Try as you might, you just can’t boil down something as broad as “social programs” into a single blog post. You just have to seperate them out into individual posts. So in that vein let’s start looking broadly at welfare as a whole. Then we’ll get into specifics in later posts. Let me go ahead and tell you what you know about conservatives in the area of welfare: conservatives want to rob from the poor and give to the rich, because we are greedy hard-hearted capitalists that place money over compassion. Now let me tell you what reality is: that’s complete BS. First off, do you seriously think people like that exist en-masse? No. Scrooge is a character in a book. Not a real person.
So why do conservatives consistently get this rap? It’s partly demogoguery, partly mis-understanding and partly just ideological disagreement. The conservative view on welfare is simple: earning a wage is better than being given one. Hard work is better than a handout. That’s the broad idea, and I don’t see it as being anything particularly radical. Would anyone really say that those things aren’t true? I doubt it. But the devil, as always, is in the details. Especially when politics are involved. So what does a conservative view of welfare look like? Let’s take a look at the 1996 welfare reform bill that the Republican dominated congress passed:
Welfare reform has allowed states the flexibility
to spend money and implement programs
that will help recipients escape welfare’s
“cycle of dependence.” The idea behind
welfare reform was to provide recipients with
job experience for a better transition into the
job market, rather than to give them cash
handouts for doing nothing. With job skills
and an incentive to hurry off the rolls (time
limits), families have been leaving welfare in
–Cato Inst., Welfare Reform
The 1996 bill has been called a success by most everyone. Even such social justice champions as Barack Obama have jumped on the bandwagon and claimed it. The bill tried to take a middle ground between no safety net at all, and pure handouts. To me that seems fair. It’s not cruel to require someone to work for their pay. It’s life. Again, even the hardest of the social justice crowd implicitly agree with this notion, when they back programs such as Obama’s newly announced plan to create 2.5 million public jobs. If the work doesn’t matter then why not just give them money? Why make these 2.5 million work for it? Because it’s intuition. And everyone knows it. Even if they play dumb for political gain.
Since the 1996 bill was primarily geared towards putting more power into the hands of the states to administer their own welfare systems, let’s look at the state that has received the best grade: Idaho.
…Idaho has the
highest grade for structural reforms, achieved
through its implementation of diversion programs,
a family cap, and enforcement of sanctions
and time limits.
According to HHS, in 2000, 78 percent of
Idaho’s former welfare recipients found jobs,
the highest rate in the nation. More than 77
percent of former recipients still had a job
nine months later. Idaho was also first in the
nation in earnings gains for people getting
and retaining jobs. Such success is the result
of appropriate priorities: “Self-reliance is one
of our guiding principles and, of course, having
a job is the best way to become and
Now, let’s compare that with the state that got the lowest grade: Vermont.
The project was moderately successful
but lacked important policies such as time limits
and sanctions (benefits were not withheld
from people who failed to meet minimum
work requirements). Moreover, recipients were
not required to even look for work before 30
months had passed.
Vermont has no family cap in place to discourage
people who are clearly not self-sufficient
from having more children.
state ranked 35th in caseload reductions and
dead last in overall grade.
I think those are pretty convincing facts. The more you expect of people, the more they respond. If you treat them like responsible adults, they are more apt to act that way. If you treat them like children and always give them something for nothing, they will never grow up. Sure, we all are going to need help at some point in our lives, and sometimes there will be no friends or family there to catch us when we fall. I don’t know a single conservative that would want to see someone in real need go hungry. But when welfare gets out of the realm of the church and into the hands of the state, you must reign it in tight. Government turns everything it touches into a mindless, bloated money pit. And that “helps” nobody. I’ll say it again: conservatism is the only political ideology that takes a realistic view of human nature into it’s policies.