Teaching A Work Ethic

America‘s welfare programs have lost their way. They have become a bureaucracy that leaves people in poverty instead of helping them achieve success. There is no incentive for either the recipient of welfare or the welfare administrator to help the recipient end their dependency on the government. The welfare recipient is supported by a check from the government, the welfare administrator is supported in her job by the necessity of overseeing the distribution of that check. That is a simplification, but essentially the recipient and the administrator are mutually dependent upon each other. Neither has an incentive to change the system. However, because welfare is one of the budget busters in federal spending, the system needs to change.

On Tuesday, The Daily Signal posted an article offering a proven solution to helping people escape government dependency.

The article reports:

Most Americans believe able-bodied adults receiving welfare should be required to at least seriously look for work.

A new piece of legislation in the House promises to advance that majority view in federal law.

Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., recently introduced the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 2996), which would provide a much-needed reform to the food stamp program (SNAP). The bill would strengthen work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependent children.

H.R. 2996 would establish the principle that welfare assistance should not be a one-way handout. Assistance should definitely be given to those in need, but recipients should be required in exchange to take steps to support themselves.

The article reminds us that SNAP already has work requirements for adults without dependent children, but there is a way for counties to obtain waivers to opt out of the work requirement. In this bill, those waivers would be eliminated.

The article cites what happened in Maine when work requirements were added to welfare programs:

For example, in July 2014, Maine announced that it would no longer grant waivers from the work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependent children.

In order to receive benefits, they would thus have to work, participate in a work program for 20 hours per week, or do community service for about six hours per week.

It is important to note that this policy did not arbitrarily cut food stamp recipients from the program rolls. Able-bodied adults without dependent children in Maine were removed from the rolls only if they refused to participate in modest activities.

In fact, most of these individuals in Maine chose to leave the program rather than participate in training or community service, despite the strong outreach efforts of government caseworkers. This indicates that these individuals had other means of supporting themselves.

As a result of the new policy, the Maine caseload for able-bodied adults without dependent children dropped 80 percent in just a few months, falling from 13,332 in December 2014 to 2,678 recipients in March 2015.

The article states:

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017 establishes a federal work requirement for this same category of individuals, similar to the one established in Maine.

If enacted, this policy would save taxpayers around $90 billion over the next 10 years, or roughly 13 percent of the program’s 2018-2027 projected spending.

No one wants to deny help to those who need it, but we have reached the point where there are two many Americans riding in the wagon and too few Americans pulling it. A work requirement is one way to slash the SNAP program by 13 percent and still provide help to those people who need it.

A Good Idea Whose Time Has Come

On Friday, CNS News posted a story about one area of President Trump’s proposed budget–the area of food stamps.

Here are some numbers from The Gateway Pundit in 2015:

Under Obama the poverty rate has stood at greater than 15% for three consecutive years (2010-12), the first time that has happened since the mid-1960’s.  A record number of people have been on Medicaid (72 million or 1 out of 4 Americans) and Medicare (more than 47 million Americans) during Obama’s presidency.  When Obama entered office in 2009, 31.9 million individuals received food stamp benefits. As of January 2015, 46 million people received food stamps for a 44% increase in food stamp usage since Obama took over and record numbers.  Food stamp users had topped 46 million for 38 straight months as of January 2015.  (People don’t reach out for food stamps when good paying jobs are plentiful.) Due in part to the increase in food stamps, Welfare spending  (not counting social security) reached nearly $1 trillion in 2013.

Obviously change is needed. The article at CNS News details some of the suggested changes:

In reality, the president’s proposed policy is based on two principles: requiring able-bodied adult recipients to work or prepare for work in exchange for benefits, and restoring minimal fiscal responsibility to state governments for the welfare programs they operate.

The president’s budget reasserts the basic concept that welfare should not be a one-way handout. Welfare should, instead, be based on reciprocal obligations between recipients and taxpayers.

Government should definitely support those who need assistance, but should expect recipients to engage in constructive activity in exchange for that assistance.

Work Requirements

Under the Trump reform, recipients who cannot immediately find a job would be expected to engage in “work activation,” including supervised job searching, training, and community service.

This idea of a quid pro quo between welfare recipients and society has nearly universal support among the public.

Nearly 90 percent of the public agree that “able-bodied adults that receive cash, food, housing, and medical assistance should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving those government benefits.”

It is time for those sitting in the economic wagon being pulled by working people to get out of the wagon and help pull.

The article reminds us that when Maine placed a work requirement on food stamp recipients, the number of people collecting food stamps dropped sharply. I believe Americans are basically generous people who want to help the less fortunate, but I also believe that Americans do not like being taken advantage of.

The article reports what happened in Maine:

In December 2014, Maine imposed a work requirement on this category of recipients. Under the policy, no recipient had his benefits simply cut. Instead, recipients were required to undertake state-provided training or to work in community service six hours per week.

Nearly all affected recipients chose to leave the program rather than participate in training or community service. As a result, the Maine caseload of able-bodied adults without dependent children dropped 80 percent in just a few months.

We need to learn from Maine’s experience.