Which American politician said the following? "The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fibre. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit." Had to be a mean-spirited Tea Party conservative, right? Wrong. President Franklin Roosevelt included these words in his 1935 State of the Union Address.
Account for welfare spending. Congress should require the President's annual budget to detail current and future aggregate federal means-tested welfare spending. The budget should also provide estimates of state contributions to federal welfare programs.
Get costs under control. The next step in welfare reform is to control the explosive growth in spending. Once the current recession ends (when unemployment reaches 6.5 percent), aggregate welfare funding should be capped at pre-recession (FY 2007) levels plus inflation. This could save Congress $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years.
Promote work, not government dependence. Building on the successful 1996 model, welfare reform today must continue to promote personal responsibility by encouraging work. For example, food stamps, one of the largest means-tested programs, should be restructured to require recipients to work or prepare for work to be eligible to receive benefits.
Today the chairman of the Republican Study Committee Representative Jim Jordan (R–OH) will introduce a bill that incorporates many of these principles. Among other items, it would require disclosure of total means-tested welfare spending, place an aggregate cap on welfare spending, and extend work requirements to the Food Stamps program. If we want to avoid becoming a European-style welfare state, we must abandon President Obama's War on Poverty surge and return to the type of common-sense welfare reform that proved so successful in the '90s.