University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
Welfare began as a federally funded program in the 1930s during the Great Depression for mainly the elderly and disabled, but also the unemployed. Many Americans complained of abuse of the welfare program, claiming the citizens with assistance “were not applying for jobs, having more children just to get more aid, and staying unmarried so as to qualify for greater benefits,” (“Welfare Information”). President Bill Clinton passed a reform law in 1996 that turned the welfare system power from the federal government to state governments and required the able-bodied to work or prepare for work. This law essentially established Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS) program, and the Emergency Assistance (EA) program.
TANF is “a block grant program to help move recipients into work and turn welfare into a program of temporary assistance,” (“Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)”). In 2012, President Barack Obama waivered the work requirement for TANF. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families payments are abused by its recipients. Eliminating the welfare work requirement causes dependency; it should be reinstated and the program should be reformed to help further prevent abuse.
Before Obama waived the work requirement for TANF, the recipient of aid was supposed to have work within 2 years and only receive welfare aid for a maximum of 5 years. After the waiver, citizens on welfare do not have a limit on how many years they can receive aid nor are they required to have a job. How is this helping? The program is called “welfare-to-work,” but how is anyone getting the motivation to get a job without being on a time limit? Citizens can receive aid for as long as they please, which may be for the rest of their life. This is a prime example of laziness.
The Obama Administration’s excuse for discarding the work demand: “the waiver is designed to give states more flexibility to design their own plans to help move people from welfare to work,” (Kasperowicz). This makes no sense; how else can one be motivated to get a job? Not only do most welfare recipients not find jobs, the majority of welfare recipients do not find employment especially as their age increases. Forty-five percent of men and women within the age group of twenty to twenty-four find employment; while only fourteen percent of those exceeding thirty years of age find employment.
Giving more money obviously doesn’t motivate the recipients; the amount of citizens on welfare has doubled since Obama became president in 2008 (Rector). Everyone has the ability to be successful, but some people would rather give up and whine to the government about their responsibility to take care of them. Obama is allowing Americans to become dependent and lazy, causing the government to spend unnecessary amounts of money helping people who aren’t willing to help themselves.
In 2012, the United States officially reached the $16 trillion debt mark. This is not good. The government keeps spending more than they earn year after year and does little to nothing to prevent going further into debt. The US government spends 12% of its budget on welfare as opposed to only 3% on education (Federal Budget Spending Actuals). The government is basically saying that giving money to people who don’t necessarily need it is more important than funding public schools who teach the country’s future. Only 2% of the federal budget goes to police and fire stations nationwide. Protecting our country is more important than funding a program for lazy adults.
Granted, there are families and people on the TANF program who truly need the help, but the program is abused. There is no requirement to work, no limit on how long one can receive aid, and there are no drug tests. There is no way for the government to know whether or not the assisted is using the money validly. The citizens could be using the money for drugs or to buy unnecessary luxury items. Who would know if the people on welfare are buying name brand items and not looking for a job? The government needs to watch for the people who actually need help and not those who just want it because laziness is a curse that has spread like wildfire through America.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP)
In the United States, citizens are all accustomed to taxes. Federal tax, state tax, local tax, unemployment tax, gift tax; the list goes on and on. Everything besides certain food items and certain recreational tickets has some sort of tax. There are some taxes that may not be necessary though. Every paycheck, there is money taken out for taxes, and some of that money goes directly to welfare programs. Now, this may not be such a big deal, but since 2008 the amount of participants on U.S. food welfare programs literally doubled by 2012. As cost goes up, taxes go up and it is to the point where certain citizens are leaving their homes to search for a better life somewhere cheaper. The U.S. is supposedly the land of opportunity; welfare is an issue and it needs to be solved fast.
The amount that is spent on food welfare programs is too high, fraud is present, and eligibility is too lenient. The government is doing nothing to fix the problem. Spending on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP) skyrocketed since 2008. In 2008, there were around 28 million participants; by 2012 there were 47 million participants. In 2008, federal costs for SNAP were 38 million dollars; by 2012 the cost was 78 million dollars. California income tax rates were 13.3% in 2012, the marginal rate is now 51.9%. Marginal tax rates are unfair to those who earned their large income (Phil Mickelson).
Eligibility has been more lenient due to the Obama Administration’s bill that lowers work requirements for able-bodied citizens. Directly goes against the 1996 H.R. 3734 bill that states that able-bodied adults have 4 months of benefits and are then required to work 20hrs a week for at least 8 months during the year to keep receiving food stamp benefits.
Fraud is common throughout the system and many take advantage of it. There are many reports of food stamp recipients that sell stamps or EBTs for half of their worth. These problems create a flawed system and will most likely cause a negative outcome for the U.S. taxpayers in the near future.
The amount of money spent on welfare, including food welfare programs, makes up one of the largest costs in federal spending. As this cost goes up, taxes go up and this will definitely not bode well with taxpayers. Lenient eligibility will cause a continuous rise to the already rapidly growing SNAP participation and will motivate fewer and fewer to actually seek employment. The bill offering wavering of work requirements also makes it easier for those who do not seek jobs to continue the trend. This will end up costing more to the federal government and American taxpayers in the end. Fraud is illegal and is just as bad as any other type of fraud, but is not acted on regularly. This is namely due to the eligibility lenience. Drug tests, background checks and continuous work updates allow for an easy way to fool the system and take advantage of it. This can continue on forever unless something happens to change the issue. Now, things are not going well in this system, but thankfully it is not too late to correct it.
In order to solve this potential crisis, eligibility requirements should be more thorough and strict (banning waiver ability to able-bodied adults), causing fraud to lessen and thus causing lower participation which will lead to lower government spending, and lower tax rates. Eligibility needs to be stricter, and screenings need to be up to date and thorough; this is not something to take lightly. This will follow with the induction of more “workfare” programs which will parallel the H.R. 3734 bill and cause motivation to spark in those who have been “riding” the system for years. It will expose those involved with fraud by having more thorough screenings. It should an easy fix to a growing issue. Now once the large obstacle has been overcome we can start to see some improvement.
Citizen productiveness should increase greatly, by implementing stricter guideline. Able-bodied adults in need will be given help, but will also be productive members of society. The need for welfare programs and SNAP programs will be in less demand, which will limit federal spending. Unemployment tax rates will not be nearly as high and maybe we will be able to approve flat tax rates for the nation. This monstrous issue can be solved in a few steps, but it will not be solved unless the government realizes the issues present and its solution.
Welfare scandals and federal and SNAP spending are causing huge issues that affect all American taxpayers, but with a little innovation and stricter guidelines, these problems can be solved and the American future will be brighter. President Ronald Reagan once said, “Welfare’s purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence.” Welfare was only created to help the needy through a tough time; to get in-need citizens the extra push they need to get back on their feet. Once the needy aren’t in need, welfare doesn’t need to exist any longer. Because of abuse of the system, welfare “need” has increased, even though it shouldn’t. Stricter guidelines, more governmental awareness of how the money given is spent, and a smaller welfare budget would assist in eliminating the need for welfare, just as Ronald Reagan once stated.
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