And every program has rules, so if you want to participate, live with them.
Welfare was supposed to be a hand up, not a handout, but the “War on Poverty” that began with President Johnson in 1964, while it helped some, also enabled a generation of people for whom the safety net became a hammock. Instead of ending poverty it institutionalized poverty and contributed to the breakdown of the nuclear family by incentivizing single parent homes. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 reversed some of this by incorporating a responsibility to work and by replacing AFDC with TANF, where the “T” stands for “temporary”. We also have SNAP and WIC programs that provide food aid and both public housing and rent subsidies to provide help with shelter. It’s an alphabet soup of up to 80 programs with each having different eligibility requirements. It’s also an invitation to fraud and waste. Since all welfare should be managed at the state level, is there any reason why there couldn’t be just one program run by one agency that covered everything? The goal isn’t to deprive people of benefits for which they’re eligible, it’s to make the system more efficient with less overhead, fewer forms to fill out, and less fraud. I’ll suggest a model I call ISIC, but first I’ll discuss a few related topics.
Deadbeat Dads: Social services would cost less if every man who fathers a child and then walks away from mom paid child support. An aggressive effort to pursue child support needs to be a part of welfare. Sorry guys, but I shouldn’t have to pay for you to play, so “man up” and take responsibility for your kids.
Earned Income Tax Credit: EITC is a Federal welfare program that provides tax credits for low income people who work. For some it’s a disincentive to work because it’s easy to look at the EITC chart and figure out how to get maximum money for minimum work. Eliminating it would be politically unpopular, but why not replace it with a single coordinated welfare system?. The amount of the tax credit is currently based on charts for 0 to 3 children, with the third being a recent expansion to EITC. If we can’t eliminate EITC, return it to a maximum of 2 children, or even use just one chart somewhat below number 2 for everyone, and impose a maximum number of years in which it can be collected. Why on earth are we subsidizing people to have children they can’t afford instead of encouraging smart lifestyle choices? Also, the IRS should be prohibited from issuing EITC to those in the country illegally.
Drug Testing: I won’t advocate drug testing because it’s expensive and has mixed results, but if a state wants to do it, it shouldn’t be considered an unreasonable search that violates the applicant’s rights. Welfare application, like job application, is voluntary; it’s not an arrest situation. If a judge rules that pre-welfare drug testing violates a welfare applicant’s right without also ruling that pre-employment drug testing violates a job applicant’s right, the judge is making a welfare applicant “better than” a job applicant. What happened to equal rights? I also wouldn’t say that drug use should automatically disqualify an applicant if they’re willing to go to rehab. The objective of welfare is to help people reach financial independence, not to punish them.
Workforce Housing: This is not a welfare issue but it is an issue in some communities for lower income families trying to improve their lives so I’ll mention it. They need affordable places to live. There has to be something between run-down “poor housing” and the “mcMansions” that require six-figure incomes to buy. Workforce housing is not public housing, it’s simply affordable housing. Many communities oppose workforce housing because they fear it will lower property values or cause an influx of children who will place increased demands on schools and hence property taxes.
Job Training. This is often discussed in connection with both unemployment and welfare. Like many government programs, there are too many job training programs, around 47. Why not consolidate and cut this to two, one for office/paraprofessional jobs and one for skilled trades? To be useful, candidates must have completed high school, one way or another, and jobs matching the training must be available. To be fair, candidates only get one pass through. No one should become a professional student at taxpayer expense.
Minimum wage: Also not directly a welfare issue, raising the minimum wage is a topic of recent interest. Doing so would lift some out of poverty but could harm small businesses. The minimum wage hasn’t been raised for years, so doing it makes some sense, but not by around $3-6 all at once. The adverse effects on the economy could be minimized by raising it incrementally over a period of 3-5 years while still providing an immediate benefit to those working at minimum wage. The impact of a minimum wage hike also could be minimized by allowing the unskilled labor market to tighten so wages would rise naturally instead of by government mandate. I realize that a minimum wage hike conflicts with strict conservatism but my goals are to shrink welfare rolls and government itself. Also, with inflation predicted, some wage growth is necessary to avoid stagflation. Finally, with liberals buying votes all around, standing your ground on “NO” won’t win elections, and if you can’t win elections you can’t change the course of the country.
To reduce the size of government you must reduce dependency on government.