The National Pulse
Photo credit: 401(K) 2012 via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

How Can the Government Encourage Success? Stop Punishing It!

This article is part of series focusing on Lens of Liberty, a project of the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation.

In a Liberty Minute entitled “Punishing Success,” Helen Krieble points out the irony in the way our government rewards failure and punishes success:

Ancient wisdom teaches that if you want less of anything, you tax it; if you want more, you subsidize it. Have we forgotten that simple principle?

If we look through the lens of liberty, we see a government that rewards unemployment and business failure with welfare, and taxes productivity, profit, growth, job creation, and wealth. We pay taxes on our wages, our homes, and our cars. We are taxed on clothes, food, drinks, and gas, and on everything we leave behind after death.

We complain of high taxes, but maybe we ought to look more closely at what we tax and what we subsidize. Maybe we should stop subsidizing things that fail and start rewarding things that succeed. Then maybe we would get less failure and more success.

Encouraged by new studies showing what has happened in places where work requirements for recipients of food stamps were increased, lawmakers are starting to realize more fully the benefits that can come from fixing government programs which reward failure.

In June, two Congressmen introduced bills which would strengthen the work requirements and eliminate loopholes for able bodied adults who are living off of taxpayer dollars. Representative Garret Grave (R-La.) is sponsoring HR 2996: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017, and Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is sponsoring HR 2832: The Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act.

They believe that these respective bills will wean people off of government dependency and encourage financial improvement. That is exactly what has happened in many places which have implemented similar work requirements.

In Alabama, for example, after the law was changed to require food stamp recipients to work, look for work, or participate in job training, “participation in the state food stamp program dropped by 85 percent among able-bodied adults without dependents in 13 counties,” The Daily Signal reported.

Similarly, during just the first three months of Maine’s new work policy, its Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) caseload dropped nearly 80 percent.

And after Kansas implemented new work requirements, 40 percent of the thousands who left the food stamp program found employment within three months, and roughly 60 percent found employment within a year. Their average income increase was 127 percent.

If either of the two federal bills succeed, similar results should be expected nationally, and Krieble’s prediction that “we would get less failure and more success” if we didn’t encourage failure and unemployment would be realized. After all, it just makes sense.

Photo credit: 401(K) 2012 via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Terry Schilling

Terry Schilling is executive director of the American Principles Project.