A recent study finds that Texas makes it very lucrative for people not to work. The benefits and handouts available come to the equivalent of earning $74,000… all for not working in the Lone Star State. Are the rest of us suckers?

According to research conducted by the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, Texas is in the top 20 states when it comes to paying people not to work. That isn’t a compliment. The committee is headed by some of the brightest guys in free market economics – Steve Forbes, Art Laffer, and Steve Moore.

Their report focuses on the economics of it all. A society simply cannot afford to pay people for not working. Why work retail, trucking, or some other job East Coast elites deride (until they need it!) as a less-than-glamorous gig when – by not working – someone can pull in double the equivalent salary in benefits and handouts?

The report finds two unemployed adults with two children can bring in the salary equivalent of nearly $62,000 in Texas by not working.

Post-COVID, there are estimated to be 3 million working-age Americans who have simply not returned to work. With numbers like these, why should they? Government has incentivized sloth.

It is a reminder that economics and morality are inseparable. Bad economic policy is always rooted in sketchy morals. Conversely, a well-functioning moral compass sets a path for good economic policy.

In Texas, lucrative welfare schemes are the only tangible and measurable result of Gov. Greg Abbott keeping the Lone Star State under his perpetual COVID emergency. It allows people to draw higher government benefits without any pesky requirements that they actively seek work.

It might feel like “charity” to hand tens of thousands of someone else’s dollars a year to an unemployed person… but it is not. It is theft, coupled with a transfer of wealth.

Government cannot be charitable because government gets its money only at the tip of the sword. Don’t believe that? Try not paying your taxes and see how charitable the revenue officers will be. Government cannot be charitable, because government is brute force.

Charity is what individuals do for each other. It’s family members taking care of family members, as Timothy instructs us. And it’s the church stepping in where families cannot. In charity, we rightly recognize we must limit charity with charity. Giving $20 to a mentally ill drunkard at the street corner might provide the giver a moment of good feelings, but it only fuels the addiction of the recipient. True charity occurs when one person builds into the life of another, meeting real needs rather than papering them over with someone else’s cash.

Government handouts, in contrast, represent a grotesque form of slavery, creating a dependence that erodes the soul of the recipient while providing another reason for bureaucracies to grow. It is a win-win for the leviathan of big government, at the expense – literally – of everyone.

St. Paul had it right in his second letter to the Thessalonians. He wrote, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

It is not that Paul wanted people to go hungry, it is that he did not want people living in chains – especially not in the chains of their laziness.

While it cannot provide charity, government can provide incentives. Texas currently incentivizes sloth and laziness; let us instead incentivize industry and effort. Texas should withhold welfare from those who can work but don’t.

To paraphrase St. Paul: We will be amazed at how motivated someone can be by a growling stomach.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Check out his podcast, Reflections on Life and Liberty.

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