Trump Administration Takes First Baby Steps Pushing Back Against The Dependency State

Every time you start thinking that Trump leaves something to be desired as President, just keep in mind that the alternative was Hillary.

Consider one of the little-mentioned areas of distinction:  the dependency state.  The left in general, and Obama in particular, think that every dollar handed out by the government is a big positive in the world.  We're "helping struggling families," or something like that.  It seemingly never has occurred to them that increasing dependency on government handouts has any down side.  Without doubt Hillary as President would have brought more and yet more of same.

Consider the trajectory of food stamp recipients during Obama's tenure.  Here is a chart of recipients by year (source):


Obama's first term was supposedly a time of recovery from a deep recession, but in sharp contrast to previous recoveries, the number of food stamp recipients went up instead of down, and by dramatic amounts.  The number of recipients shot up from about 28 million in 2008 to some 47.6 million in 2013, and then despite continuing economic improvement declined only marginally thereafter, ending when Trump took office at about 44.2 million, some 16 million higher than the pre-Obama record level.  What was going on?  If you remember my post from back on April 25, 2013, it turned out that the government had hired an army of "food stamp recruiters" to get every possible person onto the handouts, and in addition (with Congressional support) had waived work requirements and asset restrictions on eligibility.  (My post was in part based on a series in the Washington Post by Eli Saslow, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize.)

And food stamps were far from the only example of the Obama administration actively seeking to increase and maximize dependency.  The other obvious big example was Obamacare, where the program launch brought a truly enormous federal marketing effort to attract more and yet more people onto subsidized "healthcare."  Back in 2013 the AP identified at least $684 million budgeted by governments at all levels, mostly federal, to advertise and promote enrollment in Obamacare.  Yet another area of dependency is social security disability, which went from 9.2 million beneficiaries just prior to Obama taking office in 2008 to 10.6 million in 2016.  Once on social security disability, almost nobody ever gets off.

It seems that the Trump administration is actually taking an intentionally different course on the issue of dependency.  First, Trump's budget outline that came out back in May proposed that the food stamp budget would be cut by some 29% over 10 years.  OK, but that was only a projection, and based more on assumptions of an improving economy than on specific changes in policy.  Then, in August, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that they would reduce the Obamacare advertising budget from about $100 million in the current year to only $10 million in the coming year.  This time it's a real one-year change in policy by the administration itself.  This is starting to sound like something.

And here's another item that you may have missed.  On August 1, according to the National Law Journal, Trump nominated a wounded Iraq vet named Daniel Gade to the EEOC.  One of EEOC's missions is assisting military veterans who have claims for discrimination or disability.  But Gade, according to the NLJ,  is actually a guy who has been a leader in criticizing disability pay for wounded vets:

Gade has been an outspoken critic of disability pay for wounded veterans, traveling the country in recent years making speeches and giving interviews about his views that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs should move away giving disability checks to wounded soldiers. He was twice wounded during service in Iraq, which led to the loss of his right leg. He spent six months in hospital and six months as an outpatient when he had 40 surgeries.

He has warned about misguided efforts to help veterans with government assistance. . . .  “People who stay home because they are getting paid enough to get by on disability are worse off,” Gade told The New York Times in 2015. “They are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. They are more likely to live alone. You’ve seen these guys. And the system is driving you to become one of them, if you are not careful.”

Well, that's about a 180 degree change from how the Obamanites approached this subject.  But an administration that actually works on this issue could probably reduce overall dependency by as much as 25% in one four-year term.  And the effect on the "poverty" rate could be dramatic, since nearly everyone who gets removed from dependency and gets work thereby exits from "poverty."