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Issues With Guaranteed Work vs Welfare (Infrastructure)

  1. Dec 11, 2014 #1
    Hello all,

    I have not been everywhere in America (not even close), but of the places I have been to, the structures and roads left a great deal to be desired. In the city of my college, for example, the roads are of absolutely atrocious quality. So here's a hypothetical proposal, and I'm eager to hear constructive criticism of its fault, or reasons that this would not or could not work:

    Eliminate welfare almost entirely, but appropriate those funds to employing the unemployed in construction/road work/general infrastructure improvement. Perhaps offer a general course like "Roadwork 101" to get them up to speed on how to do what they need to do, or just an internship or apprenticeship or something of the like. The pay should be minimum wage, but offer a solid 20-40 hours/week.

    The main drawback will be that this pay will certainly exceed current welfare rates, which would very likely require a tax increase. However, I feel that either party would enjoy the benefits. 1. The hypothetical idea of someone sitting around all day, sucking up tax dollars without contributing, will be eliminated. 2. Those who are unemployed will have an actual job (which may improve life satisfaction, though I'm no psychologist) and will be getting better pay than welfare offers. 3. A whole class of trained workers in infrastructure will be created, that can possibly go into industry for better pay. 4. Infrastructure will be improved at a much quicker rate, which of course benefits everyone in the community.

    This is just an idea, and I'm not an economist, so I would love to hear why this idea does or does not make sense, and so forth. To me, however, this seems far preferable to the current system, with all contributing completely to society, getting better pay, and improvements on infrastructure to boot. Thanks for reading.
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  3. Dec 11, 2014 #2

    Doug Huffman

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    Here in Wisconsin we have two seasons, winter and road work. During road work season, the roads being worked are lined with workers leaning on their (figurative) shovels for being paid by the hour and not being paid by the piece.
  4. Dec 11, 2014 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    This proposal will depress the wages of today's road workers.
  5. Dec 11, 2014 #4

    Doug Huffman

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    LOL Maybe down to their value!
  6. Dec 11, 2014 #5
    I suppose it may depress their wages, but perhaps I was just too specific with the proposal. The primary point is, there are jobs that need to be done in communities, like road work in my particular example. Why not get these jobs done while employing those who would otherwise receive government funds anyways, and simultaneously train the folks in some kind of skill or trade?
  7. Dec 11, 2014 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    Whatever the job, it will depress the wages of the people doing it now.
  8. Dec 12, 2014 #7


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    Do you have any idea what you are talking about? Have you done any research? Do you realise it varies per state? Please post the research you have found that supports what you say.

    Here in Kansas the roads are great, they are well kept, have plants, landscaping, and are very nice. As soon as you cross into Missouri, the roads are in major disrepair, no plants, except weeds, gravel, pot holes.

    So please post research that supports what ever you are saying.
  9. Dec 12, 2014 #8
    unacceptable source removed by mod

    This would imply that taxes wouldn't need to be changed significantly, seeing as how a significant number of states pay an average higher than minimum wage.
    Edit: Yes, I know that the study doesn't account for all factors. I simply mean to use it to show a trend, that it's unlikely that the tax rate would need to change significantly to accommodate the program.

    On the subject of infrastructure on a national scale, this is a piece of evidence:


    "When we’re talking about infrastructure, we never compute the cost of inaction,” said former Pennsylvania governor Edward G. Rendell, who now heads a coalition that promotes investment in infrastructure. “The cost of inaction is greater than the cost of doing something. It’s become this literally crazed idea that spending money is bad. Federal governments and state governments have to spend money on certain things that are important.”

    This seems to fall directly in line with what I'm suggesting. More spending on the infrastructure, which is apparently needed, while employing the unemployed, and using funds previously directed to welfare. I'm not saying I'm there isn't one, but I'm not seeing the problem.

    Further support:


    "US ranked 25th in infrastructure, down from 5th in 2002" which is illogical to me, given that we have a significant number of unemployed who could be working on it.

    However, as stated in my most previous post, the road work and infrastructure is just a particular example. I'm sure we can agree that generally there is always work that needs to be done, correct? Even if the roads are great, is there for example, trash that needs picking up? Public buildings that could be a bit cleaner? Libraries that need organizing/more manpower? As I've said, I'm not trained in economics, but it seems to me that if we're going to be paying people anyways, it would be more efficient to pay them to do work that needs doing. I also believe that it would be easier for the right to get behind the idea of welfare in this situation, though I doubt there's specific research to support this. I just know I live in a republican state, and an extremely average complaint (certainly the one I hear most often) about taxes is that they're going to people who are "sitting around all day".
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 12, 2014
  10. Dec 12, 2014 #9


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    How many people would be deemed healthy enough to do road work? How many would pass the training? How many would be willing to work at such a job? My understanding is that the road working jobs are not minimum wage. See here. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes474051.htm

    You do realize that a lot of road cleanup is done by prisoners and volunteer groups.

