Safety nets can only work when they help people today while preparing them for tomorrow.
When I was elected governor in 2010, my biggest responsibility was to lead South Carolina out of the Great Recession. I knew that the most vulnerable families needed more than welfare checks — they needed the dignity of a job and a future. So we launched a “Welfare-to-Work” program that matched individuals with jobs that fit their talents. Ultimately, we empowered more than 20,000 South Carolinians to find jobs and flourish.
Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress could learn a thing or two from South Carolina. Instead of “Welfare-to-Work,” today’s Democrats are all welfare, no work. This approach will only hold back the people they claim to be helping and won’t help people thrive long-term.
The proof can be found in Joe Biden’s “American Families Plan.” A key feature of the $1.8 trillion far-left wish list is expanding welfare — without asking people to work or even prepare to work. Despite Joe Biden’s claims, the message of the Democrats is clear: Don’t worry about jobs, we’re sending out checks.
Firstly, they want to permanently extend COVID’s federal-unemployment-insurance bonuses. Because of COVID lockdowns, there is a federal bonus of $300 a week on top of state-unemployment-insurance checks. That may have made sense when most states closed down in the face of the pandemic. But now it’s just paying people not to work.
Normally, unemployment insurance isn’t welfare. Employees and employers pay into their state program so if people find themselves out of a job, they can pay their bills while they search for their next gig. But the Biden plan’s federal bonus would continue to make unemployment insurance pay more than work, making it nearly impossible for employers struggling to reopen to compete for employees. Even worse, studies show that long-term unemployment makes it harder for those employees to ever return to work.
The second major no-work welfare policy is even worse. The Biden plan will permanently change the “Child Tax Credit” into a “Child Allowance,” sending families $300 per week per child, no questions asked. This will cost over $70 billion a year. But the cost isn’t the heart of the problem. While it’s meant to help families get through the worst of the current crisis, it will only create another crisis. Families will be trapped in poverty, when what they really need is a chance to prosper.
Biden’s proposal guts the welfare reforms that have worked so well for the past 25 years. Before 1996, one in seven U.S. kids was on cash assistance. Most of the families to which those kids belonged had no one working, and were dependent on welfare for more than eight years. Instead of climbing the ladder of opportunity, they were stuck on government dependency.
Then Republicans in Congress joined forces with a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, to end welfare as we knew it. They asked parents to either work, go to school, or get job training in order to get welfare. This simple reform had incredible results. Welfare enrollment significantly declined for the first time since the War on Poverty started in 1965. Employment shot up, especially among single mothers who didn’t graduate from high school. Child poverty, which hadn’t budged in decades, fell faster than ever before. By connecting welfare to work, Congress gave hundreds of thousands of vulnerable families a better shot at a better life.
Between unemployment-insurance bonuses and child-allowance welfare checks, Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress want to end the commonsense, work-focused safety net. Their argument is that no-strings-attached checks will reduce child poverty. They won’t. Long term, this policy will push more people out of the economy and onto society’s sidelines.
This isn’t to say that our current safety net is perfect. The current system — which consists of over 80 redundant programs and runs up a trillion-dollar-tab every year — is too costly, too complex, and so poorly designed that it fails millions of families every year. By all means, America needs to reexamine and reform welfare to empower as many people as possible.
Safety nets can only work when they help people today while preparing them for tomorrow. That’s what I did in South Carolina. It worked in the Palmetto State. It can work across the entire United States.