Friday, March 09, 2018

Work Requirements Have Revolutionized Welfare at the State Level. Now It’s Uncle Sam’s Turn

Policymakers are ready to get serious about work requirements for food stamps, with both Congress and the Trump administration working on ways to improve the program.

A little over a week ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it is seeking comments on how best to reintroduce work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often referred to as food stamps.

“Too many states have asked to waive work requirements, abdicating their responsibility to move participants to self-sufficiency,” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a press release. “ … [U.S. Department of Agriculture] policies must change if they contribute to a long-term failure for many [food stamp] participants and their families.”

The 1996 welfare reform law allowed states to apply for full or partial waivers of the work requirement based on high unemployment or low job availability. The number of waivers peaked in 2009, when Congress allowed the Obama administration to waive the program’s work requirements for all states.

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Many states have become ineligible for waivers again as the economy has recovered, but five states and the District of Columbia still have total waivers, 28 states have partial waivers, and 1,287 of the nation’s 3,142 counties are eligible for waivers as “labor surplus areas.”

Unsurprisingly, given the economic downturn of the last decade, the program has seen a marked increase of work-capable adults on food stamps. But work-capable adults grew as a proportion of recipients, a trend the economic recovery has yet to reverse.

In 2007, before large-scale state opt-ins for waivers began, 6.6 percent of food stamp recipients were childless, work-capable adults. Today, that number is 9 percent.

By law, able-bodied adults without dependents—work-capable adults—may receive only three months of food stamps in a 36-month period unless they meet a 20-hour per week work requirement. Employment, training, or participation in a state program can fulfill the requirement.

Work requirements have a proven record of success in moving people from welfare to self-sufficiency. In 2015, Maine began enforcing work requirements for food stamps despite partial waiver eligibility and saw an 80 percent drop in its work-capable caseload in just three months. Thirteen counties in Alabama saw similar results when they implemented work requirements for food stamps in 2017.

As for Congress, Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., and 97 co-sponsors have introduced a bill, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 2996), that would eliminate all waivers for the current work requirement, shorten the length of time one can receive benefits without work, and shrink the proportion of people states can exempt from the requirement.

The bill also would allow a supervised job search for at least eight hours a week to fulfill the requirement.

The administration’s desire to reintroduce meaningful work requirements is a step in the right direction, but significant change in the welfare system will require a much more robust reform effort.

As Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, argues, “Small changes in regulations will not be enough to fix the welfare system. What is needed is welfare reform legislation that establishes work requirements for all programs that provide cash, food, or housing benefits to adults who can work.”



Trump administration sues California in bid to overturn its sanctuary-state laws
The Trump administration escalated what had been a war of words over California’s immigration agenda, filing a lawsuit late Tuesday that amounted to a preemptive strike against the liberal state’s so-called sanctuary laws.

The Justice Department sued California; Governor Jerry Brown; and the state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, over three state laws passed in recent months, saying they make it impossible for federal immigration officials to do their jobs and deport criminals who were born outside the United States. The Justice Department called the laws unconstitutional and asked a judge to block them.

The lawsuit was the department’s boldest attack yet on California, one of the strongest opponents of the Trump administration’s efforts to curb immigration. It also served as a warning to Democratic lawmakers and elected officials nationwide who have enacted sanctuary policies that provide protections for unauthorized immigrants.

“The Department of Justice and the Trump administration are going to fight these unjust, unfair and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions planned to say Wednesday at a law enforcement event in Sacramento, according to prepared remarks. “I believe that we are going to win.”

California officials remained characteristically defiant, vowing to defend their landmark legislation. ‘‘I say bring it on,’’ said California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat who wrote the sanctuary state bill.

The battle pits President Trump and Sessions, both immigration hard-liners, against Brown and Becerra, who have emerged as outspoken adversaries who have helped energize opposition to Trump and vowed to preserve the progressive values that they believe California embodies.

California began battling the Trump administration even before the president took office, standing in opposition on a litany of issues including marijuana, environmental regulations, and taxes. But immigration has proved to be the most contentious fight, with local officials assuring unauthorized immigrants that they would do all they could to protect them.

Last year, California enacted the sanctuary laws, which place restrictions on when and how local law enforcement can cooperate with federal immigration enforcement agents.



Liberalism Has Finally Gone Too Far in California… State’s Beyond Repair

In the late 70s, as tensions ran high between public service unions and governments across the U.S., Gov. Jerry Brown imposed union-shop collective bargaining on all agencies. This empowered the fascists of public sector unionism. Now these unions are the most powerful political force in the state. They control the legislature with a supermajority they established, buying votes with union dues. No politician, left or right, acts without consulting the union bosses and the affluent state welfare agencies autocrats.

The consequences of pro-government union power have ruined California. There are over 250,000 school teachers in California and each pay union dues of $1,000 annually. The CTA spends almost half of that on politics each year. They pursue a progressive agenda in lockstep with the far-left ideology that beset the once center-right ideology that made California the envy of every state. The unions — not the taxpayers — control all school boards, which control all education. Their schools rank dismally compared to most in the U.S. Yet public education unions spend well over $350 million a year lobbying?

