Tarren Bragdon: Trump’s budget: America works when people on welfare work

By including welfare reforms in his proposed 2020 budget, President Trump is sending a strong signal to Congress, federal agencies, state leaders and Americans alike that America only works when its people work.

The reforms are needed: we have a crisis of folks not working in this country. Despite record-low unemployment, millions are missing out on the benefits – both financial and otherwise – of work. The labor force participation rate still sits at just 63 percent – three points lower than at the start of the Great Recession in 2008. And nowhere is this economic paradox more apparent than in the welfare system, where millions of able-bodied adults have been sitting on the sidelines.

A record-high 28 million able-bodied adults are on Medicaid today, and most are not working at all. Likewise, the number of able-bodied adults on food stamps remains near record highs, with just eight percent of those able-bodied adults working full-time jobs.


President Trump is not waiting for Congress and has already directed federal agencies to adopt policies that will move these able-bodied adults from welfare back to work, and rules and guidance from both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are making headway. But now is the time to double down on those efforts, and that’s exactly what the White House’s new budget proposal does.

The budget includes bold proposals to reform the food stamp program and help move able-bodied adults from welfare to work, including strengthening existing work requirements and establishing a cohesive work requirement across federal welfare programs that would require able-bodied adults to work, train, or volunteer part-time to receive benefits.

These reforms are a logical next step for federal reform, based on success that states have seen when they’ve implemented the same reforms. After Florida reinstated food stamp work requirements, individuals found work in over 1,000 different industries, and able-bodied adult enrollment decreased by an astonishing 94 percent. In Arkansas, work requirements helped able-bodied adults more than triple their incomes two years after leaving food stamps.

These results aren’t an anomaly. They’re the same results that states like Maine and Kansas saw after reforming their welfare programs, and they’re the same life-changing results that states like Kentucky and Arkansas, among others, are seeking with the implementation of Medicaid work requirements. These states see the benefit of moving able-bodied adults from welfare to work as quickly as possible, and by including these reforms in the federal budget, the president isn’t just acknowledging these benefits – he’s sending a clear signal that work must be a pillar of our welfare system and our society.


The administration is projecting that work requirements will save the federal government more than $130 billion over a decade, and that means taxpayer savings, as well. But the impact that these commonsense reforms will have on able-bodied Americans and the truly needy is nearly priceless.

These reforms will propel able-bodied Americans off the sidelines and back into the workforce, empowering them with the dignity that comes from providing for yourself and your family. They will ensure that the welfare system is available for the truly needy, and that it returns to its intent as a temporary hand up on the journey to the American Dream, not a permanent dependency destination for able-bodied adults.