5 fairer welfare reforms
Our government has been very open-handed with providing for our needs, even when we don’t want it. And maybe shouldn’t accept it.
For the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) alone, the Hawaii Department of Human Services spent over $33 million each month to help over 77,000 households in fiscal year 2011. That’s up from $14 million each month to help over 47,000 households in fiscal year 2008.
First, let’s be honest. We can call it “aid to families with dependent children” or “supplemental nutrition assistance,” but it’s welfare: temporary assistance for those in need. It is not meant to be a lifelong benefit.
Second, let’s concentrate on reforming welfare for the needy. We’ll brainstorm about solutions for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid at another time.
I’ve come up with five welfare reform ideas. They may seem strict and counter-intuitive, but these are policies that will help strengthen families and personal responsibility:
1. Limit welfare benefits to 48 months. Hawaii could limit welfare benefits to 48 months, but continue forms of support: food stamps, Medicaid, child care, and emergency services. In September 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a four-year lifetime limit on cash welfare benefits, with exemptions for the elderly and the disabled. Six other states – Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin – have five-year limits on welfare, while Indiana has a two-year limit for adults.
2. No welfare benefits for underage mothers. We need to encourage teens to finish school and find a job, instead of making it easy for them to be irresponsible. Let’s channel welfare money into 1) shelters for mothers who lack the support of their families; and 2) daycare programs so that mothers can finish school.
3. Reduce welfare benefits for single mothers (excluding widows) and encourage “co-parents.” Welfare encourages single-parent families and discourages responsible fatherhood. Instead, we should encourage two-parent families and marriage. Why not allow a mother and a supporting family member or friend to apply as co-parents?
4. No increase in welfare benefits if you have more children. Higher benefits reward irresponsible pregnancies. Instead, welfare assistance should allow for the number of dependent children at the time of the welfare application.
5. Reward families who no longer need assistance. After one year without welfare assistance, let’s reward families with a small, one-time grant that could be used as a down-payment on a home or car, or a necessary medical expense (only specific uses would qualify). It would offer families a small “savings” (some of the money they would have received from welfare during that year) that may help them just when they need it most.
Political commentator Lawrence Auster warned, “Once the government becomes the supplier of people’s needs, there is no limit to the needs that will be claimed as a basic right.” Welfare is not a right; it is a safety net. What do you think?