While winning may not be everything, the truth is no one likes to come in last. My three years as an assistant attorney general under Jeff Landry underscored that lesson. Most of all, though, I hated to settle.
That’s why it’s so concerning to see our elected officials turning a blind eye to the fact that Louisiana continues to settle for backward policies when it comes to government dependency — and the repercussions for our state’s citizens are piling up.
Right here in Louisiana, over 60,000 able-bodied adults without dependents are stuck on food stamps, and 76 percent of them aren’t working at all.
Louisiana is the only state in the South that doesn’t require any able-bodied adults on food stamps to comply with a commonsense work requirement: work, train, or volunteer at least part-time to remain eligible for benefits. But despite the fact that these work requirements have been proven to work — and are required by federal law — our state has used bureaucratic loopholes to waive work requirements, keeping able-bodied Louisianans from the benefits of work.
When Arkansas implemented work requirements for food stamps, enrollment of able-bodied, childless adults dropped by 70 percent. Arkansans leaving food stamps saw their incomes more than triple, on average, after just two years. Taxpayers saved more than $28 million per year.
Florida took the same approach in 2016 and has seen even more dramatic results. Enrollment of able-bodied, childless adults plummeted by 94 percent. Those leaving welfare landed jobs in more than 1,100 different industries that touch every corner of Florida’s economy.
Instead, thousands of able-bodied Louisianans are trapped on food stamps, and our Medicaid program is incentivizing dependency and fraud. Last year’s Medicaid audit shows that $85 million in Medicaid spending was for ineligible recipients, including thousands who made over $100,000 in income.
And still, the call for pro-work welfare reforms remains unheard. No candidate has yet to pounce on the opportunity to embrace welfare reforms that move people toward a better life through work.
Louisiana is near the bottom of many bad lists. We shouldn’t keep settling when it comes to welfare dependency. Championing commonsense work requirements would be a good start.
senior fellow, Foundation for Government Accountability