Welfare: Obama, Sebelius and Subsidiarity

Mickey Kaus, of the Daily Caller, is an expert on welfare and understands how the Obama Administration has intentionally weakened the work requirement of the 1996 welfare reform act.  The 1996 act mandated a “work first” approach, which focused on finding employment above everything else.  Health and Human Services czar, Kathleen Sebelius, has intentionally and unilaterally issued a directive which would allow HHS to waive a “work first” requirement.  As Kaus reports

They (HHS) give their examples of the sort of waivers they want to grant, and they weaken work requirements.  For example, HHS said states “may want to consider.”

Kaus offers his tanslation: you’ll keep getting a welfare check for “training” or for “job readiness,” or for going to school for an “extended … period,” even though the law would otherwise say it’s time to get to work.

Why do this when welfare reform is so popular with the general public?  Many studies show the reform was financially and culturally positive to its participants – mostly mothers and children.  Employment created pride and job skills, therefore, diminishing a culture of dependency.  So, why would the Obama Administration sneak a directive intending to dismantle “work first?” 

The “welfare industry” does not like “work first.”  Never heard of the welfare industry?  Federal and state bureaurcrats, legal aid lawyers, training organizations, community colleges, research institutions, research academics and the like are considered the “welfare industry.”  All  of which are receiving the majority of their financial support from the government.  Almost universally, the welfare industry wants to reverse the 1996 reform.  Thus, Sebelius and Obama have dismantled the law.  (It’s an election year, people.) This is a blatant example of politicians giving in to special-interest predators.

This is an abuse of power, which reduces Americans’ respect for our government and potentially reinstates failed and destructive welfare policies. 

How do We the People stop this abuse of power?  First, know this occurence is not limited to Obama and Sebelius.  There are abuses on both sides of the airsle – by both Republicans and Democrats.  Politicians and special-interest predators will always use conniving to manipulate the power of government for their respective monetary and political gains. 

The solution is subsidiarity – a Catholic doctrine – where an intervening organization best serves the people in need at a local level.  Here is the Acton Institute’s definition:

This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization, which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom. It conflicts with the passion for centralization and bureaucracy characteristic of the Welfare State.     

Even with the 1996 reform, the American welfare system – once well-intended – has morphed into a mass of rules and regulations that has little interaction between the recipient and the government. It is time to end federal government’s command and control. 

Needless-to-say the welfare industry and their complicit politicians will “yell bloody murder.”  Their mantra will be, “Only a racist would dismantle the welfare system.” 

It is painfully true that the coercive power of America’s government has oppressed many citizens – especially African-Americans and women.   In the last half of the 20th Century, the federal government attempted to correct many of our social wrongs, and some of our welfare programs weren’t touched because they were still beneficial to our society.   Unfortunately, with the advent of the “Great Society” and ever-increasing federal money for dependency programs, the American welfare policies became wasteful and often counter-productive.  Sadly, institutions involved in the system became corrupt and ineffective and the system stopped being helpful.  America’s welfare system must be reconstructed.

In 1991, Pope John II confronted the universal problem of institutional decline when he took the “social assistance state” to task in his encyclical Centesimus Annus.

The Pontiff wrote that the Welfare State was contradicting the principle of subsidiarity by intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility. This “leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.” 

Harmfully, Obama’s SOP for the welfare industry  “leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.” Exactly what the Pontiff described.

Again, America’s welfare system must be totally reconstructed. 

One idea:  States and local communities be allowed to opt-out of the federal system.  Instead of sending their share of income-tax dollars intended for welfare, the local, political entity would retain the money and use it for a community-specific project.    

Another lesson from the 1996 reform:  The leaders of welfare industry yelled that President Clinton supported “a race to the bottom.”  Just the opposite, states and local communities took good care of their neighbors in need.  The principles of subsidiarity and real involvement by family, neighbors and religious organizations are absolutely essential for an effective and reciprical interaction with people and families in need.