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Posts Tagged ‘welfare’

A challenge for Obama from Newt Gingrich

Posted by Richard on August 23, 2012

I’m not a big fan of Newt Gingrich, but he’s smart and articulate (when he isn’t being a loose cannon), and in the 90s he did a lot of good. This week marked the 16th anniversary of a very good thing in which he played a pivotal role: on August 22, 1996, President Clinton signed the bipartisan welfare reform bill passed by Congress. Gingrich issued a challenge (via email; online here) to President Obama to mark the anniversary:

Sixteen years ago this week, President Clinton signed the 1996 bipartisan welfare reform which he lauded as “ending welfare as we know it.” This anniversary offers President Obama a unique opportunity to honor the historic achievement.

At the heart of the 1996 law was a simple principle: no one in America should get money from the government for doing nothing. We knew the welfare system of the past was corroding the work ethic, destroying families, bankrupting our country, and most tragically of all, entrapping the poor.

That’s why we put strong work requirements at the center of the reform. We would help people get back on their feet, and after two years, they had to get a job.

At the time, critics on the left said the policy would turn millions of poor people out of their homes. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan characterized the proposal as “the most brutal act of social policy since Reconstruction.”

And as a state senator from Illinois, our current president opposed it too. Barack Obama said he “did not entirely agree with it and probably would have voted against” it. He later said he was “not a huge supporter” of the reforms.

But contrary to the dire predictions of the Left, welfare reform proved to be one of the most successful social policies in American history. Two-thirds of welfare recipients got a job or went to school. Within 4 years, 4.2 million people rose up from poverty. In five years, child poverty was at an all-time low, having dropped by 25 percent.

The work requirement was the key to achieving these gains.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama acknowledged this fact when he said at Saddleback Church pointed to welfare reform as an issue he’d been wrong about: “I was much more concerned ten years ago, when President Clinton signed the Bill, that this would have disastrous results,” he said…”It worked better than a lot of people anticipated.”

So he told us as a candidate.

But last month, President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services issued a memo announcing it would grant states waivers on the work requirements.

The HHS memo declared the authority to “waive compliance with [work requirements] and authorize a state to test approaches and methods other than those set forth in [the section pertaining to work requirements], including definitions of work activities and engagement.”

The memo then proceeds to give examples of “projects states may want to consider” – most of which are attempts either to dilute the work requirements or expand the definition of “work”.

Apparently the Obama administration didn’t believe the bureaucratic change would be noticed. When challenged, however, they denied attempting to weaken the requirements (an authority which the memo asserted but which is explicitly prohibited in the law). And having just asserted the authority to undercut the requirements, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated angrily that “any request from any state that undercuts the work requirement in welfare reform will be rejected.”

The apparent conflict between the Obama administration’s memo unilaterally empowering itself to waive the work requirement and the Obama White House’s denial that will ever take advantage of this new authority present the President with an opportunity on this 16th anniversary of the law: If he has no intention of waiving the requirements, he should denounce the memo and he should direct the secretary of HHS to officially rescind it.

Then we’ll know for sure if the president truly believes work should remain at the center of welfare reform.

The President and his supporters disingenuously insist that the change in HHS policy didn’t end the work requirement. In Clintonian fashion, I guess you could say it depends on what the definition of “waive” is.

In any case, what they’ve done is, as Gingrich noted “explicitly prohibited in the law” — specifically, Section 407, and the Heritage Foundation’s Andrew Grossman explained in detail how the new Obama policy flouts the law.

But then, making (or circumventing) law without regard for Congress, the Constitution, or the separation of powers seems to be this administration’s forté.

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Welfare payments for booze, broads, and slots

Posted by Richard on November 8, 2010

It's called the Food Assistance Program. Back in the old days, beneficiaries received Food Stamps — pieces of paper that vaguely resembled Monopoly money, which they could use at grocery stores to pay for their purchases. Some years ago, the Food Stamp booklets were replaced by EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) cards, which are essentially debit cards.

In Colorado, they're called Quest cards, and supermarkets and convenience stores have signs stating that Quest cards are welcome. But those aren't the only places they're welcome, according to a 7News investigation:

 Colorado welfare recipients have been able to withdraw thousands of tax dollars at casinos, liquor stores and even a Glendale strip club, a CALL7 Investigation found.

