• Trump Promotes Commonsensical Food-Stamp Adjustments — Unserious People Object

    Surge Summary: The Trump Administration is initiating some necessary and common sense reforms to the government’s Food-Stamp Program. There is every reason to expect positive results from these changes. So … why are some grousing about them?

    How serious is America’s attempt – any attempt – to cut government spending? It’s evident: not serious at all. Witness the controversy that has gurgled up over an utterly reasonable attempt to get able-to-work adults off the tax-payer sponsored public udder and back to providing for themselves:

    The Editors over at National Review fill us in:

    Our food-stamp program has some bizarre loopholes in it, and the Trump administration is trying to close them. A new rule finalized [last week] attacks one in particular.

    In theory, there are supposed to be strict time limit for “ABAWDs” – did you even know such an acronym exists? — or able-bodied adults without dependents: If they fail to meet work requirement or to be granted a case-by-case exemption from their state, they are only supposed to receive food stamps for, at most, three months in any three-year period.

    Again, that’s in theory. In practice? The executive branch has broad discretion: it can waive the limit for large geographic areas struggling under weak labor markets. Previous administrations, no shock, took promiscuous advantage of that option, liberally applying it. As of 2017? Approximately a startling one-third of the U.S. population were residing in waived areas.

    Under the old rule, any place with an unemployment rate one-fifth above the national average was eligible for a waiver. (Places could — and still can — also establish eligibility by having an absolute rate over 10 percent.) This meant that when unemployment was low throughout the country, areas with good labor markets could still receive waivers, simply because unemployment wasn’t quite as low there as it was elsewhere.

    The old rule also allowed states to effectively gerrymander their waiver requests, combining high- and low-unemployment counties to maximize the number of people exempted. All told, states such as Illinois and California were able to obtain waivers for all but a few of their counties.

    In short, the system was unfair and arbitrary, imposing time limits on some recipients but not others based on where they happened to live, failing to target the waivers toward truly needy areas, and allowing states to abuse the rules to draw in more federally funded benefits.

    In short, states were enabled to indulge the kind of shady shenanigans for which government is renowned.

    Well … times? Maybe they are a-changin’!?

    Under the new rule, effective in April of next year, these waivers won’t be granted to areas with unemployment below 6 percent. And states will be far more limited in the geographical configurations they can request waivers for. These are entirely reasonable policies, and well within the range of discretion the statute grants to the executive branch.

    Many on the left complain about the rule simply because it will reduce the number of people on food stamps — by about 700,000, roughly 2 percent of total food-stamp enrollment, by the administration’s own estimate. But increasing benefit receipt is not an end in itself, especially when it comes at the expense of an incentive for childless, able-bodied adults to find work; and given the massive growth the program has seen these past two decades, there is clearly room for cuts. (Despite the recovery, total enrollment is about double what it was in 2000.) Perhaps more to the point, whatever one’s ideal level of food-stamp enrollment, there is no good reason to gut work requirements for entire areas with low unemployment while enforcing those requirements elsewhere — or to let states play games with their maps to boost eligibility.

    America’s continuingly strengthening economy is providing a convenient context for enforced work requirements and time limits to encourage those presently on welfare to step back into the labor market. Critics in doubt of the effectiveness of such an approach need only consider 1996’s welfare reform legislation: it proved these kinds of tightenings can work.

    For what it’s worth, if Congress disagrees with these adjustments, it’s free to get busy doing its job and insinuate some new regulations into the law rather than defaulting these decisions to the executive branch.

    Oughtn’t the entire impetus of programs like Food Stamps be to help those in serious need without inculcating in them an ingrained dependence on the tax-dollar-funded dole? To provide transitional assistance so struggling individuals can re-enter the working population, whereupon their reliance on food stamps goes away?

    If so, what’s this squabbling all about?

    H/T: Editors/National Review

    Image: Creative Commons; CC by 2.0; Adapted from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/maulleigh/419429614


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