Let’s not be coy. There’s a certain population in this country that expects unlimited government handouts despite its piggish unwillingness to work.
Don’t tell me this is about their child-care responsibilities, or lack of access to transportation or education. Nonsense. These people simply don’t want to work.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the new welfare queens: your democratically elected U.S. legislators, the laziest, most do-nothing generation of federal politicians in decades.
Sure, they talk a big game about work ethic and personal responsibility.
Thanks to legislators’ devotion to public industriousness, for example, tens of thousands of Americans lost access to food stamps Friday. Legislators had decided, as part of welfare reform, that non-disabled adults without dependents should be required to work to receive food stamps; the work requirements had been temporarily waived in many states during the downturn, but now those waivers are expiring.
To be clear, “required to work” in this context means not willing to work, or looking for work, but actually working an average of at least 20 hours a week. Food-stamp recipients who cannot successfully land a 20-hour-a-week job or qualifying training program within three months of receiving the benefit get the boot.
No matter that the average spell of joblessness lasts about seven months; or that millions of workers who do find jobs often can’t get enough hours; or that most states do nothing to help place workers at risk of losing their food stamps into employment or training programs.
Our elected officials decided that jobs are so important that those who cannot find them should starve. And that ideally such sluggards should be denied other safety-net services, too — such as medical care.
With the stated goal of promoting personal responsibility, the House Republicans’ 2017 budget proposes newly attaching work requirements to Medicaid, too. For the benefit of poor people, of course.
“Work not only provides a source of income and self-sufficiency, but also has been demonstrated as a valuable source of self-worth and dignity for individuals,” the budget resolution report reads. It goes on to suggest that making it harder for poor people to get health care in this manner could even help reduce their rates of depression.
Would that members of Congress were equally concerned about the self-worth, dignity and mental health of their do-nothing colleagues around Capitol Hill. These moochers and takers continue to receive taxpayer-funded paychecks and yet refuse to do their jobs.
Sure, U.S. senators and representatives are, technically speaking, employed. But it’s hard to argue that they’re working. By a range of measures, this Senate has accomplished the least of any Senate in decades.
The Supreme Court vacancy isn’t the only judgeship it has refused to fill. Last year, the Senate confirmed just 11 federal judges, the fewest in any year since 1960, according to the Alliance for Justice.
A recent Congressional Research Service report likewise quantified how many other nominees the Senate has confirmed this Congress. It found that, as of February, confirmations for executive branch and other positions (Federal Reserve Board governors, ambassadors, etc.) were at their lowest level since at least 1988, the earliest data available.
Why are our elected representatives twiddling their thumbs rather than doing their jobs and confirming literally hundreds of waiting nominees? Why has Congress been remarkably unproductive in passing laws in recent years?
To some extent, legislators are waiting for the next president to pick his or her own people and legislative priorities. To some extent, intraparty discord means Republicans can’t get their act together. To some extent, Republicans may be trying to make the federal government as dysfunctional as possible under President Obama.
And to some extent, our legislators may be, somewhat ironically, just trying to keep their jobs.
You might wonder: How could not doing their jobs help with that?
It’s a fair question. See, some legislators want to avoid making big decisions that could anger their base during election season, and doing anything that implies cooperation with Obama falls into that category. This year Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), for example, indicated that he wouldn’t move any nominees out of the committee he chairs until his primary was over, presumably because fulfilling such work obligations would threaten his reelection chances.
These are, needless to say, perverse incentives. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix. If legislators truly believe those who won’t work should be denied government handouts, they should suspend their own pay — at least until they fill the Supreme Court vacancy and the backlog of other open positions.
But don’t hold your breath: Even that solution would require doing a bit of work.
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