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With the depressing news out of Baltimore, conservatives are again decrying the social consequences of the welfare state, fatherless neighborhoods, and multigenerational poverty. We have repeatedly warned that misery and unrest would be the result of LBJ’s War on Poverty and related policies sold to the American people as “compassion.” There is no joy seeing these predictions come true.
As with Detroit and other failed liberal utopias, the press is desperate to blame the Baltimore riots on conservatives, even though the city has had only Democratic mayors since 1967 (when Nancy Pelosi’s brother was elected). Observers also blame systematic racism, even though just one white mayor has served since 1987 (expected presidential candidate Martin O’Malley) and the city has an African-American city council president, police chief, and top prosecutor. Even half of the police force is black. Despite the spin, fiscal and social liberalism is what failed Baltimore.
Instead of pointing and saying “I told you so,” many conservatives are taking steps to improve the lives of the most vulnerable. A group called the Foundation for Government Accountability is spearheading three initiatives that are already having a positive effect across America.
The first goal is to reduce the cycle of dependency by helping people get back to work. The fastest growing welfare program today is food stamps, ballooning from $17 billion in 2000 to almost $80 billion last year. In that same time, 31 million people have been added to the food stamp rolls. Much of this is due to states easing or eliminating work requirements and asset tests.
To fix this problem, the FGA created the Work First initiative to restore effective work requirements, reasonable time limits and common sense asset and eligibility testing.
Let’s look at Baltimore’s home state. In Maryland over the last decade, food stamp use has increased 188%. This translates to three-quarters of a million residents, or 13% of the population. Creating a permanent underclass isn’t compassion; it’s immoral.
Maine decided to employ a common-sense work requirement at the end of 2014. That state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rolls dropped from 12,000 to 2,680 by the end of March 2015. People are finding work and taxpayers’ money is used far more effectively.
Another FGA initiative is to reduce welfare fraud and abuse by verifying that applicants are truly eligible, monitoring enrollees to ensure they are still eligible, and prosecuting fraudsters who steal from taxpayers. Technology and e-verify software allows states to make these changes if they want to help the truly needy and protect taxpayers.
The third program is called Safe Families, which dramatically reduces the number of kids trapped in government-run foster care with the help of private organizations and families. With a change in state policies, a safe, temporary home is provided for a child while a parent in crisis gets help and support. This prevents abuse and neglect without the threat of biological parents losing custody to government bureaucrats. An extended volunteer family offers help, advice and support to parents who never had a social safety net to rely on. All this while reducing the number of kids who enter the child welfare system.
The key to fixing broken cities and lives isn’t bigger government, higher taxes and more dependency. If conservatives don’t push back on these broken programs and offer solutions, who will?