H.R. 4737 reauthorizes the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant program, the main federal welfare program. Increasing federal funds always increases federal control, as the recipients of the funds must tailor their programs to meet federal mandates and regulations. More importantly, since federal funds represent resources taken out of the hands of private individuals, increasing federal funding leaves fewer resources available for the voluntary provision of social services, which, as I will explain later, is a more effective, moral, and constitutional means of meeting the needs of the poor.
H.R. 4737 further increases federal control over social welfare policy by increasing federal mandates on welfare recipients. This bill even goes so far as to dictate to states how they must spend their own funds! Many of the new mandates imposed by this legislation concern work requirements. Of course, there is a sound argument for requiring recipients of welfare benefits to work. Among other benefits, a work requirement can help a welfare recipient obtain useful job skills and thus increase the likelihood that they will find productive employment. However, forcing welfare recipients to work does raise valid concerns regarding how much control over one's life should be ceded to the government in exchange for government benefits.
In addition, it is highly unlikely that a "one-size-fits-all" approach dictated from Washington will meet the diverse needs of every welfare recipient in every state and locality in the nation. Proponents of this bill claim to support allowing states, localities, and private charities the flexibility to design welfare-to-work programs that fit their particular circunstances. Yet, as Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura points out, this proposal constricts the ability of the states to design welfare-to-work programs that meet the unique needs of their citizens.
As Governor Ventura points out in reference to this proposal's effects on Minnesota's welfare-to-work program,
Why, indeed, should any state be forced to abandon its individualized welfare programs because a group of self-appointed experts in Congress, the federal bureaucracy, and inside-the-beltway think tanks have decided there is only one correct way to transition people from welfare to work?
H.R. 4737 further expands the reach of the federal government by authorizing $100 million for new "marriage promotion" programs. I certainly recognize how the social welfare state has contributed to the decline of the institution of marriage. As an obstetrician and gynecologist with over 30 years of private practice, I know better than most the importance of stable, two-parent families to a healthy society. However, I am skeptical, to say the least, of claims that government education programs can fix the deep-rooted cultural problems responsible for the decline of the American family.
Furthermore, federal promotion of marriage opens the door for a level of social engineering that should worry all those concerned with preserving a free society. The federal government has no constitutional authority to promote any particular social arrangement; instead, the Founders of the American Constitutional Federal Republic recognized that people are better off when they form their own social arrangements, free from interference and dictation by the central government. The history of failed experiments with highly centralized government, Statism (central control and direction of the economy), centralized and thoroughgoimg Welfarism, State Socialism, and outright Totalitarianism show that government can only destroy a culture; when a government tries to build a culture, it only further erodes the people's liberty.
H.R. 4737 further raises serious privacy concerns by expanding the use of the "New Hires Database" to allow states to use the database to verify unemployment claims. The New Hires Database contains the name and social security number of everyone lawfully employed in the United States. Increasing the states' ability to identify fraudulent unemployment claims is a worthwhile public policy goal. However, every time Congress authorizes a new use for the New Hires Database, it takes a step toward transforming it into a universal national database that can be used by government officials to monitor the lives of American citizens.
As with all proponents of social welfare programs, the supporters of H.R. 4737 show a remarkable lack of trust of the American people. They would have us believe that, without the federal government, the lives of the poor would be "nasty, brutish, and short." However, as scholar Sheldon Richman of the Future of Freedom Foundation and others have shown, voluntary charities and organizations, such as the friendly societies that devoted themselves to helping those in need, flourished in the days before the social welfare state turned charity into a government function.
Today, government welfare programs have supplemented the old-style private programs. One major reason for this is that the policy of high taxes and the inflationary monetary monetary policy imposed on the American people in order to finance the social welfare state have reduced the income available for charitable giving. Many over-taxed Americans take the attitude toward private charity that "I give at the (tax) office."
Releasing the charitable impulses of the American people by freeing them from the excessive tax burden, so they can devote more of their resources to charity, is a moral and constitutional means of helping the needy. By contrast, the federal welfare state is neither moral nor constitutional. Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution is the federal government given the power to levy excessive taxes on one group of citizens for the benefit of another group of citizens. Many of the Founders of our Republic would have been horrified to see modern politicians define compassion as giving away the people's money stolen through confiscatory taxation. In the words of the famous essay by former Congressman Davy Crockett, this money is "Not Yours to Give."
Voluntary charities promote self-reliance, but government welfare programs foster dependency. In fact, it is in the self-interest of the government bureaucrats and politicians who control the social welfare state to encourage dependency. After all, when a private organization moves a person off welfare, the organization has fulfilled its mission and proved its worth to donors. In contrast, when people leave government welfare programs, they have deprived federal bureaucrats of power and of a justification for a larger amount of taxpayer funding.
In conclusion, H.R. 4737 furthers federal control over welfare programs by imposing mandates on the states, and this furthers unconstitutional interference in matters best left to individuals and to state and local governments. Therefore, I urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives to oppose H.R. 4737. I hope that my colleagues, instead of voting for this bill, will learn the lessons of the failure of the social welfare state and embrace a constitutional and compassionate agenda of returning control over the welfare programs to the American people through large tax cuts.
Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the Fourteenth Congressional District of Texas. Congressman Paul serves on the House Financial Services Committee and the House International Relations Committee. On the Financial Services Committee, he serves as Vice-Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. He is the author of several books, including CHALLENGE TO LIBERTY, THE CASE FOR GOLD, and A REPUBLIC. IF YOU CAN KEEP IT. Dr. Paul is a leading spokesman in Congress for limited government, low taxes, free markets, and a return to sound monetary policies. He has been a distinguished councelor to the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
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