Today, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) announced that he would soon introduce the Welfare Reform Act of 2011 with original cosponsors including U.S. Senators Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), and David Vitter (R-Louisiana). Companion legislation has been offered in the U.S. House by U.S. Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
Over the past two decades the growth in means-tested welfare spending (292%) has outpaced the combined growth of Medicare and Social Security spending (213%) as well as the growth in education (143%) and defense spending (126%). The Welfare Reform Act of 2011 would save $2.43 trillion by 2021 by gradually reducing the costs of the 77 existing welfare programs as unemployment decreases.
Senator DeMint said: "With record levels of federal spending and record levels of Americans in poverty and using food stamps, it's hard not to conclude that federal welfare programs are failing," said Senator DeMint. "We don't help Americans by making them dependent on Washington for a handout, we need more Americans empowered to stand on their own with a job in a vibrant economy. We need to reform our welfare programs to encourage self-sufficiency. We can also save taxpayers trillions of dollars that they can use to invest in our economy to create jobs and donate to local charities that have better success at lifting Americans out of poverty."
Senator Vitter said: "One of the most significant substantive accomplishments coming out of the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress was welfare reform. But as significant as this reform was, we are overdue to renew welfare reform efforts and make additional gains because the welfare state has grown enormously since then -- even factoring out recessions."
Senator Lee said: "Failure to reform these programs puts them at risk. The spending is unsustainable and it will affect our ability to afford other national priorities. Making reasonable changes today will allow us to avoid much more painful decisions in the future."
Senator Inhofe said: "Our nation's welfare programs are in desperate need of reform, and this measure provides a good approach. Welfare programs are costing American taxpayers far too much while providing little benefit beyond keeping individuals and families dependent. These reforms will empower individuals to improve their situation by encouraging and promoting greater self sufficiency. It also holds the federal government accountable for how it spends taxpayer dollars. I am pleased to join my colleagues in this effort to improve the situation many Americans have found themselves in during a difficult economy."
In fiscal year 2011, total government spending on means-tested welfare spending will reach $909 billion per year. Federal spending comprises about three-quarters of this spending at $701 billion, with states contributing an additional $208 billion. This spending spans more than 70 means-tested programs for the poor including health programs like Medicaid and CHIP, housing programs, TANF, food stamps, and education programs, including HEAD Start.
The Welfare Reform Act of 2011 would:
Place an aggregate spending cap on all means-tested welfare spending at pre-stimulus 2007 levels (indexed for inflation) effective by 2015 or when unemployment falls below 7.5%.
Enforce a spending cap through the budget resolution, and saves $2.43 trillion over 10 years relative to President Obama's Budget according to the Heritage Foundation.
Provide for transparency in our welfare state by requiring the President's budget to disclose the total means-tested welfare expenditures contained in the 77 existing programs.
Require the Secretary of Agriculture to ensure that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) limits the use of food stamps to essential foods, ending the use of food stamps at fast food restaurants.
Remove the 13.6% increase in food stamp benefits created by the President's 2009 Stimulus law.
Reallocate $300 million of current welfare spending towards grants to states that successfully reduce poverty and increase self-sufficiency.
Prevent federal funding of abortion in any of the 77 means-tested welfare programs.