As sure as night following day, every budget cycle there are calls for even more welfare (or “human services”) spending. Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks), who chairs the House Human Services Committee, recently sat down to bemoan that Governor Corbett’s 2013 budget does not spend enough money on human service programs.
What Rep. DiGirolamo does not mention is that Pennsylvania’s current welfare system is broken. First, Pennsylvania taxpayers lose millions of dollars a year to welfare fraud and abuse of the system. For example, using food stamps to make purchases in the Virgin Islands does not look like a legitimate use of taxpayer money. There has also been persistent fraud in a program intended to help the needy heat their homes. Until a serious effort is made to root out fraud in the welfare system, Pennsylvania taxpayers should not be asked to give another dime.
Even more disturbing than the fraud and abuse is the fact that the current system traps people in poverty. There are perverse incentives in the system that discourage recipients from increasing their income and working their way out of the system.
Former Pennsylvania Secretary of Welfare Gary Alexander gave a stunning presentation at the American Enterprise Institute in July 2012. Among the slides was one that represented the “Welfare Cliff”:
Take a moment to soak that in.
The Welfare Cliff has real consequences. It snares good people in a web of dependency. A fact clearly illustrated by the following news story.
Those in need would be better served if Rep. DiGirolamo used his position to fix the welfare system; not just demand more money.