During his Twitter Townhall on Wednesday, President Obama admitted that government welfare has created dependency. He noted:
I think we should acknowledge that some welfare programs in the past were not well designed and in some cases did encourage dependency.… As somebody who worked in low-income neighborhoods, I’ve seen it where people weren’t encouraged to work, weren’t encouraged to upgrade their skills, were just getting a check, and over time their motivation started to diminish. And I think even if you’re progressive you’ve got to acknowledge that some of these things have not been well designed.
He’s absolutely right. The United States welfare system has not promoted prosperity and self-reliance but, rather, a culture of entitlement. Since the federal government got into the welfare business with the War on Poverty back in the 1960s, the poverty level has remained nearly the same, yet government welfare spending has soared. Today, the federal government operates over 70 welfare programs at a cost edging toward $1 trillion a year, or roughly 13 times the cost of what it spent in the 1960s.
And unfortunately, President Obama’s comment doesn’t acknowledge that it was not simply “some welfare programs in the past” that “did encourage dependency.” In reality, the story is no different today.
Of the more than 70 welfare programs in operation today, only one requires able-bodied recipients to work or look for work. The President’s suggestion that today “there are work obligations attached to welfare” is vastly out of touch with what is really taking place.
Furthermore, that he has attempted to slash funding for the program that seeks to promote the one thing that has the greatest effect on reducing poverty—marriage—further evidences his misunderstanding of poverty in the United States.
Children in single-parent homes are five times more likely to be poor, and 80 percent of all long-term poverty occurs in single-parent homes. Little wonder, then, that nearly three-quarters of all families with children on welfare are headed by single parents. Tragically, the number of out-of-wedlock births has skyrocketed since the War on Poverty began. The majority of these births occur to low-income women, those most likely to struggle as single parents. Sadly, many of these women come from communities where marriage is all but obsolete and where they rarely, if ever, receive the important message of waiting to have children until they are married. Yet the President has attempted to de-fund efforts to promote marriage among the members of these communities.
Earlier this year, Representative Jim Jordan (R–OH) introduced a bill to encourage the types of reforms to welfare that promote personal responsibility as well as greater government accountability. These types of changes, along with efforts to promote marriage, are the necessary steps to break the pattern of dependence perpetuated by the current welfare system.
President Obama is absolutely correct that a welfare system that promotes dependence is not “well designed.” Sadly, for the poor and all U.S. taxpayers, that accurately defines the current welfare system. If President Obama is really serious about helping the poor, he must admit that the U.S. has a long ways to go in promoting work. And he must realize that the best way to fight poverty is through strong marriages.