The Current American Welfare System

Yesterday The Daily Signal posted an article about the current state of American welfare spending. It seems that those leaders who believe that we should become more like Europe and Scandinavia in our welfare spending practices might want to take another look.

The article reports:

The U.S. Census Bureau has released its annual poverty report. Conventional wisdom holds that the U.S. has a small social welfare system and far more poverty compared with other affluent nations. But noted liberal scholars Irwin Garfinkel, Lee Rainwater, and Timothy Smeeding challenge such simplistic ideas in their book “Wealth and Welfare States: Is America a Laggard or Leader?”

Garfinkel and his colleagues examine social welfare spending and poverty in rich nations. They define social welfare as having five components: health care spending, education spending, cash retirement benefits, other government cash transfers such as unemployment insurance and the earned-income tax credit (EITC), and non-cash aid such as food stamps and public housing.

The authors find that in the U.S., social welfare spending differs from that in other affluent countries because it draws heavily on both public and private resources. By contrast, in Europe, government controls most of the resources and benefits. For example, in the U.S., government health care spending is targeted to elderly and low-income persons; the American middle and working classes rely primarily on employer-provided health insurance. The U.S. government health care system is, therefore, more redistributive than the systems of most other developed nations.

Note to Bernie Sanders–we are already redistributing wealth.

The article goes on to explain that ‘poor’ families in America usually have air-conditioning, a car, and cable or satellite television. Poverty in America looks very different than poverty in many other parts of the world.

The article concludes:

It is, of course, a good thing that left-wing claims of widespread deprivation in the U.S. are inaccurate. But government welfare policy should be about more than shoveling out a trillion dollars per year in “free” benefits. When President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty, he sought to decrease welfare dependence and increase self-sufficiency: the ability of family to support itself above poverty without the need for government handouts. By that score, the War on Poverty has been a $24-trillion flop. While self-sufficiency improved dramatically in the decades before the War on Poverty started, for the last 45 years, it has been at a standstill.

A decent welfare system would return to Johnson’s original goal of reducing poverty by increasing self-sufficiency. It would require able-bodied recipients to work or prepare for work if they are to receive benefits. It would reward, not penalize, marriage. In other words, it would be the exact opposite of the welfare behemoth we currently have.

We have lost the War on Poverty. We are spending billions of dollars to create generational dependency rather than to create economic independence. It is time to refocus and encourage working instead of collecting money from the government. This process was begun under President Clinton (with the assistance of Newt Gingrich), but halted under President Obama. It’s time to bring a work requirement back into the welfare program. Please  follow the link and read the TopRightNews article about what is happening in Maine to bring welfare programs back under control.