Friday, June 12, 2015

California: Welfare State

In a previous post, I commented on an extensive article about Woonsocket, Rhode Island, a city operating on the same boom-bust cycle of welfare payments from the federal government. Today, I look at the state of California, my home state, and the rise of welfare use and abuse. In Woonsocket, one in three people survive on government assistance. In stark contrast, the Golden State is like a corroded, golden goose for welfare recipients, in that one-third of the nation's government dependents live in California!  
 The San Diego Union-Tribute printed this column on welfare, with this unique and yet indicting title:

Is California the welfare capital?

Delving into why California has such a disproportionate share of the nation’s recipients

— When Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature overhauled the state’s welfare program last month, some people learned a jarring fact for the first time: California has one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients.

Nothing could be more shameful. The Land of Fruits and Nuts has also turned into the Land of Leeches and Welfare Queens.

That California has a lot of people on welfare was not a secret. In addition to its size, the state has a long history of heavy focus on social services, in part because of years of Democratic dominance in Sacramento.

No kidding! More Democrats leads to more "Good Graft" as the Tamany Hall machine politicians liked to call it in turn-of-century New York City. "Legal theft" or "legal bribery" would be more accurate, of course.

But the size of California’s welfare rolls is disproportionate when you consider the state has only 12 percent of the nation’s population. Some of it has to do with the benefits being more generous than in many other states, but experts also point to various economic and social factors.

The benefits are more generous. . . I understand the lingo, but the more proper terminology would be: the bureaucrats are more rapacious. It is not their money.

These statistics provided in the article were deeply disconcerting:

• Pays out one of the highest maximum monthly cash grants to the average family on welfare, $638.

• Continues aid for children even when the parents lose eligibility.

• Provides benefits even to some who find a job and helps with child care and transportation while attending school or training.


On the flip side, California is not the land of endless “Cadillac” benefits:

• The actual average cash grant for the typical family of three is $463.

• Welfare payments have been cut twice since 2009 while 18 states have provided nominal increases.

• The high cost of housing eats up more of the aid than in other states with smaller grants.

People in California will start moving off welfare more quickly due to changes made by the governor and lawmakers, even though their primary goal was to save money and help chip away at a huge budget deficit. They imposed a shorter benefit period, but avoided making cuts in grants in the state’s $6.7 billion welfare-to-work program, called CalWORKS. (Federal taxpayers do pick up $3.7 billion of the tab.)

I am not so sure about that. I have seen a lot of people still busting out the EBT card, even though they wear designer clothes and spend their money on cosmetics and other non-essential goods. I have seen families purchasing birthday cakes and candies with food stamps.

 EBT is not the way to go. Too many opportunities present themselves for people when they spend, save, and invest their own  money. Yet in California, adults are content to spend other people's money, and not think twice about it.

California by far spends more than any other state on welfare. But broken down on a per-capita basis, the story is a little different.

"A little different" mean. . .not much different at all.

The San Diego paper asked another question:

Is California a magnet?

In the 1990s, then-Gov. Pete Wilson, the former San Diego mayor, famously declared that welfare benefits lured poor people to California. Some experts say there wasn’t solid evidence to support that notion then — or now.

“The magnet argument is often a little exaggerated … People don’t move across the country to get welfare,” said Michael Tanner, a policy analyst for the libertarian Cato Institute based in Washington, D.C.

If people are so poor, they need money from the state to get by, they will still to get by where they are.

National experts like Tanner say other factors play a larger role as the needy look for a new home. Among those: job prospects, family, church, friends, rent and the cost of moving.
But while the benefits may not be a magnet, they can be an anchor in some cases.


It’s notable that California proportionately spends more on direct cash aid than noncash assistance than most other states. Nationally, 31 percent of benefits are direct cash while 69 percent are noncash services. California is somewhat the reverse: 56 percent cash, 44 percent noncash. Noncash aid includes such programs as child care, job training and transportation. Noncash aid includes such programs as child care, job training and transportation.

Direct cash is a major problem. California SNAP allows for two monied accounts. One fund pays for food, and the other pays for other needs. I have seen families buying umbrellas with the SNAP  cash feature, for example. One lady bought hair dye with her own money, but bought food with the EBT card. This lack of budgeting and sound priorities has permitted way too many people to live on the state rather than take of their own status.

“The generosity of your benefits acts as a reason for people to stay on longer,” Tanner said. “To some degree benefits discourage moving into the work force.”

That may change, albeit gradually and modestly.

While holding the line on grants, Brown and lawmakers did impose new cost-saving requirements as part of the 2012-13 budget deal.

Mostly, California’s new welfare rules for some 1.47 million recipients will cut off aid after 24 months of assistance starting Jan. 1, although there are a number of exclusions. The average California recipient had moved off welfare in 34.8 months. The old deadline was 48 months.
“Evolutionary, but not a Brave New Word,” said Todd Bland, who oversees CalWORKS as deputy director of the Department of Social Services.

How generous is California?

Liz Schott, a senior fellow for the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that focuses on issues affecting low- and moderate-income families, said California’s perceived generosity is overblown, particularly given the cuts of the past few years.


Schott used Texas as a point of comparison (no kidding):

Take Texas for example. For every 100 families below the poverty line there, only six receive assistance, she said. In California, 66 of those below the poverty line are helped.
“I don’t call that ‘Texas doing better than California.’ In Texas there are still 94 poor families who need assistance,” Schott said.

This reasoning is flawed. She and any other government bureaucrat cannot claim that those individual families have not taken steps to improve their lot, or work with relatives to get back on their feet. Government officials are too busy looking for failure and incapacity, in large part to justify their government jobs.

