Work pro­grams are best cure for poverty

The Southern Berks News - - OPINION - Low­man S. Henry Colum­nist Low­man Henry

Among the flurry of bills passed at the end of the leg­isla­tive ses­sion in Oc­to­ber was one that es­tab­lished a path­way to pros­per­ity for hun­dreds of thou­sands of Penn­syl­va­ni­ans.

This op­por­tu­nity to es­cape from the plan­ta­tion of poverty has been shat­tered by Gov. Tom Wolf who ve­toed the bill out of fi­delity to an im­moral be­lief in per­pet­ual govern­ment de­pen­dency.

At is­sue is a re­quire­ment for healthy, adult Med­i­caid re­cip­i­ents with­out chil­dren to find part-time work or par­tic­i­pate in job train­ing pro­grams to con­tinue re­ceiv­ing ben­e­fits.

The goal is to help able-bod­ied, able-minded adults re­ceive the job train­ing and place­ment as­sis­tance they need to en­ter or re-en­ter the work force.

This pol­icy has many ben­e­fits. First and fore­most it re­stores fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence to in­di­vid­u­als and helps them gain con­trol over their own lives.

As Nathan Bene­field of the Com­mon­wealth Foun­da­tion ex­plained “work is the most ef­fec­tive way to al­le­vi­ate poverty.” Govern­ment pro­grams, as ev­i­denced by the failed decades­long “war on poverty,” trap peo­ple in per­pet­ual de­pen­dency rather than foster fi­nan­cial free­dom.

Other states, no­tably Ken­tucky, In­di­ana and Arkansas, have re­ceived ap­proval from the fed­eral govern­ment al­low­ing them to im­ple­ment Med­i­caid work re­quire­ments.

The Com­mon­wealth Foun­da­tion points out 17 states have adopted laws re­quir­ing able­bod­ied adults with­out de­pen­dents to work part-time or vol­un­teer part-time to con­tinue re­ceiv­ing food stamps. As a re­sult, pro­gram par­tic­i­pants in Kansas saw their in­comes rise by 127 per­cent and in Maine food stamp re­cip­i­ents were able to exit the pro­gram after their in­comes more than dou­bled.

This would be an es­pe­cially op­por­tune time for im­ple­ment­ing work re­quire­ments. Due to the surg­ing econ­omy, em­ploy­ers are hav­ing a dif­fi­cult time find­ing work­ers to fill avail­able jobs.

The Lin­coln In­sti­tute’s re­cent Key­stone Busi­ness Cli­mate Sur­vey found 49% of state busi­nesses have open po­si­tions and 28% say­ing they are hav­ing sig­nif­i­cant dif­fi­culty find­ing qual­i­fied em­ploy­ees. So a Med­i­caid work/job train­ing re­quire­ment would have the dual ben­e­fit of help­ing in­di­vid­u­als pre­pare for and find work while sup­ply­ing em­ploy­ers with work­ers to fill open po­si­tions.

Ad­di­tion­ally, mov­ing able­bod­ied adults into the work­force would then al­low the com­mon­wealth to tar­get avail­able re­sources to those most in need.

The bill ve­toed by Gov. Wolf would ac­tu­ally have pri­or­i­tized Med­i­caid fund­ing for chil­dren, se­niors and for in­di­vid­u­als with dis­abil­i­ties. By re­duc­ing the num­ber of peo­ple on Med­i­caid it also would have helped en­sure ad­e­quate fund­ing of the pro­gram for years to come.

Given the ob­vi­ous ben­e­fits of this pol­icy why did it end with a Gov. Wolf veto? Part of it is pol­i­tics: Democrats count on the votes of those de­pen­dent on so­cial wel­fare pro­grams.

The party’s mes­sag­ing this elec­tion year has been built on scare mon­ger­ing over health care. The Af­ford­able Care Act, or Oba­macare, has been an abysmal fail­ure that has re­sulted in sky­rock­et­ing pre­mi­ums, fewer in­sur­ance op­tions, and re­duced pa­tient health care choices. Repub­li­can ef­forts to re­peal Oba­macare and re­place it with a sys­tem that ac­tu­ally works has be­come fod­der for end­less dem­a­goguery by Demo­crat can­di­dates.

And then there is the con­tin­ued ad­her­ence to a failed ide­ol­ogy by Tom Wolf and his fel­low believ­ers in the wel­fare state. As Arthur Books, pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute so aptly put it in his book “The Con­ser­va­tive Heart” ...

“They treat work as pun­ish­ment, view strug­gling peo­ple as li­a­bil­i­ties to man­age, and fo­cus on un­equal dis­tri­bu­tion of in­comes in­stead of un­equal and in­suf­fi­cient op­por­tu­ni­ties.

As a re­sult, pro­gres­sive politi­cians try to help the poor with govern­ment re­dis­tri­bu­tion pro­grams that fre­quently ex­ac­er­bate the prob­lem. These in­tru­sions lower op­por­tu­nity, re­duce abil­ity to cre­ate ac­tual pri­vate sec­tor work, leave more peo­ple de­pen­dent on the state, and ef­fec­tively split the coun­try into two Amer­i­cas even more quickly.”

Brooks con­cludes: “They have made the poor worse off and that is im­moral.”

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