Let’s start by saying very clearly that America, the greatest nation the earth has ever seen, should take care of its people who cannot take care of themselves. And America does that. Through a combination of charity and government assistance, the needy receive a helping hand. It is not a perfect system, of course, but one which continues to evolve with improvements.
One sorely needed improvement is means testing. It would address this problem: the American employment market is at its strongest level in modern history, and yet enrollment in the nation’s two largest safety-net programs, Medicaid and food stamps, remain near historic highs. What can we do?
One improvement pushed by conservatives is means testing. That is, public assistance should only go to citizens who do not have the means to provide for themselves. Those who are able to work, should work. Various experiments with means testing have been implemented. Take, for example, the Medicaid program.
The vast majority of Obamacare’s increase in health insurance coverage was simply enrolling more people in Medicaid. How was it done? You may be surprised. In fact, Senator Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, said he was “stunned”. Let me explain.
The legislative auditor in Louisiana conducted a study of Medicaid recipients. He found that 82 out of 100 should not have qualified for all the benefits they received! Now we understand Senator Kennedy’s reaction. Most of those 82 were underreporting income, which is possible because the rules allow people to join Medicaid without any income verification. Yes, these folks declared their income and the state accepted it as fact. In fact, 10 of those 100 had annual incomes above the average in Louisiana! Shame on them. The situation is scandalous.
You see, the Obama administration “streamlined” the application process in an effort to enroll as many people as possible. And they could do that, because the federal government pays for the program. In fact, the feds have even prohibited states from requiring certain tests. So, this enables a citizen to simply declare their income and start receiving benefits. No questions asked.
In addition, besides not verifying a citizen’s income, states are expressly forbidden to verify asset ownership. So it doesn’t matter if you own a business or substantial real estate assets; if you claim your income is low enough, you can get Medicaid. All courtesy of the American taxpayer.
A similar situation exists in food stamps. In the food stamp program, mandatory face-to-face interviews with caseworkers and updates on recipients’ income have been reduced or eliminated. This makes it much easier to continue receiving benefits. Not surprisingly, even with the strongest economy in modern history, 40 million Americans still receive food stamp benefits. That figure is nearly double from the beginning of the Obama administration.
Conservatives and the Trump administration know what needs to be done, but they need cooperation from Democrats. Liberals have been fighting these common sense proposals for years. But the feds must intervene to restore the integrity to these vital safety net programs. Otherwise, spending will continue to drive up federal deficits with payments to millions of Americans who shouldn’t be receiving public assistance. Without means testing, these programs will collapse under their own weight, unable to provide for the truly needy Americans. That is unacceptable, it is immoral.
Our government programs must provide the means and incentives to work, to hold a job. Conservative Republicans believe that the best antipoverty program is a steady job. Rather than foster dependence on government programs, the feds should incent and measure independence. With a historically strong economy, now is the perfect time to break the dependency cycle.
We the people deserve a proper accounting of the funds for these programs, and prudent stewardship of the public tax dollars. That includes means testing, to simply verify the need before funds are dispersed. It is not difficult to do; we simply must have the political will to overcome liberal objections to these common sense measures.
Let’s end this column by saying again, very clearly, that America, the greatest nation the earth has ever seen, should take care of its people who cannot take care of themselves.
Simple fairness to all citizens, to the needy as well as those who pay the tab. And confidence that the programs will be there for the long term, with assurance that America takes care of its needy for many generations to come.
Scott S. Kramer is Chairman of the Republican Party of Kendall County.
Previously published in the Boerne Star