The Democratic Party, long known as the party for working people, is now for freeloaders. Democrats want taxpayers to support people who refuse to get off the couch and get a job.
That’s the major reason Democrats and Republicans in Washington were locked in a stalemate for weeks over hiking the debt ceiling. The biggest sticking point was whether people should be allowed to collect government assistance indefinitely to finance their nonworking lifestyle.
For everyone who toils for a living, the idea of paying taxes to support healthy people who won’t work feels like a slap in the face.
House Republicans proposed requiring food stamp recipients and people on Medicaid to work 20 hours a week or participate in some job-readiness activity such as training, high school equivalency courses or substance abuse treatment. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy explained that government assistance programs are supposed to be “temporary, not permanent” and “a bridge to independence” rather than a lifestyle.
This isn’t about denying benefits to children and their mothers, or the disabled, or pregnant women. This is about childless adults who are do-nothings. “Remember what we’re talking about: able-bodied people with no dependents,” McCarthy said.
On Sunday, the two parties struck a compromise, giving Republicans a small victory. Food stamp recipients up to age 55 will have to work or participate in work readiness for 20 hours a week. Veterans and the homeless are exempt.
Democrats held firm against any work requirement for Medicaid. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries called it a “nonstarter.” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) bashed the work requirement as “just cruel.”
But count on Republicans to fight for it another time. About half of all Americans – 156 million – get their health insurance through a job. They or someone in their family has to work for it, and many stay in jobs largely for the health coverage. Why should able-bodied adults who choose not to work be handed Medicaid? It makes people who punch a clock for their coverage look like saps.
The new Democratic Party is repudiating its own history and the work ethic that has made America a land of opportunity even for people who start out poor.
In 1996, Democratic President Bill Clinton signed a reform that required welfare recipients to work or participate in work readiness. Then-Sen. Joe Biden voted for it. That reform slashed poverty among single-parent households by a staggering 62% by 2016. Childhood poverty was slashed more than 75%, proving that the best anti-poverty program for children isn’t a handout. It’s a working parent.
But in recent years, Democrats watered down Clinton’s reforms, making it easy to collect cash assistance, housing subsidies, food benefits and healthcare that add up to more than what many unskilled jobs pay. A nonworking parent with two kids can get $24,000 or more in federal benefits. Work doesn’t pay.
In 2021, Democrats pushed for the Build Back Better bill, which would have made monthly checks to parents – $300 per child – a benefit with no strings.
Thanks to holdout Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), it didn’t pass. Manchin objected that “there’s no work requirement whatsoever.” Rep. Gwen Moore ( D-Wis.) denounced Manchin’s emphasis on “the so-called dignity of work – that’s like hearing a fingernail on a chalkboard.”
Millions of migrants are coming across the southern border looking for a chance to work, not freeload. But how long will their work ethic last? New York City Mayor Eric Adams and other Democratic mayors are offering them free hotel rooms, meal service, healthcare and legal assistance for up to four months.
That’s sending these newcomers the wrong message, that there are in fact two American ways: work hard for success, or join the moochers and live off the welfare-industrial complex the Democrats are erecting.
Democrats argue that all human beings deserve dignity. Of course they do, but that shouldn’t mean a lifetime seat on the taxpayer-funded gravy train.
Democratic mayors in dozens of cities are pushing for just that – a guaranteed monthly income for the nonworking poor. Literally sending out checks to people for merely breathing.
The debt-limit showdown is a preview of a bigger fight to come.
Tell Democratic politicians that working people deserve respect, too.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. Follow her on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey.
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