Welfare reform: A radical solution

Continuing on with Peter Cove’s article about what he learned in the Poverty War, he proposes a radical solution for welfare reform:

My experience with long-term welfare clients has led me to propose a radical solution: that we abolish?all?cash welfare, as well as food and housing assistance?except for the elderly and the physically and mentally disabled?in order to move from a dependency culture to one of work-first. This recommendation may sound impractical at a time of high unemployment. But the work-first principle can easily be implemented even in a down economy, as America Works proved by getting jobs for more than 500 ex-convicts in Detroit?a local economy with 14 percent unemployment?in the past two years. After all, despite the economic downturn, more than 3 million jobs per year go unfilled in the United States.

If it works for ex-convicts then why can’t it work for others?

[The] government would use the huge savings from eliminating welfare to create or subsidize private-sector jobs, sending money to companies to reduce the cost of hiring and paying new workers. The government could also create programs similar to those run by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, paying workers to build parks, refurbish bridges, clean streets, and so forth. The workers? wages would pay for the basics?food, clothing, and shelter.

But once we dismantle cash welfare and other forms of aid and offer paying jobs in their place, what about the children of those few people who simply refuse to work? I think that we should seriously contemplate removing these unfortunate children from their irresponsible parents. Under current child-welfare laws, social-services agencies can already take kids away from their parents if their home environment is unsafe. Is it so extreme to extend that policy to homes ruined by willful poverty and neglect? I concede that the alternatives here are not pretty; government-regulated foster care, in particular, has its own risks of abuse. Adoption, however, works fairly well in most of the country. Another solution would be the establishment of government-funded institutions, operated by voluntary and religious nonprofits, to care for the children.

Jobs can?t replace all welfare and poverty programs. There will always be some people who are emotionally or physically unable to work and who require government assistance. But even the so-called deserving dependents should be more carefully scrutinized. In the last ten years, the number of newly enrolled recipients of SSDI, a federal benefits program that provides aid to disabled people who can?t achieve gainful employment, has risen 44 percent. That suggests that many people are abusing the system.

We know that the current system of welfare isn;t working, we see it every day in our crime statistics…but to date there have been no politicians with the power or the stones to actually do something.

Is there a leader in New Zealand who has the courage to reform welfare in a meaningful way?