Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Senate Democrats’ Twitter, @PaSenateDems, comes some high-stakes rhetoric during a Capitol press conference today. In reaction to the Pa. Department of Public Welfare’s decision to reapply an asset test to the food stamps program better known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), here is what some senators had to say:
“This gov has a vision of meanness.” – Sen. Mike Stack, Philadelphia
“We don’t understand this draconian nature of this administration.” – Sen. Vincent Hughes, Philadelphia
“Only conclusion drawn: administration hates poor people.” – Sen. Mike Stack, Philadelphia
“You can’t beat a person when they’re down. We should be giving them a hand up.” – Sen. LeAnna Washington, Philadelphia
While we don’t question the sincerity of the senators’ desire to protect those who truly need help, we have to ask whether furthering dependency is truly compassionate? Are the poor better off being dependent on unaffordable and unsustainable taxpayer-funded programs or learning to become self-sufficient through personal responsibility and true charity care? Please take a look at the CF commentary on the asset test today, examine the facts and decide for yourself.
There is no question that many in the commonwealth are in need, but what has the last decade of generous benefits gotten us? For one, we get a higher poverty rate, which dramatically climbed from 8.8 percent in 2000 to 12.2 percent in 2010 regardless of economic conditions. No matter how you look at it, welfare spending is simply failing to lift Pennsylvanians out of poverty.
Gov. Corbett’s effort to target benefits for the poorest Pennsylvanians doesn’t stem from meanness or hate for the poor. It comes from his unwillingness to settle for the sad status quo of more Pennsylvanians becoming dependent on Harrisburg rather pursuing their own ambitions.
Democrats and Republicans should work together to figure out what changes can be made to our safety net to offer a hand up and reward self-sufficiency, not just through enabling handouts that feed dependence. Simply demanding taxpayers fork over more of their hard-earned dollars to support exploited and broken programs is not compassion but coercion, which breeds an unearned and unnecessary contempt for the legitimately needy. A better solution is to encourage true voluntary charity in our communities throughout the commonwealth, a step that cannot be taken until we address needed welfare reform.