On welfare in Boston at $210,300 per year

In a comment on an earlier post, Alex expressed surprise that Joe Biden was popular with a majority of American voters:

This is the guy Republicans are finding tough to beat? It says a lot about how bad everything has become.

My response:

Alex: I don’t think it is surprising that Biden, or anyone else who is a Democrat, is tough to beat. If we model American voters as trying to recapture some of the 50% of the economy that is government, the majority’s best hope is typically a Democrat because the majority of Americans benefit from a larger government (government employee, receiving means-tested benefits, on traditional welfare, married to government employee, government contractor, income too low to pay significant income tax, etc.).

I decided to check the Bidenflation-adjusted numbers for means-tested program (“welfare”) eligibility up in Maskachusetts. In Boston itself, it seems that, as of 2022, a family of 4 could qualify to live in “city-funded” (i.e., taxpayer-funded) housing at below-market rates while earning up to $210,300 per year. The main web page links to a spreadsheet:

The adults in that household would have a strong incentive to vote Democrat!

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9 thoughts on “On welfare in Boston at $210,300 per year

  1. “government contractor”

    Historically, government contractors (at least defense-related) might benefit more with a Republican administration, but it probably doesn’t matter anymore.

    Four generations of my family worked full or nearly-full careers with one of the world’s largest US-headquartered government defense contractors. My 92 y/o grandmother is still collecting my grandfather’s pension and he’s been dead since 1989.

  2. Hey Phillip – Do you know how many and what percentage of people who qualify for these means tested programs actually receive them? For example, my experience with means tested subsidized housing is that so many more people qualify than for which there is housing, that it is a literal lottery. It is acceptable to have any number of government benefits to be doled out by a lottery of some kind, sometimes just the lottery of first come, first served. These lotteries severely cut down the actual value of government benefits.

    • Daniel: Yes, the inequality is staggering and I’ve noted that many times here. It is far worse than the inequality in wages because it is literally infinite inequality. In Cambridge, those favored by the housing ministry get a $60,000/year apartment for free while those on the waiting list get… nothing. That’s a larger ratio than between the incomes of a billionaire divorce plaintiff (e.g., Melinda Gates or MacKenzie Scott Bezos) and the humblest beggar.

      In Maskachusetts, I think the non-working parent or parents of one or two children can almost always get free housing. The elderly have to tough it out for 3-5 years before getting free housing. The childless non-worker faces an effectively infinite waiting list.

      Working is highly irrational because, as you noted, the subsidized housing for folks higher up on the income scale is extremely scarce.

      None of the above makes any sense to me, as I’ve pointed out here before. If housing is a human right, anyone who refuses to work should get a house immediately, just as he/she/ze/they does with health care (Medicaid), food (SNAP/EBT), and smartphone (Obamaphone/Lifeline). If housing isn’t a human right, why do the chumps (working taxpayers) pay for millions of free houses for those who are smart enough to refrain from work?

    • Sorry, I misedited. I meant to add…

      I really find the choice of words here by Posner (one of the developers who want to build the ‘affordable’ housing units that sell for between $261,000 and $373,000):

      “‘Most people on the island think affordable housing is the No. 1 problem facing it,’ said Posner.
      ‘And yet these attempts to try and do something about it usually have one tragic flaw: They are next door to somebody.’

      Somebody. They should have typed it with a capital S. The people who are objecting are obviously Somebody, in stark contrast to the Nobodies they don’t have the infrastructure to support.

      Massachusetts continues to amaze me. I learn something new every day. It blows my mind that the Commonwealth still cannot get its agreed-upon contracted allotment of train cars from the Chinese company that produces them.

  3. Re Free Housing: In my area of central FL, the “Section-8” housing program (a federal program administered by counties) opens up its waiting list about every three years. Many applicants no longer qualify or have moved on by the time (if ever) their number is called.

    I am familiar with the case of one 33 y/o single mom of one pre-teen: she’s never been selected for section-8 after a couple of applications spanning about ten years. Finally, after a 3-yr wait she received other county-subsidized housing – a not-too-bad 2 b/r in a government-owned apartment complex. She still struggles to pay $400 rent (market rate is about $1200) and all utilities.

  4. My college economics professor would have said to cancel all forms of earmarked subsidies and replace them with a UBI so everyone can maximize their own marginal utility.

    • PhilH: The situation becomes strange in Boston/Cambridge when a migrant from a poor country is occupying a public housing unit, his/her/zirs/theirs for life, that would be worth $1 million on the market. If the government would give the migrant $1 million he/she/ze/they could go back to his/her/zir/their original country and be one of the richest people in town. But instead, the migrant lies in perpetual poverty in Maskachusetts (where “poverty” is measured by W-2/1099 income and ignores the value of housing, health care, food stamps, smartphone, and any cash earnings from babysitting, etc.).

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