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Fix the broken welfare system

In 2011 we wrote about a woman employed at a Belleville company who turned down an $80 a month pay raise because the increased income would have made her ineligible for government child care assistance. It made financial sense, she said at the time, not to lose the $730 per month subsidy for child care.

We thought of her and other parents like her when we read the guest view Sunday by Kristina Rasmussen, the executive vice president at Illinois Policy Institute, about our state’s structurally broken welfare programs. The programs create disincentives and punish people who try to advance at work by abruptly ending support services like child care, health care and housing help. Rasmussen wrote that a single parent with two children who got a raise from $12 to $18 an hour would actually have to earn $35 an hour to make up for the lost welfare benefits. How crazy – and impossible – is that?

Many government giveaway programs are out of whack because politicians focus on one piece of the puzzle and never consider the big picture, or unintended consequences of their actions. The goal should always be to help people get off welfare, not trap them in the system.

It’s definitely time to revamp welfare programs so they provide a hand up. As Rasmussen notes, Washington needs to allow states the flexibility to redesign the programs in a more rational way.

Thanks a lot to the politicians who created such a backward system. Here’s another reform to add to new Gov. Bruce Rauner’s long to-do list.