- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2018


Two weeks ago, President Trump signed a piece of paper that gave his agency directors simple marching orders: Conduct a top-to-bottom review of safety net programs and policies.

The goal is simple as well: Find ways to push more people off of welfare and into the workforce.

The agencies largely responsible for the safety net are the Department of Agriculture (food stamps and feeding programs), the Department of Health and Human Services (welfare and social services, and Head Start) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

HUD is a product of the ‘60s, when the Democratic Party began lying down for poor folks across America and blacks in “urban ghettos.” The law that established HUD as a Cabinet agency, signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, has been tinkered with many times and not only by Democrats.

Sen. Ed Brooke, Massachusetts Republican and a District native, led by example when he proposed legislation that established an income cap on federal housing subsidies for families and individuals. That cap, 25 percent, was adopted in 1969. In 1981, the cap was raised to 30 percent and has become the rule of thumb to measure housing affordability.

Now, following the president’s instructions, comes HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who proposes an income affordability benchmark of 35 percent.

It’s clear that some of the shade over the proposed change is just what the Deep Blue State do. Others give Mr. Trump a smackdown simply because he’s The Donald and they can’t figure out how to fire him. And then there are those who admired and respected Mr. Carson as a neurosurgeon, but not so much now that he’s in line among other designated survivors.

There is a case to be made for raising the cap. For starters, once Democrats and Republicans began using their political capital to demand increases in minimum wages and more affordable housing, what the heck did they expect?

President Barack Obama used his pen in 2014 to raise the hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 for federal contract workers. This year alone, 17 states will see minimum wages increase. The D.C. minimum wage rose to $12.50 last summer for all workers.

And here’s the economic kicker: Wal-Mart and other corporations doled out raises to workers after Congress and the president cut taxes.

That the working poor are earning higher wages is a good thing. That they are employed is a good thing. Which brings us to the Trump executive order on federal spending.

States decide who gets Medicaid (Health and Human Services), and states and localities, like the District, follow federal and local guidelines for housing subsidies (HUD). The cog in the wheelhouse for both is income.

Putting the unemployed and underemployed to work is a moral imperative and a plus for the economy.

Of course, thinking that senior citizens and the disabled should be pushed into the workforce would prove to be a morally bankrupt idea, which explains why those populations are and should remain exempt.

However, it’s going to be obvious once federal agencies scrub the books that they’ll discover able-bodied people who draw down housing subsidies and entitlements simply do not want a 9-to-5 job — or the midnight shift, either, for that matter.

With the federal government trying to uncover the dollars and sense of subsidies and entitlements, states and localities must follow suit and ask the hard questions.

Is Bill not working because he can’t work? Or is Bill not working because he doesn’t have to work?

More to the political point in liberal-speak: Minus his subsidies and entitlements, should unemployed Bill receive the same affordable housing benefits earned by Bob, a disabled vet who worked all his life until he stepped right-foot-first on an IED in Afghanistan?

Like or dislike the messengers of entitlements and subsidies. The message is what’s important.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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