The Wall Street Journal’s Jennifer Levitz reports that the GOP-governed state of Maine is looking to add work requirements to the Medicaid program for those enrollees who are able-bodied adults. When the state did the same with the food stamp (SNAP) program, enrollees dropped 90% and analysis suggested that the group of people who had been on food stamps actually saw an increase in wages.
The argument against such reforms shows the completely different starting point of each side:
But Maine’s approach is drawing criticism from advocates for the poor, who say jobs, volunteer positions and transportation to either of them can be hard to come by in rural pocketswith persistent unemployment. They say those losing the assistance turn to charities instead, increasing demand at food banks.
To which I would ask: So? Whether society provides food for the poor through a government program or private charity, we’re still supporting our neighbors.
The implied difference is that private charity has the feel of relying on the goodness of others while government programs have the feel of society’s handing over what it owes — an entitlement, in other words. That difference is critical, and right in line with the work requirement.
What we owe each other is the chance of personal development and fulfillment, which comes from working, including being part of a self-supporting family team, even if not everybody within it works. For those who really can’t work and who aren’t part of family that can address the greater challenges it faces, we should offer help in a way that shows genuine concern and community, not forced entitlement.
The attitudes and mechanics of welfare affect each other. There’s a difference between the obligation to care for other people and a right to be cared for. When a third party — government — asserts the authority to impose the obligation and bestow the right, it harms those who face adversity and deprives those who contribute of the benefits of being charitable.