Welfare Reform Tackles Debt Crisis and Unemployment

House Republicans have begun reforming welfare programs as part of their efforts to cut government spending to tackle the budget deficit and reduce unemployment.  The House passed the Republican budget for Fiscal Year 2012 on Friday.  It reduces government spending on the welfare programs and increases employment through mandatory work requirements.

Also, Rep. Jim Jordan (R.-Ohio) introduced the Welfare Reform Act of 2011, which is an overall restructuring of the entitlement program.  Jordan’s bill would cut redundancy of the 77 federal welfare programs, cap overall spending on the programs, and mandate work requirements.

“This bill begins to treat all American families with the respect they deserve.  We’re giving the taxpayers, who are supporting the system, the facts of where your dollars are actually going, and showing this is why it needs change.  And for the families stuck in the system, we’re going to give them tough-love incentives they need for a better life,” Jordan said in an interview with HUMAN EVENTS.

The key provisions of the Welfare Reform Act are the following:  Formulate the total amount that taxpayers are spending on all means-tested welfare at all government levels, require that the President’s annual budget include the total cost for federal, state, and local welfare spending for the next decade, require able-bodied adult beneficiaries of food stamps to work or prepare for a job, and after unemployment falls to 6.5%, then cap welfare spending at 2007 levels as adjusted for inflation.

Jordan said that welfare reform is needed now because of the debt crisis.  The current national debt is $14.1 trillion, and is projected to hit the statutory debt ceiling in the next month.  And this year’s projected budget deficit is $1.6 trillion.

“Reason one, welfare reform is going to help with the spending problem eventually.  This is mandatory spending.  And there are 77 different means-tested social welfare programs out there,” said Jordan.  “When you factor in state tax dollars and federal tax dollars, it’s comparable to what is spent at the federal level for national defense.”

According to the House Republican Study Committee, which Jordan heads, the state and federal government are spending twice as much on welfare programs since reforms were instituted in 1996.  The committee predicts that welfare spending will exceed $10 trillion over the next decade.

“We have 77 different programs, and you just ask the obvious question, ‘Do you think there is some redundancy there?’  There are probably some programs that we can get rid of, and combine resources,” said Jordan.  “And actually if you combine resources, and you can combine programs, you can actually free up some dollars.  Some of the savings can actually go to help the needy families out there.”

Also, Jordan said that with the slow economy and high rate of unemployment (8.8%), instituting work requirements is necessary to help get people back on the job.

“We want to do things that actually help families, not trap families,” Jordan told HUMAN EVENTS.  “When they actively have to do the job search, or community work, or some kind of employment that supplements what they’re getting from the taxpayer, those are all things that help them with the kind of employment that they can get into long-term, and get away from any welfare program.”

In 1996, the Republican Congress worked with President Clinton to reform welfare by creating the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.  The TANF program required recipients to work or prepare to work.  Jordan said that the 1996 reforms were successful in getting people back to work, but other social welfare programs have since expanded in scope and costs, while the culture has reverted back to old standards due to liberal policies under President Obama and a Democrat-controlled Congress.

“The last several years under Democrats, we’ve begun to move back to the old model of thinking of welfare as, the more people you sign up, the more successful the program is, versus what it should be,” said Jordan.  “A successful social welfare program is one that would have fewer and fewer people, more and more people employed in the private sector, and more and more people who aren’t stuck in the old system.”

Jordan also pointed to Obama’s stimulus bill for contributing to the social welfare problems by incentivizing states to sign up more people onto welfare rolls in order to get more federal funds.  “The incentive I think has moved in the wrong direction,” said Jordan.

Jordan’s bill has 18 co-sponsors, including the original Republican co-sponsors, Representatives Tim Scott (S.C.), Scott Garrett (N.J.), Dan Burton (Ind.), Louie Gohmert (Tex.), and Jason Chaffetz (Utah).  As the 77 welfare programs are spread out among so many federal departments and agencies, the bill was referred to five committees of jurisdiction: Ways and Means, Budget, Rules, Agriculture, and Energy and Commerce.

Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) included two major provisions from the Welfare Reform Act in the House GOP budget for FY12.  The Republican budget includes the new work requirement for food stamp recipients and puts a spending cap on all welfare programs at 2007 levels after unemployment falls below 6.5%.

The Republicans’ “Path to Prosperity” budget, which tackles entitlement reform of mandatory spending, passed the House last week along party lines, but is not expected to get a vote in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Jordan is pushing for a stand-alone vote in the House this year on the Welfare Reform Act.

“Work requirements, having limits, having an overall cap, we think all these things are going to be helpful as we move forward,” Jordan told HUMAN EVENTS.  “And of course, there’s the other big issue that we talked about, and that is, we’re broke.  We’ve got to change.  And if we don’t begin to dramatically change things, the path we’re on fiscally is just not sustainable.”