Christianity in Politics, Current Events

Response to an Article on Welfare Recipients in Seattle

IMG_0691The purpose of this blog is to discuss things related to the Christian worldview. I tend to try to avoid political issues, but I recently saw a number of friends sharing an article entitled “Workers in Seattle Have Their Precious $15 Minimum Wage. But Now They Want Fewer Hours” and I wanted to respond. I will be analyzing the article from the Christian worldview perspective.

Summary of Article

The article in question points out that Seattle’s minimum wage was raised, but some who are working minimum wage have asked to work fewer hours so they do not lose their government benefits. The author writes:

[E]mployees of a non-profit group in Seattle who’ve achieved their glorious goal of the $15 minimum wage are actually asking their employers for FEWER hours. The reason? Now that they make more money, they no longer qualify for subsidized housing. So they figure if they work fewer hours, they’ll make less money and they can stay in their government-provided cheap apartments –

After sharing a few quotes, the author comments:


Basically, they want a “living wage” (whatever the heck THAT means) AND they still want all the freebies the government gives them. Because that’s TOTALLY the point of working hard and being independent.

A Response

First, I ran the numbers given in the article regarding minimum wage and cost of living in Seattle. It’s fairly straightforward, as the author shared a quote (without disputing it) of the prices involved. According to the article, the cost of a one-bedroom apartment is 1200$ a month. The cost of child care was about 900$ a month. That adds up to 2100$. Now we do the math on the wages. $15 an hour, 40 hours a week, about 4.5 weeks per month = 2700$. Now this is basically granting the most possible money because some months do only get 4 pay checks, but we’ll go with it.

The math therefore shows that, ignoring any taxes whatsoever, there would be 600$ left over a month for utilities, food, auto/renters/life/health insurance, transportation and related costs, and the like.

Whatever else might be in question here–whatever economic theories one favors–these are the numbers the article itself acknowledges. For Christians, this is the kind of data that we should seek out and try to form our opinions around. Of course we need to have economic practices which are sustainable, but as Christians we must also keep in mind the demands on our conscience towards the “other” in need. We should seek more information and be cautious about making broad statements on either side; whether we agree or disagree. Misrepresenting liberals is just as bad as misrepresenting conservatives.

A Christian Moral Response

The bottom line is that there is absolutely no way around the biblical teaching about caring for the poor and needy–even if we don’t like their “life choices.” Thus, the tone of this article is highly inappropriate as it mocked those who were in need throughout with phrases like “I’m not addicted to government welfare…” thrown in as snide remarks towards those who are on some kind of welfare.

A Christian response to this should be to immediately shut down any kind of mockery of other persons, period. There is no space in the Christian moral system for carelessly decrying those who are in need. Regarding the exact phrase in question, suppose we take it literally–what is the Christian response to addiction? Should it be to point out how we ourselves are not addicted and move on from the one who is? I don’t think so. I believe that we must continue to help those in need–even if addicted. That said, the dubiousness of taking the meaning literally is of course clear. It, like the rest of the article, was directed as mockery of those in need and those who have rival economic theories trying to help them.

I’m not trying to favor one theory over another–whether pure capitalism or pure socialism or some mix is best is a topic for a completely different day and post–the issue involved is rather the tone we should carry even in disagreement. Rather than mock, should we not aid and instruct as needed?

A Rejoinder

The most frequent response I received when I shared concerns related to the article was that I needed to be instructed on economic theory.

Note that I have not commented on whether we need to raise minimum wage or whether we need to make it a “living wage.” I don’t particularly want to enter that debate and the quagmire that follows it. My comments have been on the ethical concerns with the article and its tone. We have looked at the numbers involved, and I suggested those should be a consideration regarding a Christian response to such issues. Other than that I think that we must at all costs avoid the kind of tone present in the article. We ought to treat others as we would be treated.


Finally, as a practical concern, would not a reasoned response sharing one’s own disputes about the economic theory(ies) involved in the article be more convincing than poking fun at the specifics of another’s situation? I believe so. I certainly don’t respond well when the beliefs I hold are mocked. That is a surefire way to shut down conversation rather than spur it forward. If the intent is to convince, would not a winsome approach work better?


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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


5 thoughts on “Response to an Article on Welfare Recipients in Seattle

  1. I agree. I even feel a little convicted.

    Posted by Anthony Baker | July 27, 2015, 8:23 AM
  2. Thank you for this. I live in the UK and have several times had to access welfare. It sounds as though your system has a similar dysfunction to ours ie that you can be worse off working/working harder. What should a Christian do if working harder means not being able to feed their children or put a roof over their heads? I’m not offering an answer just asking. If people put their children first and choose to work fewer hours doesn’t the fault lie with the design flaws in the welfare system? Making an argument for reform would be more useful than mockery.
    As for the economic theory, your silence is wise. If you laid all the economists in the world end to end they still wouldn’t come to a conclusion.

    Posted by Giles | July 27, 2015, 11:12 AM
    • Thanks so much for stopping by and for your comment. I appreciate having your perspective from “across the pond.” You also raise an interesting ethical question as well from the perspective of parents: what is the right choice when it comes down to a system that is broken? Is it really “exploiting” the system when it is the system that can help create the situations that are discussed here?

      Thanks again for your thought-provoking remarks.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 27, 2015, 1:46 PM


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