In the time since President Lyndon B. Johnson launched his War on Poverty, now more than 50 years ago, government programs have dedicated more than $20 trillion to eradicating poverty. We now spend around $1 trillion per year. Observers on both sides of the aisle see the need for change, and on Monday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) took to the stage to offer some.
Jordan, speaking during the Conservative Policy Summit at the Heritage Foundation on Monday — or, as Jordan put it, “the greatest policy think tank in the whole dang world”— discussed his soon-to-be-reintroduced Welfare Reform Act.
To work on poverty, Jordan suggested, Americans need to look for three things: strong families, free markets and work. The last of these drew the majority of Jordan’s attention, and he blasted Democrats for embracing a hard line of “less work, more help from government.”
“It’s sad to see one of the two major parties step over the line and say it’s good when people work less,” Jordan said.
Jordan said his harsh accusations against the Democratic Party were affirmed by reactions from members of Congress to the recent Congressional Budget Office report. The report found the Affordable Care Act will cause a “decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024.”
Prominent Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), attempted to sell the news as a chance for Americans to “escape job-lock” and “follow their passion.”
According to Jordan, the Welfare Reform Act will focus on the importance of work. It would do two major things: First, get an account of the almost 80 means-tested welfare programs run at the federal level, roll that spending back to pre-recession levels, and tie it to inflation going forward; Second, insert a work requirement into the food stamp program similar to what exists for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
Jordan talked about the need for discipline and then stressed that it often means doing things one might not want to do.
“The problem with this town: We always do things the convenient way,” he noted.
The Welfare Reform Act, which will be matched by a Senate version to be introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), attempts to strengthen the transition from welfare to work. This approach, vindicated to many — including President Barack Obama — by its success in reforming welfare under President Bill Clinton, might be the right weapon for winning the battle against poverty.