When the police and firefighters saw the gains made by the teachers’ unions, they too jumped on the union gravy train. They have attained unsustainable pensions for members who are eligible at age 50 for a lifetime pay equivalent to 3 percent of their highest salary times their years of service. At age 50, a 20-year veteran can retire with a pension of 60 percent of their highest year’s salary. Some others learned how to spike the system and get 90 percent of their highest salary. They pay lobbyists with your tax dollars to maintain the status quo of their public service unions. They’re so busy protecting their members, the words “public service” mean nothing anymore. They now serve the unions first, not “we the taxpayers.”

Since their pension requirements are held under the California Rule, they are irreversible. Once they’ve been adopted, neither the voters nor the politicians can derail the money train. With public service union engines running overtime, California must raise taxes to fuel them. As they continually underperform, alienated bondholders are refusing to invest good money into a bad investment any longer. This imploded their bond market, and unfunded liabilities are staggering. Their estimated total unfunded pension liability for all governments is over $260 billion.

Ronald Reagan said, “Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.’” Today California is in economic and political paralysis due to the far left and the unions ganging up on taxpayers, who’d rather leave than face their Waterloo. This predicted meltdown caused by decades of temerarious delinquency, political and union pandering, and progressive ideology accelerated with the unholy alliance between the public service unions and liberal politics. This Left Coast state that set the bar for government failure wrote its epitaph and eulogy long ago. We must profit from it.



The 'scandal-free' Obama administration? An urban legend

Jeff Jacoby

AS IT TURNED OUT, Barack Obama's super-secret speech at MIT last month — the one that was so far off the record that no one was permitted to stream it, or talk about it to the press, or comment about it on social media — contained nothing that remotely justified such hugger-mugger.

With hundreds in the audience, of course the speech was surreptitiously recorded and leaked. Reason magazine posted the audio online, and you can hear for yourself that the former president said little he hasn't said before. He talked about basketball and the NBA; he expressed conventional concerns about the power of Facebook and other social-media behemoths; he insisted that public employees "at least at the top levels" work very hard.

And he declared that his administration had been scandal-free.

"We didn't have a scandal that embarrassed us," Obama said. Sure, there were occasional mistakes and screw-ups, "but there wasn't anything venal in eight years."

Obama, his former aides, and his media devotees have been making this claim for years. With so much repetition, it has become a popular urban legend. But popularity isn't truth.

The 44th president may not have been "embarrassed" by them, but his administration abounded in scandals, in at least three of which Americans died. Here's a refresher:

Operation Fast and Furious. In a botched "gunwalking" sting, the Justice Department allowed thousands of guns to be sold to suspected smugglers, in the hope of tracing them to Mexican drug cartels. But the Obama administration lost track of the weapons, many of which later turned up at crime scenes in which scores of people were murdered. Among the dead: US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, killed by drug gangsters in 2010. Compounding the scandal was Attorney General Eric Holder's refusal to turn over documents relating to the operation, a refusal for which he was held in contempt of Congress.

Benghazi. When Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed in a terrorist attack on the US consulate in Libya in 2012, administration officials falsely blamed their deaths on an irrelevant YouTube video. That wasn't fog of war, it was deceit. In public statements, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attributed the attack to "inflammatory material posted on the Internet." But in private e-mails to her daughter and the Egyptian prime minister — e-mails not discovered until 2015 — she candidly acknowledged that the Americans had been assaulted and killed by "an al Qaeda-like group."

Veterans Administration. On Obama's watch, tens of thousands of veterans were denied proper health care at VA hospitals. Their names were added to phony waiting lists and they were stonewalled for months or even years. More than 300,000 veterans may have died awaiting medical treatment that never came. According to the Veterans Affairs inspector general, thousands of veterans' health care enrollment applications were deleted or buried. Eventually VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in disgrace.

Numerous other scandals plagued the Obama administration.

The IRS discriminated against politically conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, placing organizations on indefinite hold if their names contained such terms as "Tea Party" or "Patriots."

The Office of Personnel Management suffered a catastrophic data breach that exposed the confidential records of at least 10 million federal employees to hackers. OPM's director had repeatedly been warned that the agency was vulnerable to cyberattack, but had failed to take the warnings seriously.

The Obama administration, eager to promote "green" energy, lavished more than $500 million in loan guarantees on Solyndra, a high-risk startup. When the company went bankrupt, taxpayers ate the loss.

From letting Hezbollah funnel cocaine into the United States to secretly wiretapping AP reporters, there were scandals aplenty when Obama was president. The media reported them all, but never with the fury and frenzy that characterize coverage of Donald Trump's schedule. Obama benefited from being a media darling. Trump, obnoxious and belligerent, practically invites hostile coverage.

But Obama's record stands on its own — regardless of how it was covered, regardless of his successor's demeanor. The myth of the "scandal-free" Obama administration may be comforting to some. But history won't be fooled.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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