Reforming Welfare Fighting Poverty

Posted: October 25, 2012 in Category - Heritage Foundation, Reforming Welfare


Culture Watch: Weekly Round-Up on Family, Religion and Civil Society
October 25, 2012 

Rep. Paul Ryan Lays Out a Vision for Reforming Welfare, Fighting Poverty 

In his speech yesterday at Cleveland State University, Rep. Paul Ryan (R–WI) laid out a vision for reforming the nation’s approach to poverty.
“With few exceptions, government’s approach has been to spend lots of money on centralized, bureaucratic, top-down anti-poverty programs,” Ryan stated. “The mindset behind this approach is that a nation should measure compassion by the size of the federal government and how much it spends.” This has “created and perpetuated a debilitating culture of dependency, wrecking families and communities.”

He’s right. Since the “War on Poverty” began five decades ago, the federal government has spent nearly $20 trillion (adjusted for inflation) on what is now a welfare system consisting of over 80 programs. Total annual spending is now approaching $1 trillion.

Tragically, this massive welfare state has been a driver of dependency. Today, 100 million Americans—roughly one-third of the U.S. population—receive aid from a government welfare program (not including Social Security, Medicare, or unemployment insurance).As Ryan noted, in the 1990s Congress passed the historic welfare reform law, inserting work requirements into the largest federal cash assistance program. This was a huge success:

We saw welfare enrollment drop dramatically, as millions of our fellow citizens gained new lives of independence. We saw child poverty rates fall over 20 percent in four years—and we saw employment for single mothers rise.

But these reforms are at risk. In July of this year, the Obama Administration announced it would remove work requirements from welfare reform—the very element that made the law such a success. Ryan continued:

In this war on poverty, poverty is winning. We deserve better. The short of it is that there has to be a balance—allowing government to act for the common good, while leaving private groups free to do the work that only they can do.

Fighting poverty effectively also means allowing civil society to thrive. Ryan pointed out the good work of community grassroots leaders such as Bob Woodson, founder of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise. His programs have helped root out crime and violence in some of the nation’s most troubled communities.

Many grassroots leaders across the nation are doing similar work to help transform the lives of those in poverty. Rather than simply providing a handout, as government programs do, these grassroots leaders are able to address the unique needs of the individual—and material poverty is more often a symptom rather than the cause.

Government’s massive and ever-expanding welfare system has failed to help the poor. Its ever-increasing costs are unsustainable.

It’s time to change course. Ensuring that welfare promotes self-reliance rather than dependence and allowing civil society to fulfill its roll in assisting those in need is crucial to promoting the well being of the nation’s most needy and to ensuring the strength of society.

What are your thoughts on reducing poverty among families? Raise your voice and interact with others on our blog >>


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