Posts Tagged ‘Kemp’
October 24th, 2011 at 4:48 pm
Jeff Sessions Puts Welfare in Perspective

Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, ranking member on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, has been doing yeoman’s work on multiple levels in highlighting waste and proposing both procedural and substantive solutions. His efforts merit, and will in the next few weeks receive, a full column to recount them. By pure happenstance, I shared a plane with the senator and then a lunch at the Atlanta airport with him yesterday. One of the many budget-related topics we touched on was welfare — or, more precisely, food stamps and other welfare-benefits that were not fixed by the tremendous 1996 welfare reform that turned Aid to Families with Dependent Children (a mess) into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (a huge success). One thing he said was more big-picture and attitudinal than it was program-specific and numbers heavy (although there was plenty of other discussion that did fit those latter categories). I repeat it here both as a teaser for a near-future column, and because, as usual, the good senator is right on target. To quote Sessions:

We need to go back to re-engage the national discussion on how receipt of welfare benefits not only is damaging to the Treasury but also hurts the recipient. We need to go back and re-establish the moral principle that federal assistance should be seen as a temporary aid where possible and the goal should be to help people become independent and self-sustaining.

Jack Kemp used to talk like that. Rick Santorum talks like that. Sometimes Paul Ryan at least comes close to talking like that. There is a nexus between morality and economic policy; it’s not all dollar signs and accounting, but instead about human potential and human lives. Kemp and others used to talk about getting rid of the “welfare trap,” and that’s exactly what Sessions is talking about. The right sort of compassion is one that helps somebody lift himself up, not one that gives him incentive to remain personally helpless.