Losing the War on Poverty

Bad welfare policy is robbing Pennsylvanians of a better life.

Last month, the Cato Institute’s Welfare vs. Work Tradeoff study revealed Pennsylvanians can make more money collecting welfare than working a minimum wage job. Adding up food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance, WIC benefits, heating assistance and other programs, a Pennsylvania family can receive the equivalent of $14.34 an hour—almost double the $7.25 minimum wage.

Why is this bad? Abundant welfare programs rob low-income Pennsylvanians of opportunities to enjoy earned success, achieve a sense of accomplishment, and fulfill the American Dream. In short, it encourages people to settle for less. We call this phenomenon the welfare trap. As the chart below from the Department of Public Welfare shows, it takes an extraordinary amount of will power and courage to escape a system with guaranteed incomes for the chance at a better life.

Welfare Cliff

Since the war on poverty began over 50 years ago, our welfare system has gradually transformed culture to the point that the dignity of work is rejected by many. Look no further than the stir caused by Ashton Kutcher’s comments that “opportunity looks a lot like hard work.”

True compassion is not a government salary for the unemployed. As the Delco Times noted, such a system is economically, and I would add personally, toxic in the long run. True compassion is offering fellow Pennsylvanians a hand up so they can accomplish real earned success.

As House Republicans continue their poverty initiative, they need to concentrate on fighting poverty smarter, not harder. To start, we must link all government benefits with incentives to work. Policymakers also need to discourage providers from gaming the system to rake in big bucks, which means fewer resources for those who truly need help.

Pennsylvania’s neediest deserve real solutions to help them achieve a better life.