    Also, I know owners of companies that use prison labor and not only are the workers paid a decent amount, they are being taught a trade that they can use to get jobs when they get out of prison.

    I was watching Top Chef last night and several of the chefs were ex-cons that got into the restaurant industry and worked their way up. Restaurants do hire ex-cons/ former drug addicts for beginner jobs and allow them to learn the trade and work their way up.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2014
  11. Dec 12, 2014 #10
    If welfare recipients refuse to take a job, isn't that grounds to remove benefits anyways? In that regard, this wouldn't be a huge change. The health issue is a valid point, but as I've been saying, road work and infrastructure isn't the only thing that needs to be done in a community.

    The topic of wage is also valid point, and an entirely valid flaw in my initial proposal, though the website posted certainly shows mean wage and not entry level from what I can see. I can think of two solutions:

    1. Have specific projects for those on unemployment. Projects that may otherwise have not received funding, and are perhaps not of the most demanding or complex nature (due to less experience/training)

    2. Increase the portion of the budget spent on infrastructure, and create specific programs to train welfare recipients for infrastructure work. Due to both increased demand and an increased supply of workers, wages would theoretically stay approximately the same. This option, of course, would involve a tax increase or for a change in budget that would likely take a whole team to figure out properly, but I leave it as a solution regardless

    In addition, aside from road work entirely, bringing it to the most general level, what is the primary issue with having those on welfare do jobs around the community that need doing, with the possibility of training them in a skill or trade? Such as fabricator, data entry, etc. It simply seems more efficient for everyone, from my (likely naive) perspective.
  12. Dec 13, 2014 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    I think Evo has a point. You are making a number of assumptions, not least of which is that there is a program called "welfare". There isn't. There are a number of different programs, like SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, Unemployment Insurance, EITC, Social Security, and some or all of them might be considered "welfare". I think you need to specify which programs you are talking about.

    Another big assumption is that people on welfare are unemployed. That's not necessarily the case. Someone could be working full-time at minimum wage and be eligible for SNAP, especially if he is supporting one or more children.

    Finally, you are assuming that the limiting factor in government projects is a shortage of unskilled laborers. I don't think that's always - or even often - the case.
  13. Dec 16, 2014 #12
    Exhibit A:
    I've heard interesting case from Germany. A few years ago one of their Arbeitsamt (gov social help / employment agency) decided that their farmers actually don't need guestworkers to pick up asparagus, and instead can use unemployed Germans. Such people were even shipped on farms, gov provided that. Job is hard and poorly paid - in half a day half of German escaped, while farmers were really angry about wasted vegetables.

    Exhibit B:
    In Poland there are people who are sentenced to hours of community service... but often no one really wants their work - low quality, high spending on supervision and damaged equipment.

    Exhibit C
    England - workhouses (at start were hoped to generate small profit, or at least self-financing)

    Idea interesting in theory. In practice:
    -the right wing would be furious about increase in gov spending (you pay more than dole, you pay for materials and machines which are not going to be used very effectively). You can't move money from more expensive programs from old/disabled, unless you want you grandpa to be asked to also build that road ;) )
    -the left wing would be furious about mistreating of those poor people (you award them proportionally to quality of their work? So not much money for slacking)
    -the people supervising the project would feel like using uncooperative slave labour, but without ability to increase productivity by flogging (you'd spend a fortune on supervision)
    -you build those stuff where are unemployed or where you need that? (if where you need that - you are refunding them increase in cost of living, right?)
    -would you take single mothers - cool, have you already included cost of childcare services?

    It was more interesting during the crisis, when you have a hordes of unemployed with construction skills who were really willing to work. Keynesian deficit spending during crisis, almost no-brainer. China was able to start infrastructure projects immediately (not always the most brilliant ones, you may read about ghost cities). In democratic country with rule of law, you need:
    -start proper procedures concerning land ownership;
    -start proper procedures concerning environmental impact of new projects;
    -consult minority of people who actually would suffer from the project;
    -get everything through parliament.
    Read: good luck, the paperwork may last longer than crisis.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that idea is bad as such. I mean however, that to be actually able to make it work you would need as start slaughter both right and left wing sacred cows, and change quite plenty of procedures. And be just willing to spend lot's of money in short run.
  14. Dec 24, 2014 #13
  15. Dec 25, 2014 #14


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    The premise of socialism is everyone has a role, and no role is superior - so everyone is equally rewarded. It doesn't take a degree in rocket science to deduce that is a bad idea. Intelligent and productive people quickly realize there is no advantage in investing more effort than the hopelessly inept, so everyone sinks to a level of equal ineptitude. Even Pavlov's dog could not be provoked to salivate over an empty bowl. Survival is a competition, not a system of kind, gentle and nurturing beliefs.
  16. Dec 29, 2014 #15


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    I don't know, many grad students around the world (some very hard working ones) work for chump change and produce more results than the inept (getting paid the same) while they volunteer (work for free) at humane organizations. Prestige is of high social value, even without the financial reward.
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