Rule Five Friday

2015_04_24_Rule Five Friday (1)This is a good idea.  Excerpt:

As the economy improves, should states continue waivers that were enacted during the recession to allow healthy adults who are not working to get food stamps longer than the law’s time limit? Maine is one of the states that say no.

Last year, the administration of Gov. Paul R. LePage, a Republican, decided to reimpose a three-month limit (out of every three-year period) on food stamps for a group often known as Abawds — able-bodied adults without minor dependents — unless they work 20 hours per week, take state job-training courses or volunteer for about six hours per week. 2015_04_24_Rule Five Friday (1)Maine, like other states, makes some exceptions.

“You’ve got to incentivize employment, create goals and create time limits on these welfare programs,” said Mary Mayhew, the commissioner of health and human services in Maine. She said the measure was in line with Mr. LePage’s efforts to reform welfare.

The number of Abawds receiving food stamps in Maine has dropped nearly 80 percent since the rule kicked in, to 2,530 from about 12,000. This time limit is an old one, written into the 1996 federal welfare law. But, during the recession, most states took advantage of a provision that allows them to waive it when unemployment is persistently high, which meant poor adults could stay on the program regardless of their work status.

2015_04_24_Rule Five Friday (2)Of course this is a good idea!

Welfare benefits must not come with no strings attached.  There is no good reason why able-bodied recipients should not repay the taxpayers’ generosity with work.  There are plenty of streets that need sweeping, and a dozen men with picks and shovels could do the work that would ordinarily cost the state the price of a backhoe and operator.

This should be reasonable, mind; there is the old apocryphal story of Milton Friedman in Europe, when observing a gang of men digging a trench with shovels, commenting that “in America they would have a machine doing that work.”  His guide replied that this was a government make-work project, and that the manual work with shovels would employ more men.

2015_04_24_Rule Five Friday (3)“Then you should take away the shovels,” Friedman replied, “and give them spoons.”

That’s beyond what should be done, but public works could always use some help.  Picking up litter in parks, sweeping sidewalks, raking leaves, mowing grass – there’s any amount of unskilled work that welfare recipients could perform.  And if they have any skills, they would be even more useful – filing, data entry, clerical work – that could even lead to permanent employment.

The moral principle is simple:  The taxpayers have every right to expect some value in return for the money spent on welfare 2015_04_24_Rule Five Friday (4)payments.

From the Manifesto:

It is not the proper role of government to shield people from the consequences of their bad decisions.   There will always be a need for a modern, prosperous society to care for the truly helpless, such as people disabled through no fault of their own, children with no adults to care for them, and so forth.  But the lazy, the indigent, the irresponsible – they have no moral claim on the fruits of the labor of the industrious.  Government, and only government, has the power to tax – to claim a portion of your resources with force of law, with the implied threat of armed force if you try to abstain.  In our age of ever-increasing welfare entitlements, that government has claimed a portion of every taxpayer’s proceeds toward just such a shield – requiring the industrious to toil longer and harder to support the indigent.

But if we are to continue to pay out for people’s poor decisions, or to be fair, the occasional bit of bad luck – by all means, let’s get something in return.  There is no good argument against this policy.

2015_04_24_Rule Five Friday (5)