There’s joy in ‘manning the oars’

There’s joy in ‘manning the oars’
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U.S. job opportunities continue to increase, compared to a year ago, with predictions for a bright economic outlook in 2018 because of Republican tax reform and President TrumpDonald TrumpMcCarthy says he told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene he disagreed with her impeachment articles against Biden Biden, Trudeau agree to meet next month Trump planned to oust acting AG to overturn Georgia election results: report MORE’s deregulation discipline. But there’s a shortage of workers because of a holdover of Obama-era handouts that lured and have kept millions of people out of the workforce.

It is time to end this perversity, which the president and House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBiden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day Revising the pardon power — let the Speaker and Congress have voices MORE are seeking to do, by proposing work requirements for benefits so the United States has more able-bodied people “manning the oars.”

The most notorious “giveaway” is the SNAP (food stamp) program, which virtually doubled in size — from 24 million to 48 million recipients — during the early years of the Obama administration after President Obama abandoned the prior work requirements. Progressives are screaming about hurting the poor, but what about the poor who are working and paying their way? Why should they “man the oars” while many of their peers ride for free?


Liberals could use a history lesson regarding the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. When Newt Gingrich became speaker in 1995, he sponsored Reaganesque welfare reform that House Republicans finally shamed President Clinton into signing into law in October 1996 just before his reelection (thereafter, he took full credit for the results).

But that applied to just one welfare program, the old New Deal-era Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).

The reform was simple: a work requirement and finite block grants to the states. If the states saved money, they kept it; if they spent more, the extra money came from their coffers. Over the next decade, AFDC welfare recipients declined by two-thirds nationally, and program costs were cut in half from previous budgets.

Welfare recipients regained their independence and self-esteem, besides the extra income from work, helping to boost them out of poverty. Studies that included observations by friends, neighbors and other third parties confirmed that going to work improved the happiness and well-being of former welfare recipients, particularly single mothers. “Pulling an oar,” we all know intuitively and from experience, is far better for the psyche and the soul than a “free ride.”

And it is much better for society and the nation to have a larger workforce. The economy grows more rapidly, wealth increases, jobs and opportunities explode, unemployment and welfare benefits implode (the number of people currently receiving unemployment benefits is the lowest in 44 years), and we are all better off.

But there are dozens more means-tested welfare programs where the same work requirements and block grants could be adopted — food stamps and Medicaid being the biggest. Federal and state taxpayers pay $1 trillion a year for all of them combined.

Both the poor and taxpayers would benefit enormously if Democrats and so-called
“progressives” would stand up and support the same reforms for all of these programs. This could save taxpayers trillions of dollars over the first 10 years alone. States have shown that they are more effective at delivering innovative health care programs than the current federally-dominated Medicaid, ensuring effective health services for the poor.

Common sense and history confirm this, yet progressives and congressional Democrats — not one of whom voted for tax reform and all of whom vow to repeal tax cuts and increase taxes if elected in November — take an opposite view.  

That’s where our nation is now situated: at a crossroads between the positive, productive American individuals and the collectivist, socialist vision of progressives in our government.

In her recent Wall Street Journal column, former Ronald Reagan adviser Peggy Noonan lamented the “disunity and the thinning of a shared sense of the national dream. … What should the GOP be thinking now, as a political priority? Be more human. Show a felt sympathy for those trying to rise. Align yourself with the culturally disheartened … figure out why people don’t feel so upwardly mobile anymore … and show respect — more than that, protectiveness — toward the economic system that made America rich … capitalism.”

It will all play out over the months preceding the November midterms, for which the left is organizing aggressively to try to retake control of House. If they regain control, they’d work to “un-man” the oars, not get more people pulling America in the right direction.

Those are the stakes, and battles over tax reform and spending restraint are center stage. America’s future — and yours — rides on the outcome. As we seek to increase those manning the workforce oars, we must focus on the “national dream” and victory in November.

Lewis K. Uhler is founder and chairman of the National Tax Limitation Committee and National Tax Limitation Foundation (NTLF). He was a contemporary and collaborator with President Ronald Reagan and economist Milton Friedman.  

Peter Ferrara is a senior fellow with the Heartland Institute and NTLF and teaches economics at King’s College in New York. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as associate deputy U.S. attorney general under President George H.W.  Bush.