Some never relent in efforts to blame and punish the poor for their difficulties. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) writes:
The Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act addresses deep problems in the federal government’s welfare programs that make it more difficult for low-income Americans to work their way into the middle class and stay there. This bill would get existing federal welfare programs under control and would help the working poor transition from poverty to opportunity and security. How it works:
- Strengthens work requirements for all able bodied, work-capable adults receiving SNAP benefits.
- 36 hours per month for individuals without dependents;
- 72 hours per month for individuals or couples with dependents;
- Incentivizes states to comply with work requirements through a phased–in performance measurement system.
- Rewards states with a grant equal to ¼ of the savings
- Penalizes states by diminishing funding over time for not meeting requirements
- Requires the federal government to report all means-tested welfare spending, including state and local governments, and report estimated levels over the next decade
- Phases in a cap on total means-tested welfare spending that is adjusted yearly with inflation
- Phased in to 2007 levels over 3 years
What it does (according to Mike Lee):
- Restores and improves work incentives for individuals and families
- Improves state administration of welfare programs
- Incentivizes states to transition beneficiaries from welfare to work
- Creates greater transparency in means-tested welfare spending
- Saves $2.5 trillion over 10 years
This bill is misnamed — it has nothing to do with welfare reform or upward mobility. It is all about saving money and would do nothing to end poverty. It is based on myths:
- Unemployed people could find work if they tried.
- Means testing is justified.
- States should be squeezed to reduce spending.
This bill is not reform, but a return to the discredited welfare system of the past where a legion of case workers made sure people were looking for work, that they didn’t have unreported income, and that benefits were cut off as soon as their was a hint of hope in a persons life. Nor does it promote upward mobility — it is punitive rather than helpful; it pushes people down rather than help them up. In short, this bill represents compulsion — people should be forced to work, states should be forced to reduce spending, people should be cut off from benefits as soon as they find work.
Mike Lee’s views are similar to Tom Reed’s — Reed also would cut benefits to force persons to become independent, to work or go without. However, I know of no evidence that suggests that cutting off benefits constitutes reform, creates jobs, or promotes upward mobility.
- Our goal ought to be to end poverty, not force more into destitution.
- We spend too little on hunger and homelessness.
- We keep people poor by cutting off benefits prematurely.
There is no way to end poverty without spending money, however money spent would be well spent. Poverty leads to expensive medical problems; it is difficult for hungry kids to learn. We have plenty of food; there is no reason that anyone, particularly a child, should have to worry if there will be anything to eat tomorrow.
© William Hungerford – February 2014