Quoth Milton Friedman, “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”
An object lesson in this is the work-requirement waivers for food stamps Congress enacted under former President Barack Obama in 2009 in response to the 2008 financial crisis.
The goal, of course, was to ease hurdles to getting government assistance in a time of grave need by allowing states to waive the federal requirement that able-bodied individuals work, study, or train for a job to receive benefits. However, in 2015 — a full seven years after the crisis began and long after an easement of the worst privations had occurred, 42 states still had full or partial work-requirement waivers for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Unfortunately for gravy-train riders in the great state of Tennessee, the Volunteer State will soon no longer be on that list. According to The Tennesseean, Gov. Bill Haslam, a conservative Republican, announced this week that his state will reinstate the work requirements nearly a decade after they were waived.
As of Feb. 1, 2018, most Tennessee counties will require able-bodied adults who do not have dependents to work 20 hours a week at a job, getting education or training, or volunteering. Recipients will have 90 days to comply with the new regulations once they take effect.
“How do we with a straight face say, ‘Oh, there’s still extraordinary circumstances in Tennessee that still demand a waiver’? Absolutely not,” Haslam said.
“When we hit record low unemployment three months in a row, then it comes a time to look around and say, are we doing everything the right way? We looked at this and thought, it’s hard to justify a waiver.”
Approximately 58,000 food stamp recipients in Tennessee will be affected by the new requirements — and, if history is any indicator, that means the food stamp rolls are going to plummet.
As Fox News notes, similar changes in 13 Alabama counties led to an 85 percent drop in able-bodied food stamp recipients who didn’t fulfill work requirements between January and May of this year. Three counties in Georgia that instituted the requirements saw a 58 percent drop in adults receiving benefits; when the program was expanded to 21 more counties, a 62 percent drop was noted.
Naturally, even though the crisis the requirements were waived for no longer exists, activists still decried Haslam’s decision.
“We support the governor’s goal of enabling more people to be fully employed at good wages, and that’s what SNAP families want, too,” Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, told the Tennessean.
“The fear has been, and remains, that unless this new policy is implemented carefully, local food retailers will suffer, church pantries will be overwhelmed and hunger will increase.”
Let me first question what Johnson posits at the beginning of her statement: If one is an able-bodied individual who has been on SNAP for an extended period of time and still doesn’t meet the work requirements for the program, then, no, that’s not what they want. Johnson’s sly appeal regarding “SNAP families” is also wholly irrelevant here, since the waiver specifically targets able-bodied adults without dependents. But it certainly sounds sympathetic enough, doesn’t it?
That’s the whole point here, though. Long after this temporary government waiver has served its purpose, activists want to keep it going — and they predict total catastrophe if the initiative isn’t “carefully implemented” (by which you can read “scrapped entirely”).
Whatever. If these able-bodied individuals can find the church pantry in order to “overwhelm” it, they can certainly stick around and volunteer the 20 hours necessary to keep their SNAP benefits.
If they lack that modicum of motivation, they didn’t deserve to be on the program in the first place. Tennesseans can and should give them the metaphorical finger, along with the former president who didn’t want anyone to have to actually work for food stamps.
And that’s not just my curmudgeonly conservatism talking, that’s what federal law says — a federal law that, may I point out, was enacted under and championed by none other than William Jefferson Clinton.
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