From Matthew Spalding:
Do you think benefits ought to entail working for them?
Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that 49% of the population lives in a household where at least one person gets some type of government benefit. The Heritage Foundation’s annual Index of Dependence on Government tracks government spending and creates a weighted score adjusted for inflation of federal programs that contribute to dependency. It reports that in 2010, 67.3 million Americans received either Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Social Security, support for higher education or other assistance once considered to be the responsibility of individuals, families, neighborhoods, churches, and other civil society institutions — an 8% increase from the year before.
These people aren’t necessarily dependent on government; many could live (even live well) without their Social Security check, Pell grant or crop subsidy. That’s not the point. The problem is that Washington is building a culture of dependency, with ever-more people relying on an ever-growing federal government to give them cash or benefits.
This is a growing and dangerous trend. The United States thrives because of a culture of opportunity that encourages work and disdains relying on handouts. The growth of the welfare state, a confusing alphabet soup of programs that are supposed to help low-income Americans make ends meet and do not include entitlements such as Social Security or Medicare, is turning us into a land where many expect, and see no stigma attached to, drawing regular financial support from the federal government….
Yet when poverty expert Robert Rector, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, examined these anti-poverty programs, he found that only two, the earned income tax credit and the additional child refundable credit, require recipients to actually work for their benefits.
Under a culture of dependency, poverty becomes a trap, and recipients get stuck. Long-term welfare recipients lose work habits and job skills and miss out on the marketplace contacts that lead to job opportunities. That’s a key reason the government should require welfare recipients to work as much as they can. What could be called “workfare” thus tends to increase long-term earnings among potential recipients.