More Comments on John Richards, “Tough Love” and Poverty

John Myles (University of Toronto) points out that his research on the decline of poverty among lone mothers, cited by Richards, shows that “soft love” (day care in Quebec) probably has the biggest “social policy effect.” He notes that  “tough love” does “work”  in the following sense. Cut other cash benefits to the bone and employment levels among lone mothers will rise, as they did in the U.S.  in the late 1990s.  They will have more cash income as a result, and fewer will be below the poverty line.  But, as Katherine Edin and Laura Lein show in Making Ends Meet,  the net gain after work related expenses is close to zero.

John Stapleton (a former senior official with the Government of Ontario who worked closely on the recent report, Modernizing Income Security for Working Age Adults) comments as follows:

“Richards’ appears to suggest that receipt of public assistance leads to a withdrawal of labour on the part of those who receive these funds. He notes that this in turn, leads to  pathologies such as teen pregnancy (young women) and depression (young males).

Perhaps we should begin to worry about seniors and children who may also be compromised by the ravages of income security measures  designed to help them make ends meet.

In short, he plays to the audience that has already been seduced by the idea that the problem with welfare is the people who receive it.

It is not hard to conclude that if a government closes the door to its public assistance programs, there will be fewer people in receipt. Exit surveys show that approximately 60% of the dis-entitled traded welfare poverty for working poverty while 40% go elsewhere.  60% is a grade of “C” and that’s not good enough especially when most of those making the grade are still poor. The fate of the other 40% is a Canadian tragedy.

Richards cherry-picks through poverty statistics to showcase the very few bright spots and invites us to consider that the answer to poverty in Canada can be found in low wage precarious work because of the very small number among us have found this to be the first rung of the ladder out of poverty.

Using this same logic, progress attained on almost any issue becomes a good reason to abandon efforts to obtain  solutions.

After all, who needs social policy when there’s plenty of  part time work available at the minimum wage?”

2 comments

  • How is the cost of living in Canada, and access to affordable housing? It is good to hear that the amount of women living in poverty has decreased. Now we need to come up with a game plan for the baby boomers, because senior poverty rate is fast on the rise.

    Chris G.

  • Bravo!

    Richards’ appears to suggest that receipt of public assistance leads to a withdrawal of labour on the part of those who receive these funds. He notes that this in turn, leads to pathologies such as teen preganancy (young women) and depression (young males).

    Perhaps we should begin to worry about seniors and children who may also be compromised by the ravages of income security measures designed to help them make ends meet. Old Age Security and the GIS may be filling seniors with dark thoughts while the Canada Child Tax Benefit may be spawning pan Canadian urges toward delinquency.

    In short, Richards plays to the audience that has already been seduced by the idea that the problem with welfare is the people who receive it.

    It is not hard to conclude that if a government closes the door to its public assistance programs, there will be fewer people in receipt. Exit surveys show that approximately 60% of the disentitled traded welfare poverty for working poverty while 40% go elsewhere. 60% is a grade of “C” and that’s not good enough especially when most of those making the grade are still poor. The fate of the other 40% is a Canadian tragedy.

    Richards cherry-picks through poverty statistics to showcase the very few bright spots and invites us to consider that the answer to poverty in Canada can be found in low wage precarious work because of the very small number among us who have found this to be the first rung of the ladder out of poverty.

    Using this same logic, progress attained on almost any issue becomes a good reason to abandon efforts to obtain solutions.

    After all, who needs social policy when there’s plenty of part time work available at the minimum wage?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.