On day 1 of Economics 101, you're taught that people respond to incentives. So why do politicians ignore that? Their efforts to help the most vulnerable often do more harm than good.
In my syndicated column this week, I look at why so few people break free of Section 8, the housing assistance program:
Section 8 handouts are meant to be generous enough that tenants may afford a home defined by HUD as decent, safe and sanitary. In its wisdom, the bureaucracy has ruled that "decent, safe and sanitary" may require subsidies as high as $2,200 per month. But because of that, Section 8 tenants often get to live in nicer places than those who pay their own way.
Kevin Spaulding is an MIT graduate in Boston who works long hours as an engineer, and struggles to cover his rent and student loans. Yet all around him, he says, he sees people who don't work but live better than he does.
"It doesn't seem right," he says. "I work very hard but can only afford a lower-end apartment. There are nonworking people on my street who live in better places than I do because they are on Section 8."
Spaulding understands why his neighbors don't look for jobs. The subsidies are attractive -- they cover 70 to 100 percent of rent and utilities. If Section 8 recipients accumulate money or start to make more, they lose their subsidy.
The rest of my column here.