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Welfare Reform

April 5, 2011
In 1987, Time Magazine published an article expressing the
opinion of most Americans at that time, which was that the welfare system was in dire need of reform. The article articulated the popular opinion that welfare “ … breaks up families, traps the poor in degrading idleness and breeds a self-perpetuating cycle of illegitimacy, poverty and government dependency.” (1)
 
Yet here we are over 2 decades later, (a full generation), and the issues that plaque the welfare system are still predominant on the minds of the working class who’s tax burden continues to climb and who’s standard of living continues to decline. In fact, as the middle-class continues its downward slide toward poverty, welfare recipients, in many cases, live at a higher standard of living than those who have found the constitution to be self-reliant. I, like many others, recognize that the current welfare model is not sustainable and liken the repetition of a failed policy to that of a form of insanity.
 
At the heart of welfare are many admirable intentions. A progressive and contemporary society should find a way to help the desolate, the mentally ill, the handicapped, and most of all, children who through no fault of their own find themselves in a battle for mere survival. However, at some point, the level of societal support exceeds humanitarian mandate and a hand up becomes a hand out; basic needs becomes luxury; appreciation becomes expectation; and the notion of self reliance gives way to career welfare burden. These by their own accord signal a dire need for change, but the total of the ills of the current system are even more ominous.
President George W Bush, when asked about the issues involving immigration and illegal immigrants commented that these individuals fill jobs that Americans will not. One would think that where there are employment opportunities, that welfare recipients would be eager to fill those positions, yet why should they – if by virtue of accepting a very low paying job they lose the more lucrative welfare benefits, then where is the incentive?
 
Health coverage is yet another substantial burden to the welfare system. Hospital emergency rooms are meant to address immediate and life threatening illness and trauma. Yet far too often among the welfare class, a very expensive visit to the emergency room is the substitute to having and utilizing a primary care physician.
America is still suffering from the credit burst, and our government has gone bankrupt. We can no longer afford to continue to burden the American tax payer on programs with excessive spending. Just as the average American worker has had to live with less and had to get back to basics, so to must the welfare class.
 
The basics are easy enough to define – the food, shelter, and clothing trinity is a well known set of criteria for survival. When States began issuing debit cards to welfare recipients with no spending restrictions, various State officials seemed shocked to learn that tax payer money was being spent on items such as tattoos, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, strip joints, and other items which any reasonable person would disassociate with basic living. Some where along the line, a notion was put in to practice that those who lack the will or “circumstances” to work are somehow entitled to certain standards of living, including a single family house, access to various forms of costly entertainment, privately owned transportation, etc. More than anything, this mindset, along with the recipient’s sense of entitlement, is due for reform.
 
Reform of the welfare system must engage the tenants of Rescue, Retrain, Restore, and Re-invest. Simply put, use the system as intended to rescue the desolate from immediate danger, retrain them to be self-sufficient, and restore them back to the working class which allows for additional tax base to re-investback in to the system.
 
The Plan:
Let me pre-empt this by stating that statistically speaking, most welfare recipients are in and out of the system within 2 years. Those who remain past 2 years are statistically likely to remain in the system indefinitely.
 
The first order of business under my welfare reform plan would be to classify recipients based on their ability to maintain self-sufficiency. For example, those individuals with mental handicaps who could not possibly be expected to make critical life decisions, would fall in to category A. Category A recipients require indefinite government assistance, and thus the institutions of the welfare system would bear the burden of making the appropriate choices on behalf of those recipients. Category B recipients are those who require temporary assistance and are employable to at least a certain level.
 
Category B recipients would receive full benefits for the first twelve months. From twelve to eighteen months, recipients would receive 75% of benefits. From eighteen to twenty four months, recipients would receive 50% benefits. If after twenty four months a recipient is unable to reach self sufficiency, they would have the choice of either leaving the system or defaulting to Category A, from which point in time the welfare institutions will make all financial decisions on behalf of the recipient, and other critical life decisions such as housing, clothing, and dietary needs.
 
To aid recipients in the transition to the job market, and to provide incentive to do so, a recipient who gains employment would not lose benefits unless their income exceeded the minimum threshold. To provide incentive, a recipient would only lose $.75 of welfare income for every $1 take home pay. This provides incentive to work and also allows for a tax base to pay back into the system, so everyone wins.
The most significant part of welfare reform is to eliminate wasteful spending by maximizing efficiencies when delivering necessities, (food, shelter, and clothing), and when offering job training opportunities.
 
Housing: The most efficient method for supplying shelter is to follow the hotel model. While a recipient would have private bed and bath rooms, residents would share kitchen, laundry, and social living spaces. Additional savings would be realized by mass dietary purchases, mass clothing purchases, and the efficient use of space and energy usage. Thus food, shelter, and clothing are supplied for the recipient, allowing for cost control and removes potential for benefits abuse.
 
Category A recipients may have relatives who are able to care for them if they had access to special services and minimal financial assistance for items such as food and clothing. Significant cost savings can be realized when relatives can be utilized to provide housing and care for those who meet the criteria of Category A.
Health: Savings can be realized by providing health services on location in the form of group benefits. Not only are ER rooms not utilized for primary care, but recipients would receive preventative care.
 
Training: Job training would occur in the form of 12 – 18 month programs outsourced to tech schools well adapted to this form of training. On-the-Job training programs could also be used by supplementing pay on behalf of potential employers. The business that hires them would train the employees, but wins by paying less in wages, the welfare system wins by giving a recipient a way out, and the recipient wins by having a track to independence.
 
Transportation: Municipal and shared transportation is affordable and the norm in many other countries. This would be a more effective model in a reformed welfare system.
 
The real question is whether or not enough of the population is willing to accept that being on welfare does not automatically come with certain entitlements, such as living in a single family home or having the opportunity to make unrestricted purchases at tax payer expense. Working Americans live and survive in apartments, dormitories, hotels, motels, and townhouses. Shared structural living is not only commonplace, but is not in the least degrading. In fact in many countries around the world, shared structure living is very predominant while single family dwellings are rare. This reform plan addresses the basic humanity mandate without causing unnecessary burden on tax payers.

(1)  http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,963540,00.html

Impressive welfare housing:  http://media.causes.com/1098660?p_id=113514089&s=fb_feed

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From → American Society

One Comment
  1. “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Vincent Lombardi

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