Record Unemployment, Record Job Openings, Record Food Stamp Recipients

“We Accept Food Stamps” taken by Paul Sableman. Used under Creative Commons License 2.0

Looking at that headline, one of these things doesn’t belong.

Now, I’m not saying the economy is all wine and roses. I have some pretty big concerns about the strength of the economy and about some fundamental problems that could bring things to a grinding halt… like the one we saw in 2008… or worse.

But I do recognize that with the rollback of regulations, the tax reform, and some other political changes we’ve seen in the last year, the job market has definitely improved.

That’s good news.

So why do we have near-record numbers of people receiving food stamps? And why, among those receiving food stamps, are almost half able-bodied adults?

These are adults who are capable of working. And under the 1996 welfare reform, able-bodied adults are required to either have a job, be enrolled in job training, or volunteer 20 hours a week if they want to continue receiving food stamps beyond three months.

This is a good rule. Work is good for people. People feel useful and happier when they’re working. These kinds of work requirements also help move people back into independence rather that consigning them to relying on the government to put food on the table indefinitely.

And when more individuals work, that’s good for communities as well.

So what’s happening? Many states, for political reasons, have taken advantage of loopholes that allow people to get a waiver for the work requirement. This isn’t good for anyone except politicians who get votes out of the deal and bureaucrats who perpetuate their budgets by demonstrating the great “need” for the services they provide.

The taxpayers, the communities, the businesses, and yes… the food stamp recipients… they all end up worse off.

There’s a big move across the country at the state level to start enforcing work requirements for able-bodied adults on food stamps. Find out what your state is doing on the front and encourage your local lawmakers to get on board.

You can find more about this problem and how some states are solving it here.