Entitlements

Welfare Hits a Sad Milestone

A majority of children now live in a household with at least one person receiving means-tested benefits.

Brian Mark Weber · Aug. 24, 2018

House Republicans are pushing for commonsense welfare reform with new work requirements, while Democrats are cuing up a predictable response: accusations of racism, heartlessness, and starving children. Of course, that’s the clear difference between the conservative and progressive approaches to poverty. One seeks to break the cycle and empower individuals, while the other seeks to create the conditions for long-term government dependency.

Here’s the proof: California recently exempted more than 800,000 of its residents from the welfare work requirement, even though the provision is designed for tough economic times. But California’s unemployment rate, at just over 4%, is near a 10-year low.

Charles Fain Lehman writes at The Washington Free Beacon, “The consequence of all this is that, in the middle of a booming economy, hundreds of thousands of able-bodied, childless Californians won’t be obliged to work. Many will opt not to.”

Despite what Democrats say, House Republicans don’t want anyone to go hungry, nor do they aim to pull the rug out from under those in genuine need of assistance. The real objective is to change a culture in which people are conditioned to receiving benefits from the government to one in which they can stand on their own two feet.

In fact, in April of this year, President Donald Trump signed the Executive Order on Economic Mobility, which required all government assistance programs to undergo a comprehensive review, with the long-term goal of promoting work and self-sufficiency.

Not surprisingly, Democrats oppose the idea. And they’re ready to fight despite their lack of numbers in the House. But if Democrats wanted to reconnect with the concerns of real Americans, they’d listen to their own constituents.

Kristina Rasmussen of the Washington Examiner reports, “About 82 percent of all likely voters, including an overwhelming 71 percent of Democrats, support requiring able-bodied adults to work in exchange for staying on food stamps. Yet last month, Democrats in the House of Representatives unanimously voted against the farm bill and the proven reforms it contained — including work requirements.”

But what about the impact of entrenched poverty on children?

It’s no wonder that so many young people today are looking at socialism more favorably than capitalism. For nearly a century, generations of Americans have lived in a society where they’re affected to varying degrees by government assistance. Consequently, they see the federal government’s safety net as an essential part of our society rather than a temporary solution.

And the numbers are growing.

Terrence Jeffrey writes at CNS News, “Twenty years ago, in 1998, according to Census Bureau data, only 36.9 percent of Americans under 18 lived in a household receiving means-tested government assistance. In 2008, the percentage broke 40 percent for the first time. In 2013, it broke 50 percent for the first time. America has now seen four straight years — 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 — during which a majority of those under 18 lived in a household taking means-tested benefits.”

Unfortunately, children who grow up in an environment where their parents don’t work, and their friends’ parents don’t work, come to see this as a normal state of affairs. Single-parent homes make it even harder for these children to learn how to make it on their own.

Jeffrey adds, “The Census Bureau data indicate that people living in intact families are less likely to be on government assistance than people living in broken families. Nonetheless, the government-dependency rate is still high for intact families that have children under 18.”

The Resurgent’s David Thornton notes, “Out-of-wedlock births have risen alongside the increased government assistance. For women under 30, more than half of all births now occur outside of marriage. To some extent, government assistance has replaced a spouse’s income in these single-parent families.”

An entitlement culture might not be so hopeless if our elected leaders would seek ways to lift people out of poverty — or at least try to break the cycle of dependency on government programs.

But these are politicians, after all, and government dependency is their electoral lifeblood. Why empower your supporters economically when you can promise them a handout at the ballot box?

And that’s one of the reasons why House Democrats are demonizing Republicans’ efforts to introduce a simple work ethic to welfare. Is it too much to ask that people receiving benefits make a concerted effort to find work and become independent?

Democrats think so, and if they take back the House in November, welfare reform will come to a sudden halt — and another generation of Americans will be at risk of becoming wards of the state.

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