Why Does The Left Oppose Work Requirements For Welfare?

Apr 17, 2018 by

Fighting Poverty: Attacks on President Trump’s push for work requirements to get welfare benefits fall into two categories: Either the work rules are pointless, or they are inhumane. Neither is correct.

For some on the left, the only measure of whether a poverty program is working is the number of people enrolled. They considered ObamaCare a great success, for example, precisely because it added millions of able-bodied adults onto this welfare program. They cheered the sharp rise in food stamp enrollment under President Obama as an economic stimulus.

So it’s no wonder many of them bitterly oppose work requirements of the sort President Trump has been advocating for Medicaid and other assistance programs. If increased dependence on the federal government is your goal, anything that moves in the opposite direction is a bad thing.

In his latest step in the work-for-aid direction, Trump signed an executive order instructing federal agencies to add or strengthen work requirements for “any program that provides means-tested assistance or other assistance that provides benefits to people, households or families that have low incomes.”

Trump’s order comes after his administration encouraged states to look at ways to add work requirements for able-bodied people on Medicaid. It’s also taken steps to tighten eligibility for food stamps and is looking to impose tougher work requirements for welfare recipients.

There’s plenty of interest in this at the state level — particularly when it comes to Medicaid, for which states pick up roughly half the cost.

Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin have applied for work-for-Medicaid waivers, and others are considering it.

Nevertheless, New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone called Medicaid work rules a “cruel and a clear violation of both the Medicaid statute and long-standing congressional intent.” And others say it’s simply the GOP’s attempt to “thin the Medicaid rolls.”

When not talking about the cruelty of work requirements, opponents say that they are pointless. Most people getting Medicaid, food stamps and other benefits already work, they say. The only ones who don’t work are either too old or disabled or can’t find a job.

But these are the exact same arguments made against welfare reform in the 1990s, which changed federal welfare from an open-ended entitlement to a more limited program that imposed modest work requirements on those getting benefits.

Although it was President Clinton who signed that sweeping welfare reform bill into law, plenty of Democrats were furious. Marion Wright Edelman, then head of the Children’s Defense Fund, called it a “moment of shame.” Illinois Sen. Paul Simon declared that “this isn’t welfare reform, it’s welfare denial.” Even now, many Democrats want to get rid of it.

And that’s despite its proven track record of success.

“In the past decade, welfare rolls have dropped substantially, from 12.2 million in 1996 to 4.5 million today. At the same time, caseloads declined by 45%. Sixty percent of mothers who left welfare found work, far surpassing predictions of experts.”

That was how Bill Clinton himself described the reform’s success a decade after he signed it into law.

In Trump’s executive order, he makes the compelling case for expanding work requirements:

“Many of the programs designed to help families have instead delayed economic independence, perpetuated poverty, and weakened family bonds.

“While bipartisan welfare reform enacted in 1996 was a step toward eliminating the economic stagnation and social harm that can result from long-term government dependence, the welfare system still traps many recipients, especially children, in poverty and is in need of further reform and modernization in order to increase self-sufficiency, well-being, and economic mobility.”

Well said. But to make that happen, Republicans need to keep hammering away at this theme until it sinks into the public consciousness. And they need to turn around the metric used to define success to one that counts declining enrollment as a victory.

That’s the only way we will ever be able to turn the tide on what seems like a relentless and unstoppable expansion of the welfare state.

Source: Trump Executive Order On Work For Welfare Is A Good Start

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