Eduardo Porter of the NY Times, reports on his home state of Arizona, where I happen to be right now.
Arizona, where I was born, in July became the first state to cut poor families’ access to welfare assistance to a maximum of 12 months over a lifetime. That’s a fifth of the time allowed under federal law, and means that 5,000 more people will lose their benefits by next June.
This is only the latest tightening of the screws in Arizona. Last year, about 29,000 poor families received benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, 16,000 fewer than in 2005. In 2009, in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Depression of the 1930s, benefits were cut by 20 percent.
And of course it’s not just an Arizona problem:
… if Paul Ryan, the Republican lawmaker from Wisconsin who is expected to become speaker of the House, has his way, poor people in many other states can expect similar treatment in the years ahead.
Two forces are driving this very unchristian behavior towards “the least of us”: a deep and misplaced moral punishment ethos, joined with a states rights bias that pretends what “big” government can’t do, “state” government can. Under this fig leaf the long-ago federal aid to the poor has been replaced by block grants to the states, which then distribute funds intended for the poor anywhere they want.
Even thoughtful Republican policy wonks, and this does not include any of the current candidates for GOP presidential nomination, think what was done, was done badly.
… states were given both incentives and tools to redeploy the money to other priorities. Notably, they could get around the requirement to meet job participation benchmarks simply by reducing the caseloads of beneficiaries — almost a direct instruction to bump people off.
“States did not uphold their end of the bargain,” said Ron Haskins, an expert on welfare who worked for more than a decade for House Republicans. “So why do something like this again?”
It’s well worth a read of Porter’s article to understand just how mean spirited and deceptive this has been, with promises of more such in the wind.
For an earlier article on the myth of welfare’s corrupting influence see here.
For a public apology and detailed analysis of the current policies of block grants see Peter Germanis paper, here.