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  • Welfare Work Requirements Respect Human Dignity

    The Obama Administration has effectively gutted the work requirements of the bipartisan welfare reforms of 1996. In doing so, it is trampling on the central policy that made welfare reform work. The lesson for policymakers from those reforms was that good principles, good policy, and good results go hand in hand.

    By requiring recipients of certain government welfare programs to work, look for work, or take job-training classes, the reforms connected sound moral reasoning to effective public policy: Policy should provide a safety net for those genuinely in need, but it shouldn’t treat people as incapable of helping themselves, nor should it enable and incentivize destructive behavior.

    As Heritage senior fellow Robert Rector has explained, the work requirements that transformed welfare to workfare have been a hugely successful policy for moving people out of poverty and from dependency to self-sufficiency. After the reforms, welfare caseloads dropped by 50 percent while employment and earnings increased dramatically. As a result, child poverty fell, and black child poverty reached an all-time low.

    Good intentions are not enough for a morally sound policy of assisting the poor; how we provide assistance is crucially important. Overall assistance should be holistic, oriented not solely at meeting a material need but at transforming lives to be responsible, productive, and independent. Government assistance shouldn’t enable and incentivize the behaviors that lead to poverty in the first place.

    Policy shouldn’t create a safety net that functions as a poverty trap. Nor should it view the poor as burdens and nuisances to be managed and cared for. Rather, it should treat the poor as persons of inestimable dignity, full of potential, and capable of caring for themselves and making contributions to society. Asking welfare recipients to work and engage in other productive behaviors respects their dignity, potential, and capabilities.

    Welfare programs should thus be structured in ways that encourage these productive activities, fostering norms of work, marriage, personal responsibility, and law-abidingness. They should also create expectations (through measures such as time limits) that recipients will one day successfully leave public assistance and be successful members of society.

    As research has confirmed again and again, those who finish high school, get a job, and get married before bearing children virtually never fall into prolonged poverty. Climbing out of poverty frequently requires getting right on these same factors—acquiring work-related skills, settling down with a stable family, and finding employment. Welfare reforms should aim to incentivize these behaviors.

    The liberal approach to poverty simply seeks ever more material resources—in the form of cash, food, and housing—that allows for the flouting of the very behaviors that would help individuals escape poverty. Enabling people to engage in self-destructive behavior is not a form of authentically caring for them. It’s a way of shirking our real moral responsibility.

    The goal of any public assistance should be to get people back on their own two feet—providing short-term assistance when a crisis arises but not enabling long-term dependence.

    Welfare policy should recognize that the person is more than a bundle of material needs. Americans are a generous people, but they want to know that recipients are doing what they can to move back to self-sufficiency.

    Every piece of public policy has moral implications. Yet too often policy makers focus solely on nuts-and-bolts specifics and bottom-line outcomes while overlooking the moral dimensions of public policy. This is especially true when it comes to public assistance for the poor. Indeed, the lesson from welfare reform is that policy inspired by a sound moral vision can help produce the best nuts and bolts and thus secure the best outcomes.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Welfare Work Requirements Respect Human Dignity

    1. Bobbie says:

      the poverty we're in is due to the expense of governments and their unconstitutional acts oppressing our livelihoods, suppressing our abilities and depriving us/ children the opportunities to reach our fullest potential. The lax requirements for government goodies is costing us our independence driving us to government resources we don't want. With nothing to do but raise taxes shows increase government dependency to be the intent as Obama shows no general initiative or expectation for people to gain self reliance or job opportunities.

      Mitt Romney is campaigning welfare to work and people take offense? White media and government type people say it has racist connotations? In what way? Only white people have dignity? Only white people have a sense in humanity? How dare these democrat white supreme government peons see less in anyone in America! Their white supremacist attitudes with their low life sarcasm, isn't serving America well.

      The Romney campaign recognizes human qualities in peoples' own and knows a persons worth is not a government welfare check but greater. In America self reliance is freedom and should be the goal of every person living. Government resources labels people weak and incapable of freedom or living free so they hand out goodies for all entrapment and exploitive purposes only! Look what America has come to!?

      No matter your skin color, country of origin, cultural status, religious beliefs, welfare to work matters because what we're free and able to do with our lives within our own hands, making our own decisions, dealing with our own affairs without the authority, direction, no influence of government! Self government under common law!!!! It's what America is about!!! There are no better resources than ones own! No matter what you're getting, government resources is a trap for power and control! From taxing the rich to redistributing it according to government discretion is wrong in America! America was built to be in the control of ones own not the control of government disrespects and unconstitutional authority …

    2. Jim Goranson says:

      I respect your comments and agree, but please justify your first paragraph with supporting arguments about how he has " gutted the work requirments".

      • Meredith G says:

        Obama has removed the stipulation, (if you will), that able bodied adults must look for work or enter a training program in order to qualify for aid. He claims it is to give more 'control' to the states to run the program as they wish. This, of course, is pure bull. What it effectively does is place no responsibility upon the recipient to 'earn' any part of the assistance. Now, he says it is up to the individual states to make their own requirements. Which technically makes Obama's statement true. EXCEPT he knows that this is not something any state can do at the drop of a hat. It takes time to get something like this up and running so until that time, recipients of PA are relieved of this obligation. It's like the song, "Money For Nothing". In the early 70's I required assistance as I was a divorced single mom. I took a clerical course and had child care, both paid for by the PA system. I was assisted in finding a job and they continued to pay my child care for 9 months in order to give me a chance to be working long enough to get a raise. This was a wonderful program that worked & the training assisted me in the job market until I left it, (retired). Earning you own money and the chance to make more than PA gives you with no one to be accountable too. I hope this answers your question. If not, let me know.

    3. Sheri Spitz says:

      If you want to know how conservatives view poverty and the poor read this article. This is the truth, yet you will never hear this point of view in the msm, ever!

    4. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Don't we get it yet? Diginty is not in Obama's vocabulary. Nor is honesty, morality, or honor. Obama cares nothing for a person's "dignity". He cares only for their dependence on big government to insure a steady stream of Democrat voters.

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