The Week: Opinion: Jeff Spross: Three Reasons Why Work Requirements For Food Stamps Are a Bad Idea
Here’s a big area where the Democratic Party disagrees. Where the Center-Left liberal New Democrats such as myself, disagrees with the more further left lets say Progressives and our quite frankly Far-Left. Our more social democratic least Democrats in the party. It is in the area of the role of government and more specifically our social insurance system and what should be expected from our citizens from themselves when it comes to managing their own affairs.
The difference being between Liberals who believe in independence, including economic dependence and for people to have the freedom over their own lives. Versus lets say Social Democrats in the party who have a more collectivist approach and don’t see a problem with people having to have long-term public assistance, even if they are able-bodied and mentally able to do that for themselves, if they just had the skills to do so, in order to survive. Even seeing it as a good thing that people have government taking care of them. Instead of people having to do that for themselves.
Bill Clinton, perhaps the most famous New Democrat in America now has a somewhat famous saying and campaign theme which was part of his 1992 presidential campaign, which was public assistance shouldn’t be free. That it should be an investment in people and not simply charity. And you can argue that simply giving people public assistance checks is an investment in them, because they’ll have that money to eat and everything else in order to live. And of course that money will go directly back in the economy right away. But that is not what then Governor Clinton meant.
What Bill Clinton was talking about was investing people’s human capital. Empowering them to be able to get the tools and skills that they need to actually get off of public assistance. Because now they have a good education, which may even include life training and can use those skills to get themselves a good job that pays their own bills and no longer need public assistance and private charity to survive. A much different approach from simply cutting people off simply because they’ve been on public assistance for a long time. Or saying that they don’t have to do anything while on public assistance, other than to use that assistance to pay their bills.
To tell people who are on public assistance, but are low-income workers that they have an option, but not requirement to get education and job training assistance as part of their government assistance and probably a lot of them will take that as well if they want to actually get out of poverty and become economically independent. But you tell them that they have to do nothing while on public assistance other than to stay out of trouble and oh by the way the way they aren’t eligible for education and job training assistance anyway as part of their public assistance, very few of them will ever leave poverty. Because they won’t be able to get themselves the skills to do so.
Work requirements are the incentive that unfortunately a lot of Americans who didn’t finish high school and haven’t shown a lot of responsibility and positive decision-making with their lives, need in order to take control over their own lives. And to build a positive future for themselves and their kids. But they aren’t a magic bullet and with them you also need education and job training assistance and even requirement so people aren’t leaving Welfare and other programs to go work a minimum wage job, multiple minimum wage jobs. You need both of those things working together.