Congress Can Use the Debt Ceiling to Get America Back to WorkBy: Chairman Jodey Arrington (TX) April 19, 2023 As seen in The Wall Street Journal
"The culture of welfare must be replaced with the culture of work. The culture of dependence must be replaced with the culture of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility.”
These words were spoken by Sen. Joe Biden in 1996, shortly before he cast his vote for landmark welfare reform. Among other things, that bipartisan legislation included work requirements to create an incentive for employment and reduce welfare caseloads. Lawmakers like Mr. Biden understood that dependency has tragic consequences.
Next week Congress has a historic opportunity to restore the culture of work in America. The House Republican plan to raise the debt limit includes policies that restore the integrity of common-sense work requirements for able-bodied adults.
Democrats may demagogue the issue, but work requirements are popular. In fact, while the media focused on a Republican state Supreme Court candidate’s defeat in Wisconsin, nearly 80% of voters in the same election supported such conditions for welfare programs.
More Americans are receiving welfare benefits than ever before. During the pandemic, Congress dramatically expanded welfare eligibility, and now Mr. Biden wants to go further, creating new entitlement programs such as child tax credit payments without work requirements and a massive expansion of ObamaCare subsidies.
There couldn’t be a worse time to discourage work. There are still nearly 10 million unfilled job openings nationwide, and almost two jobs open for every unemployed person. This unprecedented labor shortage continues to affect everything from small businesses to large-scale construction and manufacturing projects.
It is time to return to common-sense policies that encourage people to look for work and rejoin the labor force. We can do so with the confidence that these policies are both pro-growth and pro-family. A new nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analysis shows that Alabama’s expanded work requirements led to a substantial increase in employment for families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. Recipients saw their projected incomes increase, and the government saw its welfare spending decrease. Good jobs and a strong workforce remain the surest way out of generational poverty.
Getting more people into the workforce will also protect Social Security and Medicare. Employee contributions to these trust funds will strengthen solvency for the future.
This isn’t only a fiscal priority, it’s a moral imperative. A recent national survey found that hard work—the lifeblood of the American dream—has substantially declined in importance as a core value for Americans. This trend will continue so long as liberal Democrats are hell-bent on devaluing work. Help should be there for people who need it, but taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to foot the bill for programs that pay able-bodied people not to work. It pits Americans against each other and deepens our political divisions.
Dependency locks people in a dungeon of despair. Work unleashes opportunity and is the pathway to earned prosperity. Instead of trapping a new generation of Americans in poverty and dependence, my Democratic colleagues should work with us to restore the culture of work in America.