If you hear that the federal government is changing some policy that will affect welfare benefits for millions of people, what is the first bit of information you’d want to know? For me, the answer is what the change actually would be. For mainstream journalists, that’s often a secondary or tertiary consideration, probably because they fundamentally see their job as advocacy, not the provision of information.
A prime example is the Columbus Dispatch and Gatehouse Media article by Catherine Candisky and Jayme Fraser about the Trump administration’s proposed rule change for food stamp eligibility appearing in the Providence Journal. Readers have to get more than halfway through the article before finding a direct statement of what the policy does:
The proposed change would end benefits for people who receive assistance because of broad-based categorical eligibility.
The policy change would only add a requirement that state governments must actually check the eligibility of people applying for food stamps even when they are already receiving other forms of welfare. The only people who would lose food stamps under the new rule are those who are not eligible for them now, but who receive them because states don’t check.
Of course, as a society we can have the conversation about what level of income ought to entitle a family to assistance, but sneaking beneficiaries onto the rolls seems mainly to be a way to expand the business available for government and the dependency of the people on it.