Investor Business Daily recently published an article titled, "Welfare, Not Full-Time Work, Is Now America's No. 1 Occupation."i It reported that at the end of 2011, about 109 million people received one or more "means-tested" government benefit programs (that's a bureaucratic way of saying welfare). But there were just 102 million people in American with a full time job. It's pretty alarming to realize that, in America, more people are on welfare than work full time. But it gets even worse. According to the government's own data, only 43 percent of those on welfare are officially considered poor. And welfare currently pays more than a minimum wage job in 35 states.

So what about here in Montgomery County, how bad is it? People within our county receive $612,000 every month in Food Stampsii alone. And although Medicaid data isn't readily available county-by-county, people in Indiana as a whole received $7.5 billion in Medicaid benefits in 2012iii

Now let's switch gears and look at crime in Montgomery County. It is said that law enforcement deals with 3 percent to 5 percent of the population repeatedly. That equals between 1,000 to 2,000 out of the 38,000 residents in our county. Over 90 percent of defendants in our county circuit court are assigned "free" public defenders, of which practically all are unemployed, and therefore non-contributors to society. In most cases, they are spending money we pay in local taxes, to likely support their lifestyle and criminal behavior.

Our government welfare programs were created with the best intentions, to help the needy in our society. But instead, they have destroyed the dignity and work ethic of a huge sector of our society. In some families there are three generations who have never known what it means to work for a living. They only know to depend on government for all their food, healthcare, housing, and income. This breeds a culture that never learns responsibility or being accountable for their actions, and never learning the value of a dollar earned. This reminds me of the quote from The Music Man, "Idle Hands are the Devil's Playground." Is it any surprise we have a drug and crime problem.



The costs to our community are enormous. Of the $7.7 million Montgomery County government budget, 40% of it is spent on crime-related services.iv It is rumored that our local Walmart store loses $1.5 million a year from shoplifters. The hospital loses about $5 million on people who can't or won't pay.v Many use the emergency room and ambulance service for non-emergency medical care, knowing that it's "free" because Medicaid will be paying the bill. Prescription drug abusers shop for doctors who will fill their "lost" pain pill prescriptions, use Medicaid to pay for it, then resell it on the street for, say, $10-per-pill. Yes, Medicaid is being used to fund one of the worst drug abuse problems of our county.



So how do we solve this problem? First, we need to admit that government is inadvertently causing many of our society's ills, even if it is well-intentioned. We need to phase out failed programs, not throw good money after bad. Government needs to give people an incentive to transition off of welfare, and give people incentive to use all of their available time to find themselves a job. We need to eventually phase out many government welfare programs and allow private charities and churches to take their place. Take cumbersome government regulations off of churches and charitable organizations so they have flexibility to find creative ways to help the truly needy, while being allowed to turn away those who are gaming the system. And most importantly, each of us should voluntarily give our time and money through our churches and local charities (e.g., MUFFY, FISH, Pam's Promise, Trinity Mission) to help the needy directly.



Second, government needs to get out of the way so people can go back to work. People who want to work and be productive members of society should not be hampered by regulations and dubious labor rules. Even if an illegal alien is already here, I'd much rather see him earn a paycheck than be a welfare recipient or have to pay for him to live in the county jail. So why not let an illegal alien buy a driver's license, if it means he can get himself to work every day. We should not punish people willing to work, or the employers willing to hire them. If they are working they are adding prosperity to our society. And, how wise is it for government to outlaw employment below a certain wage rate (i.e., the minimum wage law). All this does is make unemployment worse. It benefits the already-employed at the expense of the unemployed.



We need to encourage people to stop being dependent on government and learn to be dependent upon themselves. This will reduce crime and drug abuse, and all the costs and taxes associated with it.



Sources:

i http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/102513-676767-nearly-half-of-all-americans-get-federal-benefits-of-some-kind.htm?p=2

ii Montgomery County Monthly Management Report, Indiana Family & Social Services Administration, October 2013.

iii http://kff.org/medicaid/state-indicator/spending-by-service/

iv Indiana Gateway for Governmental Units, https://ifionline.org/report_builder

v http://sites.franciscanalliance.org/communitybenefit/2012/DesktopDefault.aspx?



John Pickerill is the chairman of the Montgomery County Republic Party.