Lee: Make Welfare Work Again

In a National Review op-ed, Sen. Mike Lee unveils legislation that would reform America’s welfare system by incentivizing, rather than penalizing, work and marriage.

Writes Lee:

The surest way to improve one’s lot in life is through hard work. And we know from a mountain of social-science research — confirming millennia of experience and intuition — that the stability and support engendered by marriage improves the economic outlook not only of adults, but also their kids.


Indeed, growing up with two married parents is the strongest predictor of upward mobility for lower-income children. Yet our welfare programs penalize marriage by reducing — and often eliminating altogether — a couple’s combined benefits after they get married.


The current welfare system also punishes work. Beneficiaries face benefit “cliffs” as their incomes rise, either from finding a job or getting a raise, and only two of the more than 80 means-tested programs require able-bodied adults to work in order to receive aid.


For those who need public assistance the economic incentives are clear: The best way to maximize benefits is to avoid marriage and full-time work. So it was predictable that government spending on welfare programs would balloon over the decades, eventually reaching approximately $1 trillion this year — a staggering sum that nonetheless pales in comparison to the social and human costs of our broken welfare system.