President Trump Imposes Work Conditions on Federal Aid Recipients

On Tuesday, President Trump signed a new executive order designed to tighten work requirements as a basis for receiving public assistance that is funded, in whole or in part, by the federal government.

It is no secret that work requirements push people off the dole. You can see by this chart what happened to the rate of people receiving Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) after Welfare Reform was enacted in 1996.

Under the Obama administration, for whom independence from government assistance was anathema, there was a gradual increase in waivers to the law issued which resulted in an ever larger population dependent upon “welfare” for their livelihood:

Despite evidence that work requirements work — cutting time spent on welfare in half, doubling incomes and moving adults into over 600 diverse industries — the Obama administration approved waivers for those requirements in most states, citing high unemployment and severe job shortages.

What happened when states no longer required able-bodied adults to work to receive benefits? Predictably, the number of able-bodied adults on food stamps skyrocketed, more than tripling since 2000, while the cost to taxpayers went up fivefold.

Even though unemployment has since rebounded to near-record lows and more than 6 million jobs are open nationwide, these Obama-era waivers are still in place and many states continue to operate expanded welfare rolls under them.

Take some time to read the order because it is a fairly comprehensive administrative assault on the entire welfare dependency industry.

The new order has not made the usual suspects all that happy:

Poverty advocates criticized the moves. “For those who are able to work, they should work. But there shouldn’t be barriers for those who are in need when they can’t work,” said Derrick Johnson, president and chief executive of the NAACP.

Valerie Wilson, director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute, said a majority of those on assistance were already working — but that wages in many jobs remained too low for people to get by.

“Work requirements are inconsistent with the realities of poverty in America and are unlikely to provide any resolution,” she said. “The truth is that a majority of poor people who can work, do work — more than 60 percent.”

Wilson said low-wage workers are working more hours now that they did nearly 40 years ago.

“The problem is that their jobs don’t pay enough,” she said. “People who are on public assistance and don’t work are not choosing between a six-figure salary or staying at home. Taking a low-paying job gets no one closer to economic stability.”

If you’ll note, there is a bit of a disconnect in her objection. The order doesn’t require people who are working full-time to get another job or two. The requirement is for 20 hours a week of work, volunteer activity, or education. The 60 percent number she pulls out will not be affected. And it may not even be a real number:

Senior White House officials during a briefing Tuesday evening disagreed with the premise that many of those receiving government assistance already work. They said states with welfare policies that have enacted “common-sense” work requirements, such as Kansas and Maine, have helped drive the poorest Americans into jobs.

In Kansas, work requirements for adults without children resulted in caseloads dropping by 75 percent — and the average amount of time spent on welfare was cut in half, the White House said. The administration said studies after changes in Maine and Kansas showed that individuals who returned to work after leaving safety-net programs saw their incomes more than double, on average.

“Unfortunately, many of the programs designed to help families have instead delayed economic independence, perpetuated poverty, and weakened family bonds,” the executive order said. “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.”

I’m pretty much a 2 Thessalonians 3:10 kind of welfare guy myself. It was the way I was raised and I think self-sufficiency and self-respect go hand in hand. We shouldn’t correlate all manner of social pathologies to poverty because being poor doesn’t cause the problems. Rather it is the dependency and lack of agency produced by welfare that creates the environment and mindset for these pathologies to flourish.