This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, May 31, 2017:
As predictable as the sunrise, the Obama administration was outraged over Maine’s SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) reform instituted in late 2014, and even threatened to cut off some federal funding if it went ahead with it. To his credit Governor Paul LePage signed the bill anyway.
What happened next is historic. At the time, some 12,000 Mainers – able-bodied individuals without children at home – were on SNAP. The new law required them either to find a part-time job for 20 hours a week, enroll in a job training program, or volunteer 24 hours a month at a local charity. By the end of 2015, that number had dropped to 2,500 – an 80 percent decline.
Who knew so many loafers were on welfare in Maine?
As Arthur Browne noted in the US Herald at the time:
Do you see what Maine did there? They’re making people exhaust their possibilities for employment before giving them a handout. Finally, a state government has hit upon a great way to reward people for trying to get jobs and to punish those who sit around feeding off the taxes of the rest of the country.
While it’s unlikely that the state’s legislators sought deliberately to punish those loafers, it’s clear that Maine’s success has become a model for other welfare reform, including that of the Trump administration.
Last week, Trump rolled out his budget for 2018 and in it are revisions to SNAP. By instituting work requirements, the administration hopes to cut the costs of SNAP by 25 percent in the next ten years.
The administration is also doing something else that may be even more important: it wants to require states to ante-up for part of the benefits that the federal government has been doling out these many years. It would start at a participation rate of 8 percent and then increase to 25 percent by 2027. Trump wants the states to have some “skin in the game” in order to keep the program efficient and accountable.
The administration is also proposing ending a couple of block grants that have been dumping billions in federal money – taxpayer money – into state and local coffers, which have been uniformly considered to be failures.
Naturally the left is screaming bloody murder. The New York Times took umbrage at the proposed cuts, allowing the paper to continue to vent its spleen on anything proposed by Trump:
President Trump’s budget plan would destroy the food stamp program, on the pretense that it discourages work. That’s nonsense, because most adult recipients either work or are unable to do so because of age or disability. A more plausible explanation is that cutting food stamps would help to offset the cost of huge tax cuts for the rich.
The damage would likely be permanent. Food stamps would be reduced by 25 percent — $193 billion over 10 years — much of which would be achieved by shifting costs to the states, which could not afford to make the payment, leading them to cut food aid.
ThinkProgress, the far left outfit funded by George Soros, said “Trump wants to slash federal support for food assistance to the poorest Americans” adding that such “a deep cut could be backbreaking for the more than 40 million Americans – many of them children – who qualify for the nation’s premier anti-hunger program.” After decrying the cuts, it blamed the proposal on Trump’s ideology: “Philosophically, the Trump administration is choosing to raise money off of food insecurity.”
There are a couple of “hidden” benefits if Trump gets this through Congress. First, it’s a recognition that welfare at the federal level is clumsy and expensive. Second, it’s an admission that there are always cheaters, loafers and free-riders seeking to take advantage of it.
But third, it’s a tacit if not deliberate admission that welfare is not a responsibility of the federal government, despite claims and court rulings that it is. The General Welfare clause has been so abused and stretched and for all intents ignored that its original purpose that didn’t allow one single dime to be paid out from the national government as welfare has been muted into irrelevancy. Instead, those powers were left in the hands of the state where decisions on welfare, and its costs, would be borne locally. That was part of the competition between the states that the founders counted on to resolve successfully such matters in the future.
There’s a moral and Scriptural point to be made as well. First is the immorality of taking a man’s earnings by force and giving them to someone else who didn’t earn them. It’s called theft. The apostle Paul said it well in writing to the church at Thessalonica: “For even while we were with you, we gave you this command: If anyone is unwilling to work, he shall not eat.”
Commentator Matthew Henry added:
Christianity is not to countenance slothfulness … but some expected to be maintained in idleness, and indulged a curious and conceited temper. They meddled with the concerns of others, and did much harm.
That slothfulness, if allowed to seep into the body politic, and worse, to expand, will eat away at the cultural foundations to the point where a majority looks to the government for its existence. At that point, all Constitutional restraints are tossed aside, the culture descends into democracy, mobocracy, and ultimately tyranny.
Pernicious dependency is the natural result of handouts. It’s nice to see an effort to rein them in and begin to shift part of the responsibility back to the states where it belongs.
National Review: Cracking Down on Maine’s Welfare Reform