CALL7 Investigators looked into a database of ATM withdrawals over 12 months by people who have the state public assistance electronic benefit cards and matched it to the addresses of liquor stores, casinos and strip bars. The analysis found that nearly $10,000 of taxpayer-funded welfare money has been taken out at the questionable locations.

"I don't think there's any question of what you revealed here in your research and your investigation points to real abuses of the system," said Penn Pfiffner, a former state legislator and Colorado Union of Taxpayers board member. "This is outrageous behavior."

Investigator Tony Kovaleski questioned why the state hasn't blocked the use of Quest cards at ATMs in liquor stores, casinos, and strip clubs. California blocked access at casinos and on cruise ships a while back, and recently expanded the ban so the cards no longer work in "psychic parlors, tattoo parlors, pot dispensaries, bail bond establishments, or bingo halls."

But I have a more basic question: why do Quest cards work in ATMs at all? Blocking access to cash in a liquor store or strip club ATM just tells the cardholder he or she has to stop at the bank or convenience store ATM before buying booze or getting a lap dance. That may improve appearances, but it has no substantive effect. 

Back in the days of Food Stamps, they could only be used at groceries and only for approved items. I wondered when that had changed, so I checked the Colorado Dept. of Human Services FAQ for the Food Assistance Program. It says: 

Households CAN buy foods such as: breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.

Households CANNOT buy any nonfood items such as: beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, tobacco, pet foods, soaps, paper products, household supplies, toothpaste, cosmetics, vitamins, medicines, foods that can be eaten in the store and hot foods.

Food assistance benefits cannot be exchanged for cash.

Cannot be exchanged for cash? Then why do they work in ATMs??

Clearly, there's something fundamentally wrong here. Maybe the CDHS staff just isn't aware that Quest cards work in a way that's contrary to their own usage regulations. Maybe this is all news to them. 

Um, no. They not only have known about it forever, they're determined to preserve the status quo, usage regulations be damned: 

Colorado Department of Human Service officials said they have known for years that the money was being withdrawn at questionable locations but did nothing to stop it.

"Should you be preventing this type of access at liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs?" Kovaleski asked.

"I think it's important that clients be able to access benefits easily, and they are allowed to do it at those locations," said Pauline Burton, who heads the public assistance division at CDHS.

Notice the phrase "access benefits," which neatly obscures the distinction between using the cards to get food and using them to get cash — the latter of which is explicitly prohibited by their own rules. Which they've apparently deliberately made it easy to circumvent.

Pfiffner said it is important that the state reprogram the cards so they are turned down at liquor stores, casinos and bars, but Burton did not agree.

"So this kind of activity has been going on for four or five years and you are doing nothing about it," Kovaleski asked.

"We've been monitoring it and seen it happen for four or five years, yes," Burton said.

"And you have changed nothing?" Kovaleski asked.

"Access continues to be allowed," Burton said.

I disagree with Penn Pfiffner. The state shouldn't just "reprogram the cards" so they can't be used in ATMs at certain locations. The state should simply stop allowing the cards to be used to withdraw cash at ATMs, period — regardless of their location.

Better yet, the state should stop subsidizing (and thus encouraging) irresponsible behavior, dependency, and helplessness, and leave assistance to the truly needy to private charities using voluntary donations, not coerced tax dollars, and thus much more careful about whom the assistance goes to and how it's used. 

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The right argument for our time

Posted by Richard on June 29, 2010

In the wake of the electoral collapse of the Labour Party, the British are having a robust debate about welfare reform in particular and the size and scope of government in general. Janet Daley writes in the Telegraph:

At last, we are having the right argument for our time. Virtually everybody who is in touch with political reality now accepts that the old contest – socialism vs capitalism – is over. We all believe, with greater or lesser degrees of enthusiasm, in free-market economics. So the real source of contention that remains is the size and role of the state.

Anyone who thinks that this is a puny arena – that the boundaries of debate have shrunk to a less inspirational, purely managerial scale – is mistaken. The passion with which those on the Left are now defending their new turf should make it clear: this fight will be to the death because the power of government to control social and economic outcomes is seen by them as the last plausible incarnation of their moral world-view. The current arguments about welfare reform which the Government has robustly initiated are going to bring this abstract confrontation into the day-to-day experience of national life.

