Column on Forcing Welfare Recipients to Work

Did ’96 Bill Force People to Work?
Tibor R. Machan
As The New York Times would put it, when in 1996 “President Bill Clinton
delivered on his pledge to ‘end welfare as we know it’…he signed into
law a bill forcing recipients to work and imposing a five-year limit on
cash assistance.” Back then this supposedly cruel deed was one “Hillary
Rodham Clinton supported.” The Times says that “some accused the Clintons
of throwing vulnerable families to the winds in pursuit of centrist votes
as Mr. Clinton headed into the final stages of his re-election campaign.”
Now just consider the way The Times words all this. By ending parts of the
welfare state, the bill amounted to “forcing recipients to work, etc.”
That is like claiming that when one no longer provides support to certain
people who become accustomed to getting it, one is “forcing them to fend
for themselves.” In fact, of course, it was the government that was
forcing all those it taxes to support the recipients in the first place
and with the bill in 1996 it finally lessened the load on them. Taxation
is what amounts to deploying force against people. Welfare is a form of
coercive support. But support should never be coerced but provided only
voluntarily by fellow citizens to those who are in need of it.
But for The New York Times–and this is in a news report, not an editorial
opinion–withdrawing some of this forced transfer counts as forcing people
to work! But nothing forces anyone to work other than the fact that one
needs to earn a living, needs to feed and clothe oneself. It is, to put it
bluntly, reality that applies the force. It wasn’t Bill Clinton, Congress,
or the supportive First Lady.
Here is a good case of journalistic bias which is disguised within a so
called straight news report. By wording the “report” as The New York Times
did, the newspaper’s editors and writers tried to make it appear that
those who aimed for the contraction of the massive welfare system were
perpetrating some kind of oppressive action against welfare recipients.
But just isn’t so.
In the welfare system it is politicians and bureaucrats who are forcibly
confiscating funds from citizens, by means of taxation, in behalf of
prospective welfare recipients. It may well be true that these welfare
recipients are in need of help but what they ought to do is solicit the
help, not take part in extorting it, from other people. It is not charity
or generosity when government agents zoom down upon us every year on April
15th or so, and forcibly take from us what is no one else’s resource but
our own. If we decide to send some of these resources to needy people,
that’s charity, that’s generosity, that’s kindness. But if Congress and
the President of the United States hand over the loot they have taken, to
welfare recipients, that’s something entirely different–forcible
confiscation and redistribution, that what.
Some people tend to think of Robin Hood when they consider the nature of
the welfare state but they are mistaken in doing so. What Robin Hood did
was to retake resources confiscated in taxes from those who took them and
return these to the victims. That part of the legend is rarely
acknowledged.
Thus, the government is anything but akin to Robin Hood, quite the
opposite–it is the culprit or villain in the legend.
This is something The New York Times might have reported instead of
insisting on making it appear that in 1996 Bill Clinton & Co., including
the supportive Hillary Rodham Clinton, set out to oppress welfare
recipients. Granted, the entire policy may have been a scam to gain Bill
Clinton support from American voters who believed that the welfare state
needs to be cut back, perhaps even abolished. Given Mrs. Clinton’s belief
in “a commander-in-chief of the economy,” I have little doubt that she has
no principled objection to such a state and is probably bent on expanding
it now that she believes most Americans no longer find much wrong with
coercive wealth redistribution.
What The Times ought to have done is gone on record, on the editorial
page, arguing that such coercive redistribution is just fine so far as it
is concerned, not try to hoodwink readers in a news story into thinking
that the force is applied by those who want to cut back welfare rather
than those who support it.

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One Response to Column on Forcing Welfare Recipients to Work

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