Is Cash King?

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Jamelle Bouie writes about the social safety net:

If I were designing a welfare system from scratch, it would completely dispense with vouchers and stamps, and basically be a system of direct cash transfers to the poor and working-class, in the form of a negative income tax or some other method. As far as I can tell, food stamps, tax credits and unemployment insurance aren’t efficient as much as they are ways to compensate for our country’s long-standing ethnic and racial suspicion. In other words, restricting government assistance to a category is a way of keeping “those people” from spending your money on needless luxuries.

I haven’t given the structure of welfare payments any serious thought, so don’t take this as some kind of Olympian pronouncement. But if we did this, how big do you think those direct cash transfers would be? Bigger than EITC + Section 8 + food stamps + TANF + Medicaid? It’s not a perfect comparison since not everyone with a low income qualifies for all those programs, but it’s still a comparison worth thinking about. I don’t think there’s any question that social welfare programs are usually set up to ensure that public money isn’t spent on things that the public doesn’t want its money spent on, but (a) that’s probably inevitable and (b) the poor might end up better off with a laundry list of in-kind programs than with a straight check every month. The generosity of the American taxpayer is not exactly legendary, after all.

Anyway, I’m not saying I disagree here. There are probably advantages to flat cash payments. But it’s questionable whether this would end up being a boon for the poor.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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