Now it is perfectly understandable that those who have a vested interest in state power – public sector trade union leaders, for example – should be prepared to risk everything to preserve it, but have the more thoughtful Left-liberal proponents really thought this through? Are they actually prepared to go down fighting for the idea that the state is the source of social virtue and must be the answer to all of our civic problems?

If we learnt anything from the terrible ideological crimes of the 20th century, it was that over-powerful states were dangerous: that even if they did not commit murder or enslave their own populations, their good intentions ended up producing perverse effects simply through the gross, insensitive interventions of central bureaucracy which could take no account of individual needs. Can anyone still believe that the largely catastrophic consequences of Big State solutions to poverty, to housing shortages, to unemployment, to educational disadvantage, have been pure coincidence?

Read the whole thing

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The “vicious heart” of Obamacare

Posted by Richard on December 10, 2009

Robert Tracinski urges opponents of government-controlled health care to stop being distracted by all the blather about abortion funding and the "public option." Those are merely sideshows:

Three provisions constitute the vicious heart of the Democrats' health-care overhaul.

The first is "guaranteed issue" and "community rating." This is the requirement that insurance companies have to offer coverage to people who are already sick, and that they be limited in their ability to charge higher rates for customer who pose a higher risk. The extra expense to the insurance companies of covering people with pre-existing conditions will get passed on to existing customers in the form of higher premiums. But why spend years paying these inflated premiums for insurance you're not using, when you can get exactly the same benefits by waiting until you actually fall ill? …

Rather than increasing the number of insured by making health insurance more affordable, this bill makes health insurance more expensive and increases the incentive to simply drop your insurance until you need someone to pay for your medical bills. …

Following the usual pattern of government intervention, the health-care bill offers another intervention as the solution for the problem created by the first. The "individual mandate" requires everyone to buy health insurance and subjects us to a tax if we fail to do so. …

… Congress didn't have the guts to make this new tax very large—only $750. Yet actual insurance can cost more than $3,000 per year—and as we shall see, this legislation goes out of its way to drive up those rates by mandating more lavish coverage. So we end up getting the worst of both worlds. This provision won't actually drive anyone to buy health insurance and prop up the risk pools for those who are insured. All it will accomplish is to create a brand new form of tax.

But the biggest power-grab in the bill is the government takeover of the entire market for health insurance. The bill requires all new policies to be sold on a government-controlled exchange run by a commissioner who is empowered to dictate what kinds of insurance policies can be offered, what they must cover, and what they can charge.

Right now, your best option for reducing the cost of your health insurance is to buy a policy with a high deductible, which leaves you to pay for routine checkups and minor injuries (preferably from savings held in a tax-free Health Savings Account) …

But the health-insurance exchange is intended to eliminate precisely this kind of low-cost catastrophic coverage. Its purpose is to force health-insurance companies to offer comprehensive coverage that pays for all of your routine bills—which in turn comes at a higher price. So under the guise of making health insurance more affordable, this bill will restrict your menu of choices to include only the most expensive options.

So there we have the real essence of this bill. It restricts our choice of which insurance to buy and pushes us into more expensive plans. At the same time, it destroys the economic incentive to purchase insurance in the first place and replaces insurance with a free-floating tax on one's very existence. 

Forget Harry Reid's nonsense about a "compromise" that eliminates the "public option." This monstrous (in every sense of the word) bill, even without the much-debated "public option," is guaranteed to destroy the insurance industry and eventually drive us all into the functional equivalent of Medicaid. It will lead to single-payer with a vengeance, turning health care into a gigantic welfare program. We'll have no choice but to be its "beneficiaries." Ask someone on Medicaid or a health care provider serving Medicaid clients how desirable that is. 

This isn't about "choice" or "affordability" or even "access." It's about control, folks. They want more control. It's unconstitutional as hell, dangerous as hell, and evil as hell. Call or write your senators and tell them not just "No," but "Hell, no!"

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters. 

— Daniel Webster

Full disclosure: I have exactly the kind of coverage that Tracinski has — a high-deductible health insurance policy coupled with a Health Savings Account. I love it. I think encouraging more people to embrace this option would go a long way toward addressing the problems with our current health care system.

Does your car insurance cover oil changes, tire and battery replacements, and other routine maintenance? Of course not! Insurance should be for unanticipated expenses. A high-deductible health care plan works just like your car insurance — it covers unanticipated or "catastrophic" expenses (my United Health Care policy also covers "preventative care," including annual physicals — like paying for oil changes to encourage you to do them to minimize future costs). 

