Right On: Want to quit working? It’s a SNAP

Stock images, St. George News

OPINION — Getting tired of the boss on your case? Are you bored at work and ready for an extended vacation?

It’s all too easy – and all too comfortable – to exploit our country’s welfare safety net for those who’d rather not be bothered with work. Ditto for those who work “off the books” and don’t care to pay taxes on their cash income.

I readily stipulate that a substantial majority of those receiving welfare benefits deserve our help. I believe most Americans would agree.

Nonetheless, Obama’s Office of Management and Budget estimated that 10.1 percent of welfare payments totaling $71.5 billion were improper or fraudulent in 2015.

Getting those who should be working back on the job sounds like an especially good idea.

The 1996 welfare reform law required able-bodied recipients without dependents at home to work at least 20 hours per week. The Obama administration handed out waivers to this work requirement like candy on Halloween: welfare costs ballooned.

Republicans want to re-impose these work requirements. No other changes in eligibility, no reductions in benefits or funding.

They’ve started with Medicaid. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is next.

SNAP, aka food stamps, will put food on your table while you watch television and play video games. Even better, when you qualify for SNAP you automatically qualify for a free Obama Phone: hundreds of free minutes every month and unlimited texting.

Welfare costs exploded during the Great Recession of 2009-2010. More Americans need assistance during recessions, but the question is why have so many stayed on SNAP?

If folks had left the program at rates similar to the 1980s, food stamps would have had 36 million beneficiaries by 2013. Instead there were 47.6 million.

Obama’s hyper-regulatory policies resulted in a stunted recovery from the recession. But even now with the economy roaring ahead and unemployment near all-time lows, the number of SNAP recipients has receded only modestly. Benefit amounts per person have increased and program costs have exploded from $17 billion to about $70 billion a year.

Republicans want to tackle this problem by applying the same work requirements to SNAP that were a specific and very effective part of 1996’s welfare reform.

They propose that able-bodied SNAP recipients, ages 18 through 59, be required to work 20 hours a week. Folks subject to the work rule could satisfy the requirement by enrolling in job training or apprenticeships.

Democrats are panicking about child labor and single moms, but the requirement does not apply to seniors, children, the disabled or anyone who cares for a child under six or is pregnant. Those exemptions cover roughly two-thirds of SNAP beneficiaries.

Despite howling on the left, work requirements move people off welfare and into productive work.

Thirteen Alabama counties saw an 85 percent drop in SNAP beneficiaries after state-imposed work requirements were implemented. Among the 13 counties, there were 5,538 adults ages 18-50 without dependents receiving food stamps in January 2017. That number dropped to 831 by May.

Kansas tracked 13,000 people who moved off welfare and went to work in 600 different industries. Incomes on average more than doubled over a year.

Wisconsin waived work requirements for food assistance in 2008 then reinstated them in 2015, requiring adults without dependents to work 20 hours a week and attend a state job training program. After the rules were re-imposed, some 25,000 food-stamp recipients entered the job market.

Even when beneficiaries are worthy, SNAP rules allow stores to distribute candy, soda, cheese products, energy drinks, processed meats and lots of other items that end up seriously compromising the health of recipients.

An American Journal of Preventive Medicine study found that SNAP participants have worse diets than nonparticipants. U.S. Department of Agriculture data show that SNAP participants are more likely to be obese than people at the same income level who don’t participate in the program.

At a minimum, SNAP shouldn’t be contributing to poor health.

SNAP’s defenders should welcome moving the able-bodied off the program, freeing up program resources to improve benefits for the truly deserving.

Ironically, some on the left say work requirements are misguided because most recipients already work. If that’s true, why fight a work requirement?

Anti-hunger advocates say there is limited evidence that job-training programs are successful in getting people stable, well-paying work. Yet the left vigorously supports government-funded job training; try getting a program canceled. So which is it?

Republicans have picked a good time for their proposed legislation. Elaine Waxman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, notes that welfare reform has historically passed in periods of low unemployment, such as in 1996.

Nonetheless, making politically-charged changes in an election year is always difficult and the Republican “Freedom Caucus” will pan the reform as a half-measure. Democrats will claim it will kick millions off the program when in fact the work rule doesn’t bounce a single person.

Liberals judge welfare program success by how many people are enrolled. Conservatives judge success by how many former beneficiaries no longer need the program.

History shows that millions of today’s SNAP beneficiaries would no longer need the program.

Howard Sierer is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: hsierer@stgeorgeutah.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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11 Comments

  • NotSoFast April 26, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    Informative write up Mr. H. Sierer. Thanks for your awareness.

  • SSTEED April 26, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    The government has no business providing welfare; that is the job of the clergy and the community. They need people to think they are useful while they take their cut and get everyone addicted to the free stuff. If we ever get the chance to grow up, we will see that we never needed so called “representatives” who think their job is to sell us out to the highest bidder.

  • commonsense April 26, 2018 at 8:22 pm

    Democrats will buy votes with promised entitlements, criminal sanctuary and voter registration abuse. Some countries require work for any entitlements but this isn’t popular in America where Dems troll the poor and lazy in their greed for political power.

    The irony is the poor are hurt by this practice. In fifty years of voting Democrat poor blacks are still poor. Generational welfare abusers are slaves to Democrat masters with no real return on the investment of their vote.

    • RadRabbit April 27, 2018 at 1:18 pm

      So true when people can vote for free stuff we have a problem.

  • ladybugavenger April 26, 2018 at 8:32 pm

    I would love to just sit home and collect welfare lol. But it comes with a price! The price is the government has complete ownership over you, and that my friends keeps people from getting off of it. It also is a reason I go to work every day (my employer owns me haha)

  • Striker4 April 26, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    Politicians don’t work for a living and you pay them ! so what’s the difference ?

    • dodgers April 27, 2018 at 5:11 am

      Two wrongs don’t make a right. As Howard said, some genuinely need assistance; however, there are too many abusers, able-body lazy people, looking for a free ride. As for politicians, yes there are many who need to be ousted, and we have the ability to do that at the voting booth.

  • theone April 27, 2018 at 11:24 am

    Once again Howard and you Repubs would rather see people starve to death than lend a hand. 20% of children under the 12 go to bed hungry every night in this country and you don’t give a damn.
    Howard’s numbers are not accurate, or I should say he’s not giving the correct usage of those numbers. Actual spending in the link below.

    https://www.thebalance.com/welfare-programs-definition-and-list-3305759

    Awe the free phone myth. You Repubs fail on that everytime you use it as a means to discredit Obama.
    The free phone was signed into law by Reagan in the 80s in order for people to have access to emergency providers, Obama just enhanced to cell phones.
    Repubs are unfit to be in charge of anything.

    • comments April 27, 2018 at 9:13 pm

      repubs fail to govern. dems always have to go back a clean up their messes. Repubs are like little brat children that throw their food all over. Corrupt to the core.

      • RadRabbit April 30, 2018 at 12:15 pm

        You may be in the wrong state if you dislike Republicans. They seem to be doing an excellent job here and ranked #1 in economic outlook ten years in a row.

  • comments April 27, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    commonsense: DEMOCRATS DONE IT! ALL OBAMAS FAULT!….. blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

    same thing every time from him….

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