This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on WordPress
I don’t agree with U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions on much if anything. But C-SPAN was covering the Senate Budget Committee markup yesterday and I saw part of that as the committee was voting on amendments to Senate Republicans budget plan for this year. Senator Sessions Republican from Alabama had a Welfare amendment to the Republican budget. And his basic point which I think is sound was that its been about twenty-years since Congress passed Welfare Reform. And twenty years since they worked on major reforms to our social insurance system. And its time for Congress to reexamine our federal Welfare programs.
When Republicans won back the House of Representatives in 2010 and took over in 2011 there was that famous Ryan budget. Offered by Representative Paul Ryan then Chairman of the House Budget Committee and now he’s Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. A big part of House Republicans deficit reduction strategy had to do with the American safety net. They argued that since the Great Recession America has spent billions of dollars on our public assistance programs. And these programs have grown so much in size and since we now have this deficit and debt, its time to cut back on them. Of course not realizing or acknowledging that the reason for the growth in those programs has to do the Great Recession itself. Not because Americans have quit work to jump on Welfare.
I’m all for reducing the size and need of our social insurance system. But you don’t do that by cutting and running or slashing and burning. You just make the problems worst and make people desperate who are simply looking to survive. What you do is you move those people off the those programs and into the workforce with good jobs. You make work pay and pay more than not working and that means increasing the minimum wage for workers and making that higher than what would someone get whose on Welfare and is not working. You don’t just make education and job training available for low-income workers and non-workers. But you make them requirements that if you’re on Welfare that part of what you’re going to do while you’re on Welfare is finish your education. Whether you’re working or not.
The way to reduce Welfare spending is to have fewer people in poverty. You do that by having a larger middle class and more people who are economically independent. That comes through things like more economic development and infrastructure investment in low-income communities. Education and job training for low-income workers and non-workers. Making work pay and pay than not working. Increasing today’s minimum wage for workers and applying the old minimum wage to non-workers on Welfare. Which will send a great message to people especially with kids. That they can make more money working than not working even at service jobs and still collect the public assistance they need. Including education to be able to move up and get out of poverty. That is how you reform Welfare.