Government can give opportunity to people, but it will never be able to give people what they truly want and what they need: They need dignity, achievement and self-worth. Those things are not inherent—they are earned. As the old adage goes, “You give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish, and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.”
For evidence, look no further than a 2017 study of work requirements that were implemented in Kansas on able-bodied adults who receive cash assistance (https://thefga.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Work-Requirements-are-Working-for-Kansas-Families.pdf).
The state used a data-driven approach to track the program’s results. Analysis found that