It might surprise some of you to learn my opinions on so-called Welfare-to-work programs. You probably think that I'm some bleeding heart, give the poor people their money, kind of guy because of my liberal leanings. But, you would be dead wrong. Not only do I think that public assistance should require some accountability on the part of the recipient (like having a job), I hold the even more controversial belief that if I'm paying your bills, then I can demand that you be put on non-participitory birth control, such as Norplant or the shot. And you thought I was just another bleeding heart.
Welfare-to-work is how welfare SHOULD work. Welfare should not be a retirement program for lazy people. Believe me, I'd rather sit at home and collect a check any day of the week, but that tiny shred of dignity I have left won't allow me to do that. Research has shown time and time again that WELL-DESIGNED Welfare-to-work programs (most have been implemented by individual states, and not the feds) actually are very effective in combating poverty. These programs help people get out of poverty instead of simply maintaining it. Crazy idea, eh?
The Bush Administration recently introduced new federal regulations that will increase the work requirements for people on such programs. Weight management and smoking cessation programs will also be excluded from the new federal regs. This sounds like a fantastic thing to me, except that if you look a little bit deeper you see the following problem: (Source)
"The Bush administration provided an additional $500 million for child care over the five-year program, a fraction of the $4 billion that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said was necessary for parents to meet the new work requirements."This is going to be very expensive for the states," said Elaine Ryan deputy director of the American Public Human Services Association, which is made up of state welfare officials. "How are they going to pay for this?" she asked."
Elaine raises a critical point with this issue, and one that most states have done a great job answering on their own in the past: When we send people with kids back to work, we have to have someplace for their kids to go. When the CBO reviewed the issue, they estimated that we would need $4 billion to pay for childcare for these people who are moving from Welfare-to-work. Bush allocated about 12% of that amount. You don't have to be a mathmatician to see the problem with that.
The Bush Administration wonders why people criticize its domestic policies, and this is a fine example of how they take a great idea that states have made incredibly successful and cost-effective, and underfund it into ineffectiveness. We have seen the Bush Administration do this with funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Medicaid programs. The federal contributions for these programs continue to fall in Bush's annual budget allocations. Whether you like these programs or not, if we're going to dump billions of dollars into them, we should at least require the federal government to fund them adequately enough so that they actually function.
If you think that welfare recipients will move off of welfare and get jobs if they can't afford childcare, you're an idiot. What incentive do people have to get a job if doing so is going to put their family further into poverty? Childcare is horrendously expensive, and because no one on the right or the left wants to implement my required birth control for welfare mothers program, people on welfare have expensive childcare needs.
If we want these people to get jobs, earn their keep, and contribute to society, we cannot create a federal program that is a disincentive to going back to work. It's nice to see that when the President takes on a domestic issue for a change, it's only to make those programs work better. Keep up the good work, asshole.