ON-Lion Letter

"Too many Americans are trapped in failing welfare programs and the problem is getting worse," begins a February report from The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA).  "The number of people dependent on government has exploded in recent years, largely due to state and federal expansions.

"This was driven by the misguided conventional wisdom that the best way to reduce poverty is to expand welfare to more people and hope that they would eventually work their way out of dependency," continue Jonathan Ingram and Nic Horton in the report.  "But new research turns that notion upside down.

"In 2013, Kansas bucked the welfare-expansion trend and implemented common-sense work requirements and time limits for able-bodied adults without dependents on food stamps," they write in The Power of Work:  How Kansas' Welfare Reform Is Lifting Americans Out of Poverty.  "Under the leadership of Governor Sam Brownback, state officials launched the most comprehensive welfare tracking system of its kind to monitor the impact on individuals' employment and earnings.

"The results were remarkable," according to Ingram and Horton.

Ingram is vice president of research and Horton is a senior research fellow at FGA, which is substantially supported by The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee.

"With no welfare work requirement or time limit, just one in five able-bodied adults on food stamps worked.  Nearly 93 percent of them were in poverty, most in severe poverty," they find.  "These reforms immediately freed nearly 13,000 Kansans from welfare on December 31, 2013.

"Those still receiving food stamps, but now subject to a work requirement, are also better off," Ingram and Horton say, and "[l]ong-term welfare caused severe damage."

They tell how previously unemployed male was stuck on food stamps for four years, among many other examples, but now works in publishing and earns $45,000 per year.  A previously unemployed female was stuck on food stamps for more than two years, but now works in social-assistance services and earns $27,000 per year.  And another previously unemployed female stuck on food stamps for over three years now works in ambulatory health-care services, earning $37,000 per year.

"This new evidence provides policymakers with an opportunity to rethink how they approach welfare," FGA's Ingram and Horton conclude.  "Reformers must refocus their anti-poverty efforts on freeing people from welfare completely instead of simply reforming the welfare experience itself.  Policymakers across the country should take a page from Kansas, restore the working class, and give real hope to millions trapped in lives of dependency and poverty."

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