Illinois State Rep. Bill Mitchell has seen enough. The Republican is tired of throwing good money after bad at a welfare system that is slowly but surely draining the life out of the economy.
“Now we have one in three Illinoisans on a program, and we’re not fully funding education,” Mitchell said. “Our priorities are out of whack, folks; that’s what I’m saying.”
Mitchell has proposed several tweaks to the state’s welfare system in the hopes of reducing fraud. According to a local news station, Mitchell wants to require that all welfare recipients pass a regular drug test to be eligible for their benefits, and he wants to tie work requirements to food stamps. He has also proposed Link cards with special microchips that will cut down on the degree of abuse.
“Our welfare system figures in a 10 percent fraud rate,” Mitchell wrote on his official website. “Think about that — welfare fraud eats up 10 percent of the total amount spent on welfare. That’s hundreds of millions of dollars, possibly as high as a billion dollars, on a statewide level.”
Republicans usually face stiff opposition when they propose changes to the welfare system, whether it be at the federal level or the local level. Democrats have built their party on a soft foundation of government giveaways, for one thing, meaning they can always be counted on to fight this kind of thing to their dying breaths.
But even Republican voters get squeamish when you start talking about throwing poor people off the rolls. We’re Americans, after all, and there is a strong vein of heart and charity running through the middle of this country. We are the richest nation on the planet, but we are also the most generous. There is, after all, a lingering horror in the back of our minds. What if – through some confluence of circumstances – we suddenly found ourselves wondering where our next paycheck would come from? Sure, we’d like to keep more of our own money, but what if this generosity is the only thing keeping the evil Poverty Fairy from paying us a visit?
Problem is, we’re paying too high a societal cost for the privilege of easing our collective conscience. There’s only so much the system can handle, and we’re probably well past that point already. We need to get serious about paring back the social safety net, and fraud is a good place to start.
It is not, however, going to be enough.
By steadily expanding the welfare state year after year, we are not helping people. We are stealing purpose away from millions of lives. That is what we are doing when we set up a system where we pass government benefits down from one generation to the next. It’s sick. Children learn from those around them. They learn what is and isn’t acceptable. And millions of American children are growing up in households and neighborhoods where it is perfectly acceptable to do absolutely nothing with your life.
No, cutting out the worst of the welfare fraud is not going to be enough. If we really want to put this country back on the right track, we’re going to have to go much, much further.