For too long, we’ve let food stamps, a massive part of America’s traditional welfare safety net, become a trap that keeps people who can and should be working dependent on the program. When the House of Representatives successfully passed the farm bill in June — and with it, provisions that expanded work requirements to able-bodied adults with no dependents and delivered much-needed welfare reform — we set out on the path to right this wrong. And now, as the bill moves into conferencing, it’s imperative that Congress continues the momentum toward reform by passing a farm bill that includes work requirements.
The House Agriculture Committee held 21 hearings on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps. When we began looking at what the food stamp program had become, we asked ourselves whether we were keeping people dependent or empowering them to do better in life and create their American dream. In the past, food stamps have helped people who’ve fallen on hard times, but all too often the program has encouraged a mindset that keeps people trapped in the program. That’s how we’ve managed to spend $20-plus trillion “fighting poverty” since the 1960s, and yet we have a higher poverty rate today than we did back then. That war was really a war on work.