Three pieces on why work requirements won’t work

April 16th, 2018 at 8:52 am

The Trump admin and their allies in Congress are trying to add work requirements to anti-poverty programs. A number of excellent sources explain why this won’t work, where “work” means help poor adults move closer to self-sufficiency. Of course, if the goal is to simply kick people of the rolls, which for some legislators, I’m certain is the case…well, then I guess it could work.

First, this efficient WaPo editorial gives you the facts and the numbers behind why this pursuit of work requirements is folly, either in terms of budgetary savings or improving the poor’s living standards.

Next, for a deep dive into the issue, this testimony by the Urban Institute’s Heather Hahn is one-stop-shopping for granular evidence, down to the level of caseworkers, as to why work requirements are so ill-advised.

Finally, there’s my piece on this in WaPo this AM, which gets into the fact that we’ve got better evidence than every before (see Hahn’s piece, along with the links to my CBPP colleagues) that, in fact, able-bodied poor people already work. Given the nature of the stressors and labor market barriers they face, their connection to the job market often needs to be strengthened, but work requirements likely will, as Hahn shows, have the opposite effect.

My broader point is: Despite some of the best evidence we’ve ever had showing that neither trickle-down tax cuts nor work requirements will work, conservatives continue trying to solve the problem that the poor have too much and the rich have too little.

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5 comments in reply to "Three pieces on why work requirements won’t work"

  1. owen paine says:

    The objective is to make.joblessness
    a perfect hell

    This increases employer leverage
    on wage rates productvity and conditions

  2. Smith says:

    Your headline looks wrong. The Urban Institute’s Heather Hahn report isn’t saying toss all work requirements
    “Three pieces on why work requirements won’t work” Instead it says don’t add to the burden of poor people by making additional work requirements tacked on to SNAP and Medicaid the same way that policy was implemented in TANF.
    It asks for additional funding and changes in goals and requirements to make work requirements work.
    That’s a totally different take. Are reading the same report? Just read the conclusion which sums this up.
    In attacking work requirements in principal instead the implementation you’re playing into the hands of conservatives who dislike all government programs.

  3. Bob Hertz says:

    Jared, your comments do not address the enormous jealousy of Medicaid that exists. (see especially the works of Arlie Rothschild.)

    Middle class people facing high deductibles and high premiums in the ACA look at Medicaid, and they are angry and jealous. Why do poor people get health insurance with no deductibles and no premiums?

    The flaw of course is that Medicaid is means-tested and not universal. There are numerous “cliffs” in Medicaid where benefits suddenly cease, and the poor suffer from these enormously. The work requirement is an attempt to assauge the jealousy.

    • Jared Bernstein says:

      Interesting. A test of your theory would ask if this jealousy is worse in places with the Mcaid expansion, where million more adults get coverage compared to non-expansion states.

  4. Bob Hertz says:

    Thanks for your comment, Jared.

    Sarah Kliff nailed this trend quite well in the attached article in Vox: