“So suddenly you have a system that is incomprehensible to those that use it, except for one thing that seems clear – it’s not worth the risk of working.”
This is true in the U.S. also – we have a terribly complex system that discourages work and marriage. This isn’t apparent when a single welfare program is examined, but is true when the system is evaluated on whole.
“So we are now faced with a fundamental challenge. Levels of social breakdown high and rising; millions of people stuck out of work on benefits; millions not saving nearly enough for their retirement; and politicians – of all hues – addicted to spending levels as a measurement of success, rather than life change as a measurement of success.”
“ … when Government care more about inputs than outcomes it doesn’t have much interest in whether the program actually works. Once it is underway the nature of the program itself becomes largely irrelevant."
“ We have to reject the old focus on inputs – the old mantra which says that 'more spending equals good, less spending equals cuts…which equals bad' – and open up a whole new dimension, one focused solely on the impact that spending has on people’s lives. That means changing not just how much we spend, but how we spend it.”
Not only is this true with many of the programs that make up the U.S. welfare system, it is certainly true when the system is looked at in whole. The federal government allows the programs to run independent of one another and doesn’t coordinate the programs in almost any fashion. The result is that we have dramatically increased spending over the years and yet the poverty level is unchanged (see poverty and spending over the years). We must change our metric of the evaluation of the system away from merely spending to “life changes”.
“When welfare spending balloons, as it has done, the temptation for successive governments has been to squeeze it back down again. But rather like a balloon, when you squeeze it at one end it will tend to grow at the other.”
This is what the U.S. experienced with the 1996 welfare reform. The programs of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (now TANF) and Food Stamps (now SNAP) were reformed with each of them saving over $10 billion a year. But the reforms did not address the Earned Income Tax Credit, Housing Assistance and other welfare programs. The result was the other programs ballooned and overall welfare costs were higher three years later and continued to grow from there.
“Yet there is one final piece to the puzzle. I have covered what I call external cultural change, change in society at large. But we must also achieve an internal cultural shift, changing the culture of government spending.”
“This is not just welfare reform, rather cultural change. The end of the something for nothing entrapment and the renewal of a welfare system that should be seen as a means of temporary support, the beginning of a journey back from dependence to independence.”
This is what we need in the U.S. also. The only way to achieve this level of reform is to address the entire welfare system, all 12 programs, and seek meaningful change.