The Mickey Kaus article from which the below quote was taken reminds me that if anything radicalized me in the 70s, it was the efforts to get our family on welfare. I was a grad student and we were living on little money. Nobody was starving at our house, but there were suggestions that we should apply for food stamps. I found that extremely offensive, and still boil when I think about it. And I boil when I see welfare pimps go out and hunt down others people who are not on welfare roles, trying to get them enrolled. I favor the social safety net and welfare programs for those who truly need it, but attempts like this to nudge people onto welfare and dependency are about as pure evil as you’ll find in politics.
But Robert Rector, a welfare reform zealot who nevertheless does know what he’s talking about, has now published a longer analysis of the 20% rule. Turns out it’s not as big a scam as I’d thought it was. It’s a much bigger scam. For one thing, anything states do to increase the number of people on welfare will automatically increase the “exit” rate–what the 20% rule measures–since the more people going on welfare, the more people leave welfare for jobs in the natural course of things, without the state’s welfare bureaucrats doing anything at all. Raise caseloads by 20% and Sebelius’ standard will probably be met. Maybe raise caseloads 30% just to be sure. So what looks like a tough get-to-work incentive is actually a paleoliberal “first-get-on-welfare” incentive. But the point of welfare reform isn’t to get more people onto welfare.