My Time at Walmart” looked at the incredible and outrageous abuses of the welfare system that I observed while working summers at Walmart.  My follow-up looked at how those who didn’t like my message made me the message.  This one will blow your mind.

Some like to make the issue of welfare a complicated mess, filled with statistical anomalies and outliers.  The solutions, while not always politically correct, are simple.  And they meet the standards of common sense.

1. Welfare recipients should pass a drug test before they receive benefits of any kind.

I had to be drug tested to get a job at Walmart, and my parents had to be drug tested to get their jobs too.  If I had been injured on the job, I would have had to submit to another drug test, and I would have lost my job if I had failed it.

If taxpayer dollars are going to be distributed to someone claiming to need help, it would be nice to know that the person isn’t doing drugs. Despite what progressives may say, welfare benefits are a temporary privilege, not an absolute right.

A person who has nothing to hide has nothing to worry about.  If one is truly destitute, they shouldn’t be spending money on drugs.  Bottom line: if a person fails the welfare drug test, they should have to complete rehabilitation or sober up, and pass a test before receiving anything. Period.

2. Require photo identification to use an EBT card.

Some stores require a photo ID to use a regular credit card. The Walmart I worked at would prompt for an ID at random times on the register after a credit card was swiped; I don’t think an EBT card should be any different. There have been reports of EBT cards from states like Missouri and Florida being used as far away as New York, Alaska, and Hawaii.  Either the person using the EBT card isn’t being honest about their income, has a rich relative, or the card is being sold. I think options one and three are more likely.

A photo I.D. requirement would also significantly diminish the chances of an EBT card being sold.  If the user is elderly or homebound, a proxy individual could be assigned and given permission to use the card, similar to how WIC works.

3. Restrict the items that one can buy with an EBT/SNAP card.

I think WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) is a great program when used correctly, and I don’t see why its ideas and conditions can’t be applied to SNAP.  If SNAP were reformed so that benefits were earmarked for vegetables, milk, bread, peanut butter, etc. (all items that can be purchased with WIC in Maine) healthy eating would be encouraged, as would responsible use of the card.  When food stamps were first implemented, Twinkies, frozen pizzas, and energy drinks didn’t exist.  A person doesn’t need them to survive, and as tasty as Twinkies may be, they’re not healthy food.  If a person wishes to buy something outside of the list, they can use their own money.

The program does not encourage healthy, sustainable food consumption, as it should.  A person who is permitted to buy unhealthy items with government money is likely to have additional health problems.  If this person happens to also be on Medicare, their unhealthy consumption would eventually cost the state even more money. One of the administration’s focuses during the debate over healthcare reform was preventative care. Encouraging responsible consumption would go far and actually be effective in that arena.

4. Reform TANF so women would be encouraged to marry before having children.

TANF currently aids women who are living without a husband or man in the home.  TANF was developed as a more restrictive version of AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children), which was originally intended to help widows, but was expanded as part of Johnson’s Great Society program to include unmarried mothers. The statistics speak for themselves.  Since AFDC was modified, the rate of out-of-wedlock births has skyrocketed, and the majority of AFDC recipients were no longer widows. This is incredibly troubling.

Today, nearly one out of three white children, half of all Hispanic children, and three out of four black children are born out of wedlock.  Those statistics are mind-boggling.  That’s a lot of children growing up without a father figure in the house. Statistics overwhelmingly support that marriage is one of the greatest weapons in the fight against child poverty. Conservatives should use these statistics to make a more concerted effort to promote marriage and a stable home life as an effective means of combating poverty.

The singer of the famous satire, “It’s Free Swipe Yo EBT” song, Chapter, grew up with a single mother and witnessed the potential for welfare abuse firsthand. She believes that her mother had her and her siblings simply to get more money from the state.  That’s incredibly sad.  A child is not a cash cow.  A child is a child, and should be cherished and loved, not viewed as a source of income.

5. Cut Medicaid to better align Maine with the rest of the nation.

We have all heard the horror stories about people losing their health insurance.  The reality of the situation is that the majority of the people who would potentially lose coverage would not be covered in many other states, including neighboring New Hampshire.  Most states do not cover adults that are not disabled and do not have children.  They’ve managed to survive so far. The state of Maine cannot afford to cover these people.  Maine’s Medicaid system has grown way too fast.  The state’s Medicaid population has increased 78% in recent years, without a similar rise in the poverty rate.  Something is not right.  Maine’s unemployment level and poverty rate are consistently below national averages, yet the state spends more on welfare than most other states. The “Obamacare” bill that prevents any new changes to Medicaid eligibility now traps the state into paying for people it can no longer afford to cover.

6. Tie benefits to work.

The federal government operates around 77 separate welfare programs, and thanks to the Republicans’ efforts in 1996 to “end welfare as we know it,” one (TANF) is currently tied to work. That legislation was enormously successful. After its passage, welfare caseloads were cut in half and overall poverty levels dropped significantly.

The widespread abuse evident in both state and federal welfare programs demonstrates the need for much greater reform. Republicans in Congress are now working to pass The Welfare Reform Act of 2011 which would expend the reforms of twelve years ago, including tying the SNAP program to work programs or job training. As Newt Gingrich articulated in the debate the other night, conservatives seek to help people become independent and self-reliant, not more reliant on the government.

“We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.”  – Ronald Reagan

The welfare system is broken. Someone needs to fix it. Nanny states don’t work, and I don’t want to see my country go the way of Europe.

Christine Rousselle :: Providence College :: Providence, Rhode Island :: @Crousselle