How much welfare is enough?
March 12, 2010 | By Amanda J. Reinecker
The left plans to continue its assault on welfare reform by extending the welfare spending increases established in last year's "stimulus" bill. Fortunately, The Heritage Foundation's welfare expert, Robert Rector, continues to play an important role in the debate.
At a congressional hearing yesterday, Rector was the only witness representing conservative ideas. He was up against Chairman Jim McDermott (D-WA) and his handpicked witnesses, who argued that welfare spending hasn't increased enough. Rector, who was chiefly responsible for the groundbreaking welfare reforms of 1996, testified that the U.S. is already expected to spend almost $1 trillion on means-tested (i.e. "welfare"
programs next year. This is roughly a 50 percent increase since fiscal year 2007.
This factoid prompted an interesting exchange between Rep. John Linder (R-GA) and Carmen Nazario of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which has jurisdiction over major welfare programs.
Linder quoted directly from Rector's testimony and then asked, "Is it your testimony that $953 billion is not enough?" To which the Obama administration witness responded, "Who's to say what is enough?"
Well, if this is an open invitation, The Heritage Foundation can certainly think of someone to tell the Obama administration witness what's enough. But, then again, I think he already did.
Great job, Robert Rector!
Deformed health care reform
Many conservatives, including Heritage Foundation experts, have been arguing that the President's supposedly "fresh" 11-page health care proposal is virtually no different from the Senate bill. It's true. The President's draft includes most of the same bad proposals that the Senate bill does. But there is one key difference between the two: The Senate bill actually exists.
Until the President's proposal is drafted as official legislation, the only proposal the House can and will consider is the bill the Senate passed. But the differences between the Senate bill and the one that cleared the House are stark.
To get their bill through the House, Senate liberals and the White House are offering some flaky "fixes." As Heritage's Conn Carroll explains:
The "fixes" that the White House is promising wavering House Democrats they will make all sound easy at first glance: 1) scaling back the tax on high-end health insurance policies; 2) closing the Medicare D loophole; 3) boosting insurance subsidies; 4) increasing Medicaid payments; and 5) fixing the Cornhusker Kickback. But when you take a second look, you see that all of these "fixes" will cost more money. Just look at the Cornhusker Kickback which the President chose to address, not by taking away Nebraska's special Medicaid payments, but by extending those extra Medicaid payments to every state! Every single item in the President's proposal either increases spending or reduces new revenues. And he didn't put forward any way to pay for them. If passing health reform were as easy as giving away free candy, Obamacare would be law already. Finding a way to pay for all these fixes is going to be just as difficult as every earlier effort to pay for this bill. So don't expect any solutions anytime soon.
This doesn't even begin to address abortion, a major roadblock the Senate bill faces in the House. Fox News reports that a coalition of seven House Democrats, led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), has threatened to kill Obamacare altogether if federal funding for abortion is not explicitly prohibited in the final legislation, as it is in the House bill.
So, to appease their colleagues, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) are offering a "pie-crust promise" -- easily made and easily broken -- to remove abortion language after the House vote during the Senate's reconciliation process. Is this realistic, though? "Never before in the history of the 34-year abortion funding debate have pro-life members of Congress approved a bill containing abortion funding on the promise that a subsequent vote will fix the problem," Heritage expert Chuck Donovan argues. In short, the left is resorting to bad procedure to advance an even worse health care policy.
Instead of rushing the process with oddly-structured concessions, and instead of passing the bill to "find out what's in it," as Speaker Pelosi argued, lawmakers should focus on starting over. The American people support health care reform, just not this one.
A better idea would be a reform that upholds core American principles. For example, our experts advocate a state-based approach to reform. "Home-grown reforms tailored to the prevailing conditions in the states make the most sense," writes Heritage health care expert Bob Moffit. So let's start over by allowing states to "compete in the arena of health policy and see which ones best achieve the nation's universal health care goals.
Should the government define marriage?
The Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines marriage as the "formal union of a man and a woman, by which they become husband and wife." Historically, this unique union has been universally recognized and upheld as the primary institution of civil society, writes Heritage expert Chuck Donovan. Until recently, that is.
Last week, the District of Columbia became the sixth U.S. jurisdiction to authorize same-sex marriage, and over 400 homosexual couples have already applied for their marriage licenses in DC. But the D.C. City Council's new same-sex marriage law omits a significant Constitutional component: religious exemption. This means that all social service agencies in the city, even those with religious affiliations, are required to extend their services to same-sex couples.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Major religious denominations worldwide, particularly the Catholic Church, do not recognize sexual relationships other than marital unions between a husband and wife. But the City Council's new marriage law does not honor this…
…Recent developments, which are increasing in number, suggest a growing public desire to vote on the marriage issue, and not leave it to legislatures or especially to the courts to decide. Furthermore, as Donovan argues, the popular outcries against the imposition of same-sex marriage "invalidate the idea that major changes in civil society can be implemented without profound clashes of principle."
Other Heritage work of note
* The Heritage Foundation's recently published Index of Dependence on Government shows frightening figures. Approximately 61 million Americans rely on the government for their basic daily needs, including shelter, food, and health care -- and this number doesn't even include federal employees, writes Heritage's Bill Beach. One thing is clear: we cannot afford more legislation that expands dependency. "After all," Beach writes, "more debt creates another mandatory program: It's called paying interest."
* Conservatives have long been skeptical of President Obama's promises on the federal deficit. But his disregard for the American taxpayer reached an entirely new level when he released his 2011 budget proposal in February. Heritage's Brian Riedl points out some of the most egregious elements of the plan: raising taxes by $3 trillion over the next 10 years and borrowing 42 cents for each dollar spent in 2010. "President Obama has offered a budget that does nothing to address the nation's serious short-term and long-term fiscal problems--and indeed makes them worse," Riedl argues.
* Last year the Department of Defense cut the Army's Future Combat Systems, the only major program designed for experimenting with new battlefield technology. In addition, the Army relies in many cases on commercial technology, which is constantly changing and can be ill-suited to combat. “By the time the Army starts to adopt the tech, systems are outdated,” explains Heritage’s James Carafano. That means the Army needs to keep experimenting -- but budget cutbacks mean the new Army Experimental Task Force has little to experiment with.
From The Heritage Foundation: