The 112th Congress is out of the gate, and so is its mantra of getting government spending under control. But there’s one piece of the spending pie that legislators can’t overlook if they plan to get the United States back on the track of fiscal responsibility: welfare.
Despite the commonly held belief that the government “ended welfare as we know it” back in the 1990s, this year alone, federal and state governments will spend nearly $900 billion on means-tested programs for low-income people. (And no, this does not include unemployment spending.) The welfare reforms of the Clinton years accounted for just a small piece of total welfare spending in the first place, and while those reforms should not be downplayed for their significance and success, unfortunately even they have been all but eliminated over the years.
The challenge with getting welfare spending under control is that no one really knows where all of the money goes. This is partly attributed to the fact that there are over 70 different welfare programs spread across 13 government departments providing assistance for things from food to housing to cell phones.
With such a behemoth to tackle, is it possible to get welfare spending under control? Representative Jim Jordan (R–OH) says yes.
The reforms made in 1996 provide proof that successful changes can be made to tackle welfare spending and shape welfare to do what it is meant to do: move people from government dependence to self-reliance. The provisions that made welfare reform possible included adding time limits and work requirements (in other words, elements of personal responsibility) to welfare—in that case, the cash assistance program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (which became Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). As a result, welfare roles shrunk and the number of children living in poverty decreased dramatically.
Transferring such principles to other government welfare programs—food stamps and housing programs, for example—would prove a promising strategy to helping people off the dole and into independence, thus decreasing the burden on taxpayers. Also critical is ensuring that the U.S. does not increase current welfare spending.
To discuss these ideas in greater detail, Representative Jim Jordan (R–OH) will speak at The Heritage Foundation on Thursday, January 20, at 10:30 a.m. Join us live or on the Web!