Letter to the editor: Bottom's up approach to welfare reform

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Bottom's up approach to welfare reform

American poverty has remained at the same level for decades despite public assistance/welfare spending over a trillion dollars annually. There are 80 programs whose costs are escalating annually without eliminating dependency on government. This doesn't include additional state welfare initiatives.

Promises are being made by Presidential candidate Hillary to add more entitlements to lure votes which perpetuates dependency rather than self-sufficiency. The new entitlements sure sound appealing and most likely will win votes but are not designed to encourage recipients to seek skills for better employment, earn dignity and get them out of poverty.

America is a generous country but welfare costs are exacerbating our federal budget and deficit. Welfare benefits consume over 25 percent of our federal budget and isn't sustainable yet little is discussed publicly to reform this failed system.

Switzerland recently rejected guaranteeing citizens $2,500 a month. Voters were afraid people would refuse to work. However, Finland is implementing a pilot plan where all welfare benefits would be replaced with a payment of $10,000 a year. Both countries realize the current entitlement approach is costly and perpetuating a culture of dependency they can't afford.

Milton Friedman and Martin Luther King supported a guaranteed income. President Nixon unsuccessfully proposed one with some bipartisan support. Now, Speaker Ryan's proposed 2017 agenda includes a welfare system "remake" and Senator Marco Rubio is proposing to move existing welfare programs into a single "flex-fund" disbursed to states.

Charles Murray, in a Wall Street Journal essay, proposed a universal basic income (UBI) for every American. His plan replaces all welfare/transfer payments. Every citizen over 21 would get a $13,000 annual grant of which $3,000 must be used for health insurance. People can make up to $30,000 without losing a penny of UBI but gradually decreasing to $6,500 when an individual earns over $60,000.

Murray's plan is financed by eliminating Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and all other welfare payments including corporate welfare. The entire bureaucratic apparatus would disappear. Nobody would starve and there would be an incentive to get a job and add to the UBI.

Welfare today robs millions of Americans of the benefit, satisfaction and dignity of work. Work gives meaning and without it life is depressing and creates government dependency. We need a new empowering approach to poverty and UBI is one option that could create a whole new path to the middle class as a bottoms-up increment to reform.

— Frank Mazur South Burlington


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