 families and up to 2 million Californians. “It’s just a straight deliverance of funding to people who are working very hard and are earning very little money, so in that sense I think it does a lot of good things,” Brown said of the tax credit. The average tax credit would be $460 a year with a maximum credit of $2,653 for families with three or more children, to complement the federal tax credit program. It would be available to individuals with incomes of less than $6,580, or up to $13,870 for families with three or more dependents.

For an individual to have an income of less than $6,580 at the California minimum wage of $9 per hour (and thus qualify for this welfare), he would have to work no more than 731 hours per year, or 14 hours per week. That’s not “working very hard,” Governor Brown. The Associated Press story, which reads like a press release for the governor’s proposed budget, never even questions his strange claim about this being hard work. The AP wrongly calls this huge, record-setting budget “a cautious approach to spending” even though it does nothing about California’s massive unfunded pension problems, and is balanced only due to tax increases that are supposedly temporary but that most California Democrats now want to make permanent, such as those in Proposition 30.

As the Los Angeles Daily News points out:

In 2013, California’s public-employee pension systems—including those for police, firefighters and teachers—were carrying an estimated aggregate of $198 billion in unfunded liability. That’s 31 times the unfunded liability 10 years earlier.

Governor Brown has largely turned a blind eye to pension-spiking by CALPERS that will explode California pension costs by billions of dollars, half-heartedly objecting to only one of the “ninety-nine categories used” in its “scheme.”

As profligate and irresponsible as his budget is, it could have been even worse: Jerry Brown is a model of responsibility and common sense compared to California’s money-wasting left-wing legislature and its big-spending Democratic leadership (the state legislature is two-thirds Democrat and only one-third Republican). The AP quotes Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) demanding yet more “investments” (the trendy euphemism for government spending) and promising that “we can and will do more” to increase such spending.  State legislative leaders have sought to expand Medicaid and other government healthcare programs to cover illegal immigrants at a cost of at least $1.3 billion annually, which Brown has not yet fully endorsed, although his budget does earmark the more modest sum of “$62 million to begin enrolling low-income immigrants in Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid, on the assumption that President Barack Obama will prevail in a court battle over his executive order.”

The relabeling of welfare recipients as “workers” even when they do little work echoes the approach of the progressive ideological guru George Lakoff, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, who advocates reframing the political debate in deceptive ways. As The Atlantic noted:

Lakoff offers no new policy ideas. Instead he suggests that the Democrats reposition the ones they already have, and spruce up some unpopular terminology while they’re at it. He advocates referring to ‘trial lawyers’ as ‘public-protection attorneys,’ replacing ‘taxes’ with ‘membership fees,’ and generally couching the entire Democratic message in palatable—even deceptive—language in order to simplify large ideas and disguise them behind innocent but powerful-sounding phrases.

The Associated Press sometimes follows the deceptive Lakoff ideological approach when it comes to government spending, labeling spending on education and social programs as an “investment” even when the money spent will not be recouped later through higher tax revenue, making the reference to “investment” misleading.

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. Hans also writes for CNS News and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”


Commenting Policy

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse.

You may use HTML in your comments. Feel free to review the full list of allowed HTML here.