By now, most of us have heard the reports that the Tsarnaev family received some $100,000 in taxpayer-funded assistance.
It touches on a key question that arises when government pays people to basically do nothing: what the heck are they up to, all day?
The classic story that welfare-spending advocates give us is, The Family Who Just Need A Little Help To Get On Their Feet: imperfect but responsible parents who are going to school and looking for jobs (however desperately), while they take care of kids or others who depend on them. I’m sure that some proportion of recipients is like that. I’m also sure that at least some other recipients sit on their rear ends for years at a time. And finally, some others must be up to no good: running meth labs, planning crimes, or studying radical Islam and (perhaps) learning how to commit terror. What are the true proportions of the three groups? That, I do not know.
When people must work for a living, we have a pretty good idea what they’re up to all day: Their jobs. If they’re going to make trouble, they must do it more in their off-hours.
Back in 2001, Mickey Kaus noted some of the links between welfare benefits and terrorism. I also remember Bruce Bawer talking about it in his 2006 book: the idea that the European welfare state paid benefits to its unassimilated Islamist immigrants as a kind of appeasement, oblivious to the fact that it was (in effect) paying them to remain unassimilated and Islamist.