George Graham

When “Reform” Misfires


The chilling implications of welfare “reform”  are becoming clear as the economy improves and jobless rates decline.

It might seem like good news in the media, but for a million unemployed Americans the recovering economy will mean loss of their food stamp benefits.

They will be the victims of simple math and the cold, bureaucratic application of “conservative” ideology.

Here’s how this kind of government works.

Because of the rising employment figures, many states will have to reimpose requirements that able-bodied, childless adults enroll in job training or work 20 hours a week to qualify for more than three months of food stamps.

According to an article in the Huffington Post this morning:

Thanks to the lingering effects of the Great Recession, for the past several years most states have received waivers from the time limit, which was first imposed with the 1996 welfare reform law (photo above). With unemployment now down to 5.8 percent and falling, however, the waivers will disappear from the 40 states where they’re still in effect.

And – here’s the Catch 22 – the vast majority of those states  do not offer the training or workfare programs in which the unemployed are required to participate in order to qualify for extended food-stamp benefits.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington DC think tank, estimates a million unemployed people will lose their food stamps next year as a result.

According to the Huffington Post article:

Congressional Republicans sought unsuccessfully to kill the waivers sooner, but food stamp legislation approved last year came with more modest restrictions on beneficiaries. Yet several states, including Kansas, Ohio and Oklahoma, reimposed the three-month time limit ahead of schedule….

You know, of course, that the states cracking down on the unemployed are run by Republicans.

The new Republican Congress is certainly not going to intervene to help the hapless victims of this misguided policy. And as a result of the Republicans’ victories in November, most states are under “conservative” rule. So, there’s no help on the horizon.

I suppose it’s easy to argue that able-bodied, childless adults should enroll in job training to get food stamps. But if there are no job training courses for them, what are they to do – starve?

I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them turn to crime as a last resort. Is that the kind of society we really want?

Click for the Huffington Post article.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for