Publisher's Note: One of the most significant things you can do to promote Liberty is to support our mission. Please make your gift to the 2024 Independence Day Campaign today. Thank you! —Mark Alexander, Publisher

May 3, 2018

Wisconsin and Welfare: Work Works

“It’s so evident that work is the only way to get people out of poverty.” Chris Kapenga, a Wisconsin state senator, said the sentence above in regard to welfare reform legislation recently passed in the Badger State. “We’re going to help people get 30 hours of work and move them closer to being self-sustained.”

“It’s so evident that work is the only way to get people out of poverty.”

Chris Kapenga, a Wisconsin state senator, said the sentence above in regard to welfare reform legislation recently passed in the Badger State. “We’re going to help people get 30 hours of work and move them closer to being self-sustained.”

Of course, the state senator is only half right; the other steady road out of poverty is a healthy marriage. But the basic facts about the gains of work and marriage still seem to elude some people.

Promoting work and marriage are the goals of welfare reform. Contrary to the caricature painted by liberals, conservatives don’t lack compassion for the poor. Quite the opposite. We know a failure to institute work requirements robs those in poverty of their dignity — that if they’re able to work, we do them no favors by engaging in a simple handout. And the collapse of marriage in low-income communities has had devastating effects on men, women and children.

That’s why Gov. Scott Walker and his state deserve credit for taking the lead on reform issues. Among other things, the latest reforms establish work requirements for housing programs and strengthen already existing work requirements in food stamp programs.

It may surprise some people that such requirements are even necessary. Don’t we, they may ask, already have them at the federal level?

We do, but it’s not as widespread as they may think. There are more than 80 means-tested federal welfare programs, yet only two have substantial work requirements: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

And of the 3,000 federal housing authorities, only 39 require any sort of work as a condition for housing assistance.

That’s where the Wisconsin reforms come in. They expand work requirements to all work-capable state residents who receive federal housing assistance.

“The generosity of federal housing subsidies and the expense of the program make it a good target for reform,” writes welfare expert Marissa Teixeira. “This measure will help those who utilize housing vouchers to reduce their dependency on government.”

Another new Wisconsin measure that would encourage self-sufficiency: Increasing the number of work hours required of able-bodied adults without dependents from 20 a week to 30. The state is also expanding work requirements for parents with children above the age of six who apply for food stamps.

Some critics paint this an unreasonable. But if we’re interested in actually lifting individuals and their dependents out of poverty — to break the crippling cycle that often ensnares multiple generations — this is what we need to do.

Consider the success of the 1996 reform, which the Wisconsin one is built on. “That law, among other things, introduced work requirements to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program,” Ms. Teixeira writes. “The result was a 50 percent increase in employment among never-married mothers and a one-third decrease in poverty among that group.”

Wisconsin’s latest reforms offer a model for other states. Its efforts, in fact, remind me of a key recommendation in “Solutions 2018,” The Heritage Foundation’s latest policy briefing book: that when it comes to welfare reform, we should return fiscal responsibility to state governments.

Those governments administer many federally funded welfare programs, but inefficiency abounds — which is hardly surprising, considering that it’s not their money on the line. But if we began to shift things so that states not only administer but pay for the programs with state resources, we can expect that to change.

The final crucial element of reform, courtesy of “Solutions 2018”: We need to do much more to promote marriage, which is a proven weapon against child poverty.

Marriage reduces the probability of child poverty by a whopping 80 percent. Children in single-parent homes, by contrast, are more than five times more likely to be poor, compared to their peers in homes with both parents.

As President Lyndon Johnson said of the War on Poverty, “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it.” Wisconsin is pointing the way. Will other states follow?


Republished from The Heritage Foundation.

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!


The Patriot Post and Patriot Foundation Trust, in keeping with our Military Mission of Service to our uniformed service members and veterans, are proud to support and promote the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, both the Honoring the Sacrifice and Warrior Freedom Service Dogs aiding wounded veterans, the National Veterans Entrepreneurship Program, the Folds of Honor outreach, and Officer Christian Fellowship, the Air University Foundation, and Naval War College Foundation, and the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for his friends." (John 15:13)

★ PUBLIUS ★

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

Please join us in prayer for our nation — that righteous leaders would rise and prevail and we would be united as Americans. Pray also for the protection of our Military Patriots, Veterans, First Responders, and their families. Please lift up your Patriot team and our mission to support and defend our Republic's Founding Principle of Liberty, that the fires of freedom would be ignited in the hearts and minds of our countrymen.

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2024 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.