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Our Welfare System Needs Serious Disruption

June 27, 2018 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

President Trump’s supporters have long argued that we
should overlook his manifest flaws because he is a
“disrupter,” and God knows there are more than a few
institutions in Washington that could use a little disruption. Of
course, as the misery and chaos on our southern border show,
disruption can have a downside. But time after time, on occasions
when disruption is desperately needed, the Trump administration has
blinked.

The latest example is the administration’s proposal,
unveiled last week, to restructure our bloated and sclerotic
welfare system. Nearly everyone across the ideological spectrum
agrees that our efforts to fight poverty could use some disruption.
Currently, the federal government administers over 100 anti-poverty
programs, more than 70 of which provide benefits, whether cash or
in-kind, to families and individuals. Opaque, duplicative, and
often lacking oversight and accountability, these programs
ill-serve both recipients and taxpayers to the tune of more than $1
trillion per year.

The Trump
administration’s government-reorganization plan won’t do the
trick.

Yet, faced with both the need and the opportunity for genuinely
radical disruption, the Trump administration brought forth a plan
that mostly amounts to a cosmetic reorganization of the federal
government. Spearheaded by Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director,
the plan is surprisingly timid in light of what could have
been.

Mulvaney’s proposal would unify administration of welfare
programs that are currently scattered among at least nine cabinet
departments and six independent agencies under the purview of the
Department of Health and Human Services, which would be renamed the
Department of Health and Public Welfare. Among the most prominent
of these programs would be food stamps (SNAP) and WIC.

Community-development programs, meanwhile, would be shifted from
the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Department
of Commerce. Rural-housing and rental-assistance programs would
move from the Department of Agriculture to HUD, the Education
Department would merge with the Labor Department to create a new
Department of Education and the Workforce, and so on and so
forth.

In fairness, the changes would constitute more than just a
bailout of Washington sign-makers. They would establish a much more
logical chain of command and accountability, marking a first step
toward standardized cross-program regulations governing everything
from eligibility to work requirements. A new Council on Public
Assistance would coordinate between agencies and have tie-breaking
authority in interagency or interdepartmental disputes. The reform
plan also would establish procedures to expedite waivers and
increase state flexibility.

The reorganization could also have a meaningful impact on
congressional appropriations by breaking up the entrenched
log-rolling that so often preserves program funding regardless of
effectiveness. For example, food stamps and other nutrition
programs have long been immune to reform because of an unholy
alliance of urban …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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