Study: It pays $27,900 a year to not work in NM

By Rob Nikolewski on August 23, 2013
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By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

SANTA FE — Is it easier not to work than try to find a decent job?

That’s the question some ask after a recent study showed total welfare benefits in New Mexico average $27,900 a year, or about $13.41 an hour if compared to full-time work.

“Poor people are not lazy. Every survey you look at, people on welfare say they’d prefer to have a job,” said , a senior fellow with the and co-author of which analyzed welfare data by state.

TO WORK OR NOT: New Mexico ranks 18th in the nation in total welfare benefits, according to a national study done by the Cato Institute.

“On the other hand, poor people are not stupid either. If you’re willing to pay someone two, or sometimes, three times more than they are likely to make at an entry level job … chances are they are not likely to work real hard to get into that job,” he said.

The Cato study estimated the value of the full package of widely-received welfare benefits available in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. New Mexico finished 18th, with an inflation-adjusted increase of $4,191 in benefits compared to 1995.

Cato used such programs as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, housing and utilities assistance, the Women, Infants and Children Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program to calculate its numbers.

The report argues that the public assistance system as constructed may act as a disincentive to work “because welfare benefits are tax-free, their dollar value was greater than the amount of take-home income a worker would receive from an entry-level job.”

The study comes on the heels of a , in which a cookie manufacturer said he wants to hire employees for his factory, but jobs go begging.

“We should have a line out the door with people who want a job,” told the . Semprevivo said he wants to expand his workforce but has had trouble finding people to take the jobs he’s offering at 50 cents an hour above minimum wage.

His company is located in Luna County, which has had the highest unemployment rate in New Mexico for years. It’s currently at , nearly three times higher than the .

“There are jobs” in Luna County, said state , whose district makes up Luna County. “I think there are some people who have grown accustomed to not carrying their load, or who are not being trained.”

Smith said he’s heard stories similar to the woes at the cookie factory from other employers in Luna County.

“One told me he could hire 35 (employees) right now if they were qualified,” Smith told .

“If Congress and state legislatures are serious about reducing welfare dependence and rewarding work, they should consider strengthening welfare work requirements, removing exemptions, and narrowing the list of activities that qualify as ‘work,’” the Cato study says.

Two researchers at the , a liberal think tank also based in Washington, D.C., disagreed with the Cato study’s findings, saying the cites programs support working families, not just folks who aren’t working at all.

“To be sure, many working families struggle because their earnings are low and the assistance they receive often isn’t enough to make ends meet, particularly if they have significant child care or transportation costs,”

Tanner noted in that Great Britain just capped welfare benefits at 500 pounds per week.

“If we’re starting to fall behind Great Britain when it comes to welfare reform, maybe we need to rethink things,” he said. “And we need to pursue policies that do generate good-paying jobs in this country. We need to have more entrepreneurship. We need to have more job creation because when we get people off of welfare we’ve got to have somewhere for them to go.”

to read the report.

Contact Rob Nikolewski at and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

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5 Comments For This Post So Far

  1. L.E. Liesner
    2:33 pm on August 23rd, 2013

    Socialism is really great until you run out of other people’s money. The “Land of Enchantment” is turning into the liberal “Utopia”, at least until the money runs out. The piper will eventually have to be paid.

  2. jim
    11:37 am on August 26th, 2013

    Seems there are at least 2 generations of folks that think they are “entitled” to higher wages (that come with experience, education, and tenure, not to mention a personal work ethic).
    No doubt some folks really need help–I think it would be easier and more economical to identify that small percentage of welfare recipients trhat are truly in need, than it would be to attempt to qualify all the dead-beats.
    Once the line is drawn, the dead beats can find a job (no matter what it pays or where it is- or go hungry.
    While they are looking for work, they should keep in mind that their families are their doinfg and their responsibility–not the working taxpayer’s.

  3. Art
    2:06 pm on August 27th, 2013

    When I was in business, I used a program called OJT (on the job training) I would pay the wages and the state would reimburse me a certain percentage. I think there should be more programs like this. The welfare recipient should be paid with the same monies he or she is receiving instead of sitting home collecting. This would help both the unemployment and welfare problem

  4. Michael
    10:41 pm on August 27th, 2013

    How is it that the well-fed are always convinced that their table is too small and that the table is always too big for the hungry. Take a minute from your pity party to watch a documentary entitled, “A Place at the Table”.

    Did you know that we have tens of thousands of people who worked at Walmart who can’t afford to shop there. They can’t afford to eat even when they’re given public assistance.

    Your desire to have starving children, their parents and their community just disappear is the best evidence that this is not a Christian nation. My hope is that you will soon be poor, hungry and invisible to your neighbors as you seem to want to have the hungry be.

    Only then will you have to accept that the problems are real and that you have the answer: charity of the soul, of the pocketbook and of an opportunity for all; not just you and your friends. Having it good for you isn’t, when others have nothing.

  5. Diane
    10:00 am on September 12th, 2013

    I received unemployment benefits last year, worked for the legislature this past session and have still been unable to secure employment. The benefits I received were not easy to survive on. Especially in Santa Fe. I struggled to make my rent and keep my head above water. There was nothing easy about it. Since exhausting my benefits I have taken on menial work to survive. I am now forced to “couch surf” for housing. At my age and with my experience I have had no luck in finding gainful employment. I apply for at least 2 jobs each day. To no avail. If you can tutor me on the finer points living the easy life on unemployment or without it, please do.

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