The government safety net is supposed to be just that: a safeguard, just in case. A safety net helps the most vulnerable while respecting limited taxpayer resources.
But the safety net of today is unrecognizable as only a temporary safeguard. Progressive policies are instead coaxing more and more individuals into a lifetime of government dependency.
The cost of this dependency is great, both in terms of dollars and an erosion of the self-reliant spirit that made America what it is. Welfare expansion and the growth of dependency have been problems for generations, but the Biden administration continues to throw gasoline on the fire as it rapidly expands welfare programs to more and more able-bodied adults.
Here are just three ways the Biden administration, under the guise of compassion, feeds the culture of dependency:
Paying Americans not to work
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CARES Act created new, federally funded unemployment insurance (UI) programs. One program increased UI benefits for those on UI by $600 per week for 13 additional weeks. Another program allowed claimants to continue to receive benefits even after exhausting their state UI benefits. The programs also eased work search requirements, contributing to the worker shortage. This decoupling of welfare from work is a sure path to continued government dependency.
A study from the Committee to Unleash Prosperity found that in 13 states, unemployment benefits for a family of four were roughly equal to or above the pre-tax median level of income in that state.
Unemployment benefits have mutated from a temporary fix to a long-term benefit that replaces work. Unemployment benefits act as a tax on work, as people risk losing benefits if they take on a job.
Boosting food stamps, and allowing even millionaires to qualify
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under President Biden boosted food stamps by 27 percent, costing American taxpayers up to $250 billion over the next decade. Already, roughly four million able-bodied adults without dependents are receiving food stamps. Worse yet, because states exploit various loopholes in the program, some millionaires are able to receive food stamps.
Food stamp benefits are intended for the truly needy. Allowing benefits to be expanded well beyond their scope siphons resources away from the people who need them the most and increases program costs at the expense of taxpayers.
It is important to stop the abuse and reinstate program integrity for food stamps. The Biden administration, though, withdrew a proposed rule from USDA that would have curbed fraud and saved taxpayer dollars. Congress has an opportunity to close such loopholes and safeguard the food stamp program for the truly needy.
Subsidizing student loan debt
Those who sacrificed time, earnings, and other opportunities for a college degree are duped as the Biden administration tells them this effort is in vain.
After several student loan payment pauses, the Biden administration revealed its actual goal: to provide up to $20,000 in student debt cancellation. The Supreme Court ruled the executive overreach unconstitutional, but President Biden’s Department of Education is at it again with changes to an income-driven repayment plan. Under this new scheme, a borrower’s payments are based on his or her income, rather than the amount owed.
This list is certainly not exhaustive. Each of these policies encourage dependence on government while discouraging work and personal responsibility.
Work is so much more than a paycheck. We work for economic reasons, but we work for personal reasons, too. Work leads to personal prosperity, a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, and self-sufficiency.
Leftists would have you believe that your paycheck, food, and student loans can be subsidized by the government—making both parties better off. But handouts to able-bodied adults hurt the most vulnerable—because Americans lose much more than a paycheck when they depend entirely on the government.
Paige Terryberry is a senior research fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability.