Did Kansas welfare reform move more people back into the workforce?

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s tax cut plan may have turned out to be a “spectacular failure” (because the state failed to cut spending as the second half of the formula) but one of his other reform initiatives is receiving high marks. The Governor reversed previous trends in the handling of cash assistance welfare and related programs, requiring the able bodied to either work a given amount or at least prove that they were looking for work. More liberal states decry such programs, but at least in Kansas it seems to have produced the desired results. And rather than forcing people into low income “McJobs” as progressives always claim, many of them wound up doing much, much better than when they were on the dole. (Free Beacon, emphasis added)

“Since these reforms took effect, compliance with work requirements has climbed from historic lows,” the report states. “The percentage of able-bodied adults on the program who are employed has also risen. Meanwhile, the opposite trends were occurring both nationally and in the region with fewer able-bodied adults on welfare working.”

Brownback also began collecting employment and wage data on 17,000 individuals who had left the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program for a duration of four years to see if these individuals became self-sufficient.

The study found that those who left welfare saw their earnings increase by 104 percent in one year, which is $20 million more than they had while on welfare. In four years, these individuals saw their incomes increase by 247 percent.

This really should have been seen as common sense from the beginning if you could manage to sweep away the clouds of progressive political obfuscation. Welfare programs are designed to be temporary in nature and provide pretty much the bare minimum for people to get by on until they are back on their feet. Most jobs, even at the lower skill levels, are going to provide more income and flexibility than living on the government dole. But in Kansas, a study commissioned by the state government found that many of the people reentering the workforce wound up within two years with jobs paying far above the minimum wage and doing quite well for themselves.

Of course, that’s a politically unpopular concept and you’re really not supposed to talk about it. Forcing people who are able bodied to work while collecting government checks is, I’m sure, considered “poor shaming” or some other sort of shaming in progressive circles. But it speaks to a truth which is all too often verboten in political discourse. There are certainly some people out there in dire straits who need government assistance, but there’s a certain percentage of the population who will take advantage of such programs if they feel the risk of being discovered is low. And it’s a percentage that can add up quickly.

You may recall that the Governor of Maine took similar steps in 2015 with their food stamp program. They mandated reporting of verifiable work income and other qualifiers for receiving food stamps. The number of people enrolled in the program plummeted virtually overnight as recipients who were working on the side or otherwise gaming the system dropped out rather than be prosecuted for it. Maine followed that up by banning most lottery winners from receiving such assistance and the state’s budget flourished in that sector as a result.

What Kansas has accomplished is taking them in a direction pretty much opposite all of the blue states in the country. They have seen a 78% reduction in food stamp program participants, vastly higher than the national average. Also, while the number of program participants who were actively working rose in Kansas, it’s actually declined nationally. Kansas could act as a model for welfare reform, much in the same way that Maine has. The rest of the states should take a hint from these results.