Maine Rediscovers the Solution to Exploding Welfare Costs

by Dave Blount | February 15, 2016 1:47 pm

The food stamp program is out of control:

One trillion dollars—that’s how much the government spent last year on means-tested welfare aid, providing cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to poor and low-income individuals. The food stamp program is the nation’s second largest welfare program.

The number of food stamp recipients has risen dramatically, from 17.2 million in 2000 to 45.8 million in 2015. Costs have soared over the same period, from $20.7 billion in 2000 to $83.1 billion in 2014.

The most rapid growth in the food stamp caseload in recent years has been among able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs). These are work-capable adult recipients between the ages of 18 and 49 who do not have children or other dependents to support.

This is in part a result of a deliberate effort to destigmatize welfare and to get as many people on food stamps as possible, regardless of whether they are capable of paying for their own food. The more people take other people’s money through the State, the more powerful the State becomes.

Even in the Age of Hope & Change, there is pushback:

Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, recently established work requirements on recipients who are without dependents and able-bodied. In Maine, all able-bodied adults without dependents in the food stamp program are now required to take a job, participate in training, or perform community service. …

But despite vigorous outreach efforts by the government to encourage participation, most childless adult recipients in Maine refused to participate in training or even to perform community service for six hours per week. When ABAWD recipients refused to participate, their food stamp benefits ceased.

In the first three months after Maine’s work policy went into effect, its caseload of able-bodied adults without dependents plummeted by 80 percent, falling from 13,332 recipients in Dec. 2014 to 2,678 in March 2015.

No one should be surprised by this. Remember the welfare reform that Obama illegitimately repealed?

This rapid drop in welfare dependence has a historical precedent: When work requirements were established in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program in the 1990s, nationwide caseloads dropped by almost as much, albeit over a few years rather than a few months.

One reason work requirements drastically reduce welfare rolls is that they reduce fraud. A large percentage of welfare recipients hold off-the-books jobs…

Recipients cannot be in two places at once. Faced with a work requirement, many recipients with hidden jobs simply leave the rolls.

A conservative in the White House would apply Maine’s food stamp solution nationwide.

If the caseload drops at the same rate it did in Maine (which is very likely), taxpayer savings would be over $8.4 billion per year. Further reforms could bring the savings to $9.7 billion per year: around $100 per year for every individual currently paying federal income tax.

Paying for other people’s free groceries is a price of liberal rule.


On a tip from Wilberforce. Cross-posted at Moonbattery.

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