This is Jason Greenslate’s typical day: “Wake up, go down to the beach, hang out with my friends, hit on some chicks, start drinking.” He also plays in a rock band. And he’s living off food stamps.
He has no income—he’s not interested in getting a job—and he’s eating on your tax dime: $200 a month of “free money,” as he puts. “All paid for by our wonderful tax dollars.” He stays with friends, family members, or girlfriends. “Why not?” he asks. He says he is “living the dream.”
Today, there are roughly 47 million Americans receiving food stamps. About 4 million of these individuals are “able-bodied adults without dependents.” In the past, to qualify for food stamps, these able-bodied adults had to work at least part time or participate in some type of work program to qualify for food stamps. If not, their benefits were limited to three months out of every 36 months. However, waivers issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture have allowed states to suspend the work requirement the past few years. Between 2008 and 2010, the number of able-bodied adults on food stamps doubled from approximately 2 million to 4 million.
Of course, not all able-bodied food stamp recipients are like Jason, with no interest in working, and certainly a tough economy has meant fewer job opportunities.
Yet food stamps should be reformed to encourage work, even if that means preparing for work or simply looking for work.
As a result of the 1996 welfare reform, which instituted work requirements for the largest cash assistance welfare program, welfare rolls declined substantially, dropping by half within about five years. Employment rates among low-income adults also increased, and child poverty plummeted.
However, last summer the Obama Administration announced it would begin issuing waivers to the federal work requirement.
Today, the federal government operates roughly 80 means-tested welfare programs, and very few promote work. American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray explained to Fox News that government welfare “is systematically undermining a civic culture of independence that was a great American treasure.”
Welfare should not stand in the way of self-sufficiency but should encourage freedom from government dependence, helping individuals achieve the true American dream.