IN THIS SECTION
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What would work? The answer is simple — expand and improve on what has worked already. Give the states stable, limited funding together with the maximum flexibility to design coordinated welfare systems that best suit the needs of their unique, low-income populations — subject to federally required and supervised annual audits.
And in light of the current administration’s efforts to end run public assistance work requirements, make it clear this time that any avenue allowing federal bureaucrats to parse words in order to grant themselves the authority to meddle with — or even negate — Congressional intent regarding welfare block grants to the states is removed.
As soon as Welfare Reform passed in 1996, critics frantically searched for examples of negligence on the part of the states in addressing the needs of low-income citizens. None were found. Despite dire predictions, needy children by the millions, thousands or even dozens were not found hungry and impoverished on the streets. The state and local governments that are closest to the people in need of services are clearly qualified and competent to make sure their needs were met.
Over the last 15 years, funding under the TANF block grant has remained relatively stable at 1996 levels because the funding was specifically exempted from the automatic increases afforded most federal programs under Congress’ annual budget process. This has saved federal taxpayers over $4.6 billion on TANF just in fiscal year 2012, and more than $42 billion since 1996.21 The TANF program proves that fiscal accountability in federal welfare spending can be restored by not automatically indexing government programs to the inflation rate without harming citizens legitimately in need of government services.
NOT indexing the proposed welfare program block grants will break the link to the heretofore inexorable automatic spending increases for federal assistance programs. Of course, this does not mean spending on the programs cannot be increased, just that members of Congress will have to vote each and every year for or against any spending increase in specific programs — and held accountable for those decisions by voters in their districts and states on Election Day.
In a similar vein, requiring regular audits and transferring funds to the states directly from the U.S. Treasury — would end federal, “Washington-knows-best” bureaucratic interference and overreach. Governors would be able to design unified welfare systems tailored to best meet the needs of their low-income citizens. The necessity for thousands of federal bureaucrats dictating to the states would be eliminated, as would the need for the thousands of state bureaucrats required to comply with the ocean of red tape emanating from Washington, D.C.
In addition, consolidating the byzantine array of government assistance programs would provide states with the flexibility to transfer funds from one category of assistance program to another as necessary to best serve the needs and demographics of their specific populations.
The time has come to dismantle the federal bureaucracy, and once and for all get Washington out of the welfare business — better serving the truly needy and taxpayers alike.