Republicans have long argued that the federal government needs to reduce the amount of money it spends on entitlement programs.
According to House Speaker Paul Ryan, welfare reform could be on the docket for 2018.
There is broad support among Republicans for changing welfare programs like Medicaid and SNAP (food stamps), but lawmakers could encounter backlash if they start messing with Social Security and Medicare – not to mention the fact that taking Social Security benefits away from people who have worked towards them for the majority of their lives could decimate Trump’s voter base.
“If [entitlement reform] involves making sure that people that are on public subsidies are actually working or looking for work…I’m open to that sort of thing. If we’re talking about taking away benefits that senior citizens have earned, that – to me, that’s unfair to people,” says New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur.
There are many political obstacles when it comes to welfare reform, but the Republican party would do well to accomplish all it can while it holds the presidency and Congressional majority.
“I think the president is understanding choice and competition works everywhere, especially in Medicare,” says Paul Ryan, who describes entitlement programs as the “big drivers” of debt. “We have a welfare system that’s basically trapping people in poverty and effectively paying people not to work, and we’ve got to work on that.”
President Trump has promised not to make cuts to Medicare or Social Security, leading the GOP to focus on Medicaid and SNAP.
The federal government spent $68 billion on SNAP in FY2017 – and that was the lowest amount we’ve seen since 2010. A big reason for the decline in SNAP spending was a decrease in enrollment following several states’ decision to reinstate work requirements for SNAP eligibility.
Now, the Trump Administration is pushing states to impose work requirements on able-bodied Medicaid recipients (something Obama never would have considered).
Democrats view these ideas as an insult to those who depend on welfare to make ends meet. “It’s all a carefully calculated strategy to stigmatize and reinforce myths about people who need to turn to Medicaid, nutrition assistance, or other public programs,” says Rebecca Vallas, who works with the Center for American Progress.
According to Paul Winfree, director of budget policy at the White House, the administration is currently working on an executive order that would outline its goals for welfare and encourage federal agencies to come up with recommendations