A new direction in the war on poverty

As my friend Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) likes to say, we need to bring the poor in—to expand their access to our country’s free enterprise and civil society. Luckily, policy makers in states and other countries are doing just that. Here’s a look at some of the latest advances in the fight against poverty.

• In welfare, rely on simplicity and standards. In 2012, Great Britain approved a far-reaching reform called the Universal Credit. The government is now putting this idea into practice, and it’s going through a rough patch. But the basic concept is sound. Britain collapsed six means-tested programs into one overall payment. And unlike the old programs, which abruptly cut off once a family made a certain amount of money, the Universal Credit tapers off gradually. But the payment isn’t a giveaway. Every recipient, except the disabled, must either have a job or be actively looking for one.

We have some experience with this idea in our own country. In 1996, Congress required people on welfare to work, and the results were encouraging. Child-poverty rates fell by double digits. The trouble is, we haven’t applied this principle far enough.