In any case, both the Senate and House versions of Obamacare go out of their way to eliminate such patient-centered, consumer-controlled choices. They're determined to substitute their choices for yours. The Senate's POS "compromise" legislation would outlaw such an option.

Even if you're not sure such a plan would be right for you, don't you think that option should be available? Email or phone (PDF) your senators! Now!

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Free money from Obama’s stash

Posted by Richard on October 9, 2009

Remember when they promised us the $780 billion in "stimulus" spending would produce jobs, funding shovel-ready projects that would get the economy moving? Not in Detroit. There, they just created a lottery for free money. Instead of creating jobs, they stimulated a chaotic mob scene, with fights and injuries and a near-riot. Welcome to Obama's redistributionist America.

[YouTube link]

Via The Virginian, here are a couple of transcripts of WJR's Ken Rogulski interviewing some free money lottery participants (emphasis added): 

ROGULSKI: Why are you here?
WOMAN #1: To get some money.
ROGULSKI: What kind of money?
WOMAN #1: Obama money.
ROGULSKI: Where's it coming from?
WOMAN #1: Obama.
ROGULSKI: And where did Obama get it?
WOMAN #1: I don't know, his stash. I don't know. (laughter) I don't know where he got it from, but he givin' it to us, to help us.
WOMAN #2: And we love him.
WOMAN #1: We love him. That's why we voted for him!
WOMEN: (chanting) Obama! Obama! Obama! (laughing)

And the other one:

ROGULSKI: Did you get an application to fill out yet?
WOMAN: I sure did. And I filled it out, and I am waiting to see what the results are going to be.
ROGULSKI: Will you know today how much money you're getting?
WOMAN: No, I won't, but I'm waiting for a phone call.
ROGULSKI: Where's the money coming from?
WOMAN: I believe it's coming from the City of Detroit or the state.
ROGULSKI: Where did they get it from?
WOMAN: Some funds that was forgiven (sic) by Obama.
ROGULSKI: And where did Obama get the funds?
WOMAN: Obama getting the funds from… Ummm, I have no idea, to tell you the truth. He's the president.
ROGULSKI: In downtown Detroit, Ken Rogulski, WJR News.

You can't imagine how much that depresses me.

Gregory of Yardale at Moonbattery thinks this is the model Obama citizen:

There you have the core of the Democrat base, someone lining up for money the government has taken away from someone else (future generations, in this case), who has done nothing to earn it, who doesn't give a damb where it came from, and is happy that Obama is looking out for her.

And Tim Geithner's bailout buddies at Goldman Sachs are no better.

I'd amend Gregory's assessment slightly. These aren't model citizens, they're model subjects.

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Forced to scrimp on food

Posted by Richard on July 19, 2008

NPR (a.k.a. National Socialist Radio) aired a human interest story recently about how hard-hit poor people in Ohio are. I didn't hear it, I read about it at Gateway Pundit. The NPR story focused on the suffering of Gloria Nunez and her daughter, Angelica Hernandez, who "struggle to make ends meet on a very limited budget":

Nunez's van broke down last fall. Now, her 19-year-old daughter has no reliable transportation out of their subsidized housing complex in Fostoria, 40 miles south of Toledo, to look for a job.

Nunez and most of her siblings and their spouses are unemployed and rely on government assistance and food stamps. Some have part-time jobs, but working is made more difficult with no car or public transportation.

Nunez, 40, has never worked and has no high school degree. She says a car accident 17 years ago left her depressed and disabled, incapable of getting a job. Instead, she and her daughter, Angelica Hernandez, survive on a $637 Social Security check and $102 in food stamps.

The rising cost of food means their money gets them about a third fewer bags of groceries — $100 used to buy about 12 bags of groceries, but now it's more like seven or eight. So they cut back on expensive items like meat, and they don't buy extras like ice cream anymore. Instead, they eat a lot of starches like potatoes and noodles.

I suspect the story tugged at heartstrings better on the radio than it does on the website, where there is a picture of Gloria and Angelica.

Gloria Nunez and her daughter

Something tells me they've been eating a lot of starches since the Clinton Administration. And giving up ice cream looks like a real good idea. As does walking more to get around. Congress, can we please cut back on the food stamp program?

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