Fighting Fraud is the Beginning of True Welfare Reform

Monday the Pennsylvania House continued its efforts to reform the state’s welfare system by passing HB 1948 out of committee. The legislation, sponsored by Tim Krieger, would establish the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Card Management Program to develop controls and procedures to identify EBT card fraud and abuse.

EBT cards are used like ATM cards to distribute monthly benefits, including cash assistance for low-income families (TANF), food stamps (SNAP), and general assistance. EBT cards were the subject of a 2011 report by Auditor General Jack Wagner that found $5.2 million in out-of-state purchases or withdrawals.

Continued efforts to fight fraud and abuse in the welfare system are critical to reining in welfare spending that is outpacing our economy—growing faster than personal income and state tax revenue—and squeezing every other area of the state budget, including education.

There’s no question every effort should be made to protect benefits for the truly needy. But we must also work to solve the greater problem underlying welfare spending. The welfare system includes countless rules and guidelines which, in effect, discourage marriage, employment, and accountability. In the video below Milton Friedman explains why this system fails to lift people out of poverty.

Breaking the welfare cycle will take much more than fighting fraud and abuse. It will require changing program incentives to restore the dignity of work. By instilling effective time limits, real work requirements, and opportunities for low-income individuals to control their own health care, we can reward independence and promote a bridge to self-sufficiency rather than a life of dependence.