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In the early 1990s, an alliance of conservatives and neoliberals joined forces to reform welfare, ignoring the objections and fearmongering of almost everyone to their left. A decade later, this reform stands as working class conservatism’s most impressive domestic policy achievement to date….[T]he renovation of welfare delivered exactly what it promised: reduced welfare rolls and increased employment rates.br> But they fail to recognize that this was just the beginning of welfare reform, not its completion. Only the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program was reformed in the 1990s. The same principles can and should now be extended to the enormous Medicaid program, Food Stamps, housing subsidies, and dozens of other Federal means-tested programs for the poor.
These programs should all be block granted back to the states just as the AFDC program was in 1996. Even more exciting is the new safety net the states could each build under these block grant reforms.
For example, suppose all aid to the able bodied was in the form of an offer to work. Report to your local welfare office before 9 a.m. and you are guaranteed a work assignment somewhere paying the minimum wage for a day’s work. A private job assignment would be the top priority. If you need more money, come back tomorrow. If you have children with no one to care for them, bring them with you and they will receive free day care, where they will be medically examined and treated if necessary.
If you work a minimum number of hours each month, you get a Medicaid voucher that will purchase basic private health insurance. If you work for a continued period establishing a regular work history, you would be eligible for new housing assistance focused on help in purchasing your own home.
The new Federal minimum wage will soon be $7.25 an hour, or $15,000 for a full year’s work. These workers would continue to receive the EITC and child tax credits. This is an additional $4,000 for one kid, and close to $7,000 for two kids. Then there is the value of the child care and the health insurance.
This is more than adequate as a safety net. There is no need for a significant increase in the EITC or higher child tax credits or a new wage subsidy program. This system would save the Federal and state governments enormous sums, especially as private sector jobs started substituting earned wages for former welfare benefits from all of these programs.
INDEED, THERE ARE absolutely no disincentives to work in this system. The only way to get assistance for the able bodied is to work, in this program or in the private sector. This would all but eliminate long-term welfare dependency and move millions still too dependent on the government into private sector self-support and self-reliance. The government safety net would truly be used only for short-term emergencies.
Moreover, the incentives for illegitimacy under this system are also reduced to ZERO! Someone, either the father or the mother, will have to go to work to support a child in any event (EITC benefits are only available to those who work as well, and no one can live on a child tax credit of $1,000). There is nothing to be gained under this system by avoiding marriage or couples splitting up. So this system does not discourage marriage either.
The government could even reduce administrative costs to a minimum under this system. There would be no need to maintain and investigate eligibility requirements. If Warren Buffett wants to show up for a work assignment before 9 a.m., no big deal. That is unlikely to be a significant long-term issue.
This is far better than simply laying on top of the current system close to $100 billion a year in new wage subsidies. Such a proposal ignores the welfare debates and experiments of the 1970s, which found that expanding assistance into higher income ranges actually resulted in less work and self-support. That is because the subsidies have to be phased out at some income range unless they are to be paid to everyone. And phasing out such subsidies as income increases results in a major tax on work and advancement. So subsidies into higher income ranges pull workers back down into dependency.p> THIS SAME TROUBLING tendency to ignore what has come before is shown in the discussion of health care as well. Douthat and Salam just repeat the standard liberal criticism of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) in saying,
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?