New York Mayor to Loosen “Degrading” Welfare Work Requirements

Meanwhile, Indiana is emphasizing the welfare work requirements.

We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into complacency and dependence.” – Paul Ryan

I’m not actively opposed to welfare or social safety net programs in general. There are certainly those who, despite having the best work ethic, and outstanding ability, fall on hard times, and need assistance. That is not disputed, nor is it disputed that there are those who abuse such programs. But it is our job to discern between the two, and figure out reasonable solutions to help our fellow man as much as we may be able to, given our financial situation. That is not an absurd notion. What is absurd is to sit back, and watch while a malfunctioning system slowly breaks down, and do nothing to fix it.

According to Breitbart:

Indiana will eliminate exemptions that require food stamp recipients look for work, a rules change that could see up to 65,000 food stamp recipients trimmed from the roles…The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) does require what many in the past have called ‘workfare’—requiring recipients to get job training, or show proof that they are looking for a job to qualify for food stamps. The states, however, have been given wide discretion in how they implement the law and have been allowed to make any manner of exemptions for citizens to escape this requirement. Up until now Indiana had issued fairly wide exemptions.

In essence, Indiana will more stringently enforce work requirements for those on federal assistance. That seems like a no-brainer, right? Wrong—At least according to New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio is doing the exact opposite in the city of New York, transitioning the work requirement made famous by Rudy Giuliani, and continued by mega-liberal Michael Bloomberg, into education programs. Here’s the problem with that. Giuliani’s workfare program reduced the number of people on the government dole significantly, and is widely considered a success. Given that, why would de Blasio want so badly to change the program? Because, according to Rachel L. Swarns of The New York Times, workfare is degrading:

Every workday morning, Phedra Schliefer-Tobias mops floors, cleans toilets and scrubs sinks just like the rest of the members of the custodial staff in a nine-story office building in Lower Manhattan. But her city-issued identification card — her badge of shame — makes it clear that she stands apart. In bold, black letters, the ID card describes her as a ‘Non Employee,’ proof that she is not on a career track. She is a 48-year-old welfare recipient, working for her benefits and ‘going nowhere,’ as she puts it.”

Regardless of your opinion on the effectiveness of workfare, the notion that it is shameful to wear a name tag which essentially labels you as a recipient of government assistance is patently absurd. What is more shameful? Working for your benefits, or not working for your benefits? If this woman were not wearing a name tag which identified her as a recipient of state benefits, would her job be any less shameful for her? It sounds to me like the woman mentioned in the NYT piece is not ashamed to be receiving benefits, but rather upset that she is working as a custodian, and not being given something “more.” She is upset that she is not being recognized as something “better.” It seems like she believes her custodial work itself is a badge of shame. She is 48 years old, and working a job that she believes is beneath her, and she blames the system for not offering her more—the very system that is helping her in the first place.

There are many issues to be worked out in a system as complex as welfare, and few are debating that. What disturbs me is the increasingly pervasive belief that we are owed something. Whether it is the government that owes us, or our fellow citizens, there is a growing sense of entitlement in this country. When people are required to work for their federal assistance, it’s not enough; they want to receive a free education instead, or they don’t want to do any work whatsoever. God forbid you have a name tag that labels you as a beneficiary of federal assistance. How dare you (the one without a job) be labeled!

We are constantly told that any job that doesn’t require a college education is lesser than. We are also told that the government should be our parent, meaning that it should pay for our education. With these notions firmly implanted in our minds, we have developed an entitlement sensibility, that if we are given work to do that is “lesser,” we should be outraged. We are offended that in order to receive government benefits (funded by the taxpayers), we must do something in return that we have been conditioned to believe is less than. How screwed up is that? It’s like paying for a hamburger, and being outraged when you don’t receive a filet mignon.

The difference between Indiana and New York has put on display our extraordinary sense of entitlement. When will we stop demanding more when what we’re being given is already generous, and sometimes even excessive?