Overall, when state and federal commitments are combined, California’s $6.67 billion is far and away the most spent by any state. New York is a distant second at $4.95 billion. No other state breaks the $2 billion mark and only six others top $1 billion.

So why all this welfare spending in California? Is there a more noble purpose?

The next question from UT San Diego:

A commitment to children?

Policy experts say California’s large rolls are the byproduct of numerous factors: sheer size, tough job market and sheer numbers of single-parent households, among them. The state has nearly 30 percent of the nation’s one-parent welfare families.

One parent welfare families, huh? Whose fault is that? The parents, for having kids when they were not ready to. Why should everyone else pay for that?

"It's for the children."

Yet I have met willing and responsible couples who adopted children because their parents could not afford to raise them. There are many ways to provide for children in poor families besides allowing the government to subsidize irresponsible people having children.

One major — and cash consuming — difference is California refuses to push out children even if the parents fail to fulfill requirements.

“We will not be party to devastating children and families. Period. It’s not why we came here. It’s not what we believe in,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, when then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, moved to erase all state spending on CalWORKS in May 2010.

Of the state’s 1.47 million recipients in 2011, more than 1 million are children. Of those being helped in the state, nearly 600,000 are families. Nationally, about 1.9 million recipients are families, according to data provided by the Urban Institute.

The Urban Institute reports that in the 2011 calendar year, 266,000 children in California received aid even though their parents were ineligible. Nationally, there were 794,322 children being aided in households with no parent qualifying for assistance.

Is California turning into a carcass for welfare parasites?

Why welfare on the job?

California recipients can qualify for a partial grant even if they go to work, depending on how much the job pays. For example, an individual with two children who earns $600 monthly can still receive $394 from the state. That’s $244 less than the $638 maximum check for a typical family.

The state explains that policy this way: allowing families to have a small paycheck from a job offers an incentive to re-enter the workforce and move to self-sufficiency quicker.

Sounds good, but is this true? Maybe more of us should stop blaming the government, no matter how bad, and make more use of the grace of God instead of the goodness of government taking one man's goods to prop up another.

What did Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge once say? You cannot help the weak by pulling down the strong. Yet that approach has become the norm in liberal welfare states like California. With on difference: the strong are leaving in droves.

This final question was particularly informative:

What about other states?

Benefits vary widely, as do requirements and number of recipients. For example:

Two red states, GOP trifectas:

Arizona in June reported helping nearly 40,000 recipients. Monthly cash grants range from $175 to $278. It has a 24-month time limit for most recipients, but does keep aiding their children when parents are disqualified.

Hmm. What happens to the kids, then? Do couples pop out more kids in order to keep the money flowing? At least the cut-off date comes sooner.

Texas in fiscal year 2011-12 had about 100,000 recipients on its welfare roll, paying out grants averaging from $69.75 to $165.14. Texas does provide noncash help, such as child care and transportation. The state’s time limits vary, from 12 to 24 months.

Just one hundred thousand? Impressive. People go to Texas, by the way, not get a hand-out, but to get their hands out and make something of their situation.

And now a more Democratic stronghold:

Washington as of June had 120,000 recipients. The average family of three was paid $478. It’s time limits are 60 months and it offers subsidized child care, transportation and work clothes.

Sixty months?! Five years is too long. By then, and individual or members of the family could start training for different or better jobs, or find a different means of living.

Or move out of the state.

Final Reflection

Yes, California is a welfare state, but not just because of poor individuals and families, broken or broke. Big businesses and labor unions have

For now, the discussion should not just be about getting people off of welfare, but also to help them get a better job. It is not enough to rail against those persons who have done what they can, and yet have absorbed a lot of negative outcomes because of poor decisions from elected officials.

Still, teaching people to fend from the state instead of fending for themselves, and keeping the money spigot running: such policies are not going to promote the general welfare of. . .anyone, and particularly no state, like California.

Food stamps are not going to save the state. A life of living off others is not a life worth living. Aren't Californians worth more than a bitter pill and a small subsidy from month to month?

Better question: when will more residents in this state act like it?



  1. geez- wicked shocker !!!! where you have strong democratic proportions in state government- You get the most welfare spending !!!!- now i never saw that coming???? LOL - but i really wanna cry instead -
    how but this- only taxpayers- people paying something into the system- get to vote- period!! seems simple enough. eh???

  2. "A life of living off others is not a life worth living". These are your words, not mine. In your opinion, a person, or an entire one or two parent family who receives any type of a "welfare" benefit is worthless, has no value whatsoever, and, because a very small % of the income tax you pay is used to pay for these "welfare" benefits therefore depriving you of the ability to buy an extra pound of sirloin steak each mth. you would be happy if these worthless welfare recipients killed themselves, because, as far as you are concerned, an extra pound of steak each mth. is more valuable then their lives

    1. The point went right over your head. It pays to imagine things not so literally, maybe more philosophically.

  3. Perhaps the bigger question is "why" are so many of welfare? A So. Kal native, I've watched my home state go from being a powerhouse of innovation and manufacturing, to a veritable wasteland, where people are fighting over minimum-wage "service" jobs.
    Kalifornia has done more to drive industry out of the state, and discourage industry from coming here, than many of our neighbouring states.
    So, you get what we have, the most welfare recipients in the country.

  4. Good information. Lucky me I discovered your website
    by accident (stumbleupon). I have saved as a favorite for later!

  5. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have
    put in penning this website. I am hoping to view the
    same high-grade content from you in the future as well.

    In fact, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my very own blog
    now ;)

  6. I think I will actually like working there.