The public cost of supporting those who game the welfare system

This is how the welfare system works: it is as if someone has moved into your house, uses your kitchen, bathroom and one bedroom, but doesn’t contribute to the groceries or help to pay the rent. There may be reasons to allow this: sick relatives, friends who are down on their luck or because of a charitable streak in the owner of the house. But whatever else, this outlay does draw down on what is available to everyone else and leaves those who offer the welfare less well off than they otherwise would have been.

Most societies have offered welfare assistance to the sick, the disabled, the elderly or others who cannot provide for themselves. But they have also always limited the amounts provided for a number of reasons including the ever-present possibility that some of those receiving welfare could be earning their own incomes and contributing to total output, instead of taking from the earnings of others while putting nothing back in.

I say all this because of an article that showed up on the front page of the Herald Sun this morning: Warning over booming Australian welfare bill. From which:

TAXPAYERS are coughing up $300,000 a minute for a welfare bill that has soared $40 billion in 10 years.

The Herald Sun can reveal that the total lifetime welfare bill for all those currently receiving benefits has been estimated at $2.1 trillion.

The frightening figure emerged as federal government debt reached a record $506 billion yesterday, renewing concerns about the public cost of supporting those who game the system or are locked into a cycle of welfare dependency.

Remarkably, anyone currently receiving government help to study is expected to be on welfare for nearly half of the rest of their lives, costing taxpayers an average of $247,000.

This is the equation showing in miniature how our ability to spend works:

Income Earned – Taxes Paid + Welfare Payments Received

There is no reason in any particular instance that Income Earned minus Taxes Paid will be greater than Welfare Payments Received. Especially if for those receiving welfare are able to keep Taxes Paid to a minimum relative to Hidden Income Earned.

Welfare should not be a way of life, but assistance given when it is needed and only then. But now that Voting for a Living has become a viable alternative to Working for a Living, the constituency to do something about what is shown by these latest studies on our exploding welfare bill may no long exist.

Not everyone on welfare is gaming the system, of course. But not every payment on welfare is legitimate either.

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