Aces and Eights

"Dead man's hand" by Tage Olsin - Own work

“Dead man’s hand” by Tage Olsin – Own work

Aces and Eights are called the ‘Dead Man’s’ hand for the cards Wild Bill Hickok was rumored to hold as he was shot in the back. I smell a market branding guru since black Aces, Eights and Wild Bill did not appear in the same sentence until the 1920s. The term ‘Dead Man’s’ hand didn’t even show up in the vocabulary as a phrase until the late 1800’s according to folks who research such things. Between 1886 and 1903 the Dead Man held a Full House of jacks with a pair of tens, pairs of jacks and sevens or jacks and eights. It’s relevant to the citizen/taxpayer today and tied to the very beginning of the Cold War.

Life’s like a game of cards. You play the hand that’s dealt while learning the game of citizenship and making choices. In August 2013 the Cato Institute published Michael D. Tanner and Charles Hughes’ White Paper The Work versus Welfare Trade-Off: 2013. It’s an eye-opening paper and I heartily recommend that everyone read the entire 52-pages. Tanner and Hughes open the discussion:

In 1995, the Cato Institute published a groundbreaking study, The Work vs. Welfare Trade-Off, which estimated the value of the full package of welfare benefits available to a typical recipient in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. It found that not only did the value of such benefits greatly exceed the poverty level but, 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.

Since then, many welfare programs have undergone significant change, including the 1996 welfare reform legislation that ended the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program and replaced it with the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. Accordingly, this paper examines the current welfare system in the same manner as the 1995 paper. Welfare benefits continue to outpace the income that most recipients can expect to earn from an entry-level job, and the balance between welfare and work may actually have grown worse in recent years.

The current welfare system provides such a high level of benefits that it acts as a disincentive for work. Welfare currently pays more than a minimum-wage job in 35 states, even after accounting for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and in 13 states it pays more than $15 per hour. 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 definition of work. Moreover, states should consider ways to shrink the gap between the value of welfare and work by reducing current benefit levels and tightening eligibility requirements.

Why does this analysis matter on a site where the focus is the Cold War and its legacy? Because as taxpayers we all contribute to the decision making process about where ‘our’ money is spent. Many veterans in the United States struggle just to live in dignity or even in a house. Many veterans need medical help and some die waiting for the assistance they need. Welfare and the military are not apples and oranges as the same taxpayers fund both. Both are deeply emotional issues. Welfare is ‘for the children’ and the military is for our protection. Continue reading