Democrats in Washington are using the excuse of the economic downturn to abolish welfare reform. Republicans can only win by exposing and countering this stimulus package outrage.
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Even without the extra spending in the stimulus bill, means tested welfare spending is already at a historic high and growing rapidly. In 2008, federal, state and local means tested [welfare] spending hit $679 billion per year. Without any legislative expansions, given historic rates of growth in welfare programs, federal, state and local means tested welfare spending over the next decade will total $8.97 trillion. The House stimulus bill adds another $827 billion to this total, yielding a 10 year total of 9.8 trillion. The total 10 year cost of means tested welfare will then amount to $127,000 for each household paying income tax.
As Rector explains,
The federal government runs over 50 means-tested welfare programs, including [TANF], Medicaid, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Women, Infants, and Children food program, public housing, Section 8 housing, the Community Development Block Grant, the Social Services Block Grant, and Head Start [among others].
This massive increase in federal welfare spending is an abuse of the public and American taxpayers, who are looking to Obama and Congress to restore economic growth. Instead, Obama and the Congressional Democrat majorities are using the excuse of the economic downturn to take advantage of taxpayers and provide for an explosion in welfare spending to serve left-wing extremist ideological goals. The economy does not grow based on increased welfare, trillion dollar plus deficits, and multitrillion dollar increases in national debt. It grows based on incentives for savings, investment, starting or expanding businesses, job creation, entrepreneurship, and work. But there is nothing in all of Obama’s runaway spending increases that does anything like that.
The New Welfare Reform
Republicans and conservatives are not helpless, however. They have public opinion on their side, and they should aggressively go on the offensive to restore and expand historic, highly effective welfare reform. Republicans should introduce a bill to reinstate welfare reform and its highly effective incentives. Indeed, they should propose and campaign on expanding welfare reform to more federal programs. At a minimum this should include block granting food stamps back to the states, with the funds used for federal work programs for the poor. It should also include block granting Medicaid to the states as well, which is the key to health-care reform focused on providing coverage to the uninsured who could not otherwise afford health insurance. Ultimately, this same welfare reform model can and should be extended to every federal, means-tested welfare program.
States would then have the control to adopt even more revolutionary welfare reforms that would be even more effective in moving recipients from welfare to work, and eliminating other perverse incentives of welfare, such as the incentives for unwed pregnancies and single motherhood. My favorite model, one I would propose to the states, would involve a simple offer of work for the able-bodied. Those who needed assistance would report to their local welfare office before 9 a.m., where they would receive a work assignment. The office would then attempt to assign each applicant to a private sector job, permanent if possible, but temporary at least. If no private sector work assignments were available, the welfare office would assign the applicant to a task for the day working for the government. But everyone who shows up for work would be guaranteed a work assignment.
The applicant would be paid in cash at the end of the day at a wage ideally equal to 90% of the minimum wage, to assure that applicants would have an incentive to find private sector jobs if they could. But the plan would work even if the applicants were paid the minimum wage. EITC wage supplements could still be provided for low-income workers. The government would provide day care for single mothers who needed such assistance to work. For those who continued to work consistently, vouchers would be provided for health insurance. Eventually funds could even be provided to help with home ownership.
This would provide much better assistance for the poor than the current system. Indeed, it would eliminate all involuntary poverty in America, as work with enough in wages and assistance would always be guaranteed for all of the able-bodied poor. (Those who were disabled and unable to work would receive assistance through other programs.)
At the same time, all welfare incentives for non-work would be eliminated. Every able-bodied American would have to work to support himself in any event. So there would be no incentive not to take any available jobs. Moreover, those with children would have to work to support them in any event as well. As a result, there would be no incentive from welfare for unwed births and illegitimate pregnancies.
This would be truly revolutionary reform with great appeal and popularity among the American people, rather than the old-fashioned, backward-looking socialism offered by Obama and his left-wing Democrats. Republicans and conservatives need to shake off oppressive Obama domination, and lead America back to prosperity.
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H/T to National Review Online