“I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”
Good ole Wimpy, always on the prowl for a little charitable assistance to get a hamburger. For those of you who don’t know Wimpy, he was a hamburger addicted friend of Popeye and Olive Oyl (if you don’t know who they are – Wimpy, Popeye, Olive Oyl). Wimpy was in a continual state of being underfunded, or maybe in by today’s standards we could say he was underemployed and food insecure? It’s that “charitable assistance” I am going to discuss today, more specifically public assistance programs funded with tax dollars.
One of the alleged moral responsibilities of society is to care for and provide assistance to those in need through public assistance programs. For the sake of this discussion only I will agree without qualification to this premise. With that stipulation made we look at what this alleged moral responsibility equates to in helping the less fortunate.
Welfare is the general heading under which people gain aid for periods of time (some of those periods lasting years). There are various federal and state controlled programs paid through taxes that fund these programs. For this discussion we when I speak of welfare I will be speaking to assistance programs such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) health and nutrition programs, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), housing assistance, health assistance programs etc.
There is no question that there are people needing assistance and since society wants to provide that safety net, then when it is provided the assistance should come with the responsibility to the receiver to return to society some remuneration for that assistance. In considering the assistance to be given there should be some forms of means testing obviously to determine the reasonable amount of need one has. As well as that needs testing there should be some non-negotiable requirements in how long the assistance will last and what the recipient must return to society.
For example, any assistance one receives is offset by the requirement of that recipient to work for the community in return. There are myriad jobs that would benefit the community. Recipients could work on grounds crews to maintain parks, public roadways, or school grounds as examples. Further work could be provided in public agencies and buildings, whether assisting in cleaning the buildings, working in public assistance programs that aid the elderly, providing services in public established child care programs watching children of other recipients needing child care while they work for their communities. For those with physical limitations not severe enough to prevent working in some area there could be administrative assistance given in places like libraries, recreation centers, or visitors centers for instance. Work programs could also be structured in a work-education format. A recipient may work 20 hours per week and attend vocational training courses for the other 20 hours per week. The goal of course to provide the recipient with skill sets that can be used to obtain full time employment, removing the need for them to continue on public assistance programs.
Recipients would be working for their assistance awards, thereby removing a stigma of accepting handouts and also quelling any public complaints of recipients being welfare addicted and unwilling to quit. Recipients would be required to work a standard 40 hour work week. The assistance received would be prorated out per hour, so any missed work time would result in decreased assistance by the prorated amount. All assistance received would be considered in the annual earnings statements all receive for filing federal taxes. There should be no exemption since those not on assistance programs do not have their earnings generally excused. Obviously recipients would have the same opportunities for tax reductions provided for in the tax code just as anyone else not on assistance does.
What happens though should a recipient be injured in some manner while completion the work for assistance job required of them? Well, they would have the same access to worker compensation as any other worker. It’s a system already in place so there is no reason not to utilize it.
The differing programs for assistance to those in need would have maximum limits that shall not be exceeded. If a recipient is receiving assistance under more than one program then the program with the longest limit would be the limitation for all the programs the person is receiving aid through. During the period the recipient is receiving assistance the program would begin phasing out the amount received at some point in the period until the eligibility amount reaches zero percent. As an example, a person is receiving TANF assistance. The limitation is determined to be the length of time to reduce the benefit provided to zero percent beginning in the seventh month. The first six months would be 100%; the seventh month would see a 5% reduction to 95%, the eighth month another 5% reduction to 90%, continuing to zero percent from the ninth through eighteenth month. This gives a total assistance period of 26 months after which the recipient has exhausted their “entitlement” and must be self-sufficient to the best of their ability. If we stop playing the game of continually extending assistance to an individual, and if that individual is aware of exactly when the assistance will end, then that individual should be taking control of their future and be prepared for when the assistance is maxed out.
Keep in mind throughout the period an individual is on assistance of some kind there is nothing preventing that individual from receiving private charitable assistance. These private programs may have their own criteria for an individual to qualify and there should be no link between what the individual receives privately and what they receive publicly – on the public assistance side. If private charities wish to limit their aid when one is receiving public assistance as well, that’s up to the private charity. To keep anyone from objecting, I further believe the funneling of public taxpayer funds to private entities to provide any assistance to individuals should be barred at all levels. No public funds to charities, none to organizations like NPR or Planned Parenthood either.
Is this the best solution to there being taxpayer support public assistance programs? No. Ideally we should have a society that does not require any type of public assistance. We could have too, but the majority of Americans are completely unwilling to take the necessary steps that would bring about the reductions in the need for these types of programs. That of course is a totally different article to write, probably several more.
Now, Wimpy requests that you pass him the ketchup.