Saturday, September 7, 2013

Waging War on the Working Poor

In a recent study, conducted and published by The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, the wisdom of providing welfare to the poor is scrutinized. The people at Cato worry that welfare, and the way it is distributed, creates a disincentive for people living in poverty to find gainful employment. Anyone living in poverty in Oklahoma who was to take advantage of all the various welfare programs offered could reap a benefit having the value of $26,764 per year, the authors of the study noted.

Oklahoma City’s daily, the Oklahoman, ran an op-ed entitled, Welfare programs in need of serious adjustments. Citing the Cato study, the Oklahoman stated, “The pretax value of Oklahoma’s welfare benefits was equivalent to employment earnings of $10.81 per hour and amounted to 75.8 percent of the state’s median salary.”

The opinion piece concludes by pointing out that it is unfair that people working entry-level jobs, while paying taxes and making less than $26,764 a year, help subsidize those who won’t work. The last paragraph of the Oklahoman editorial reads, “That’s an insult to those who work hard and play by the rules. And it doesn’t help the truly needy.”

The Cato Institute and The Oklahoman stand united on the proposition that the safety net for people living in poverty needs to be scaled back as dramatically as possible, less this insult should continue in perpetuity.

The Oklahoma Policy Institute analyzed the situation in a much different light. At its website,, in an article entitled, The Oklahoman’s distorted case for cutting the safety net, it is proposed that “The Cato report and the Oklahoman op-ed are premised on two big distortions of the truth.”

The first distortion is that Cato and the Oklahoman take it for uncontroverted truth that all people living in poverty are eligible for a global welfare benefit package. OK Policy points out that no such “package” exists.

Each of the various programs that function to assist those in need have their own unique criteria for eligibility. Some are only for children, others for the elderly, and very little is offered for all those in between. OK Policy points out that in Oklahoma, approximately 400,000 people under the age of 65 live in poverty. According to OK Policy, the number of Oklahoman families enrolled in all programs, and thus raking in $26-plus grand a year on the backs of those who choose to sweat and toil for a living, “ranges from tiny to nonexistent.”

The second big distortion OK Policy identifies is the idea that the safety net functions as an alternative to work. Rather, the safety net primarily functions to supplement the incomes of the working poor who work for companies that do not pay their employees a living wage. Walmart, the largest employer of Oklahomans, is one such offender.

OK Policy’s piece concludes, “By spreading such a wildly inaccurate story about poverty, The Cato Institute and the Oklahoman have done a disservice to anyone who takes them seriously as a source of information.”

It seems that for too many libertarian groups, the urge to vilify the powerless and impoverished is irresistible.

Either they are just wildly incompetent, or The Cato Institute and the Oklahoman are waging war on the working poor, and are willing to resort to fabrications in order to achieve victory.


  1. I have a hard time reading things like this because of how personal and painful this subject is to me. You are so right, and calling it out the way that you do makes me want to hug you so hard. I will now go immediately to one of your funny and entertaining posts, to prevent me from obsessing over this subject. Thanks so much for your big compassionate heart, and for informing the rest of the world that the poor are not evil. I love you.

  2. Wish I'd seen this sooner but I'm still going to share it. Excellent.

  3. Another point of view would be to raise the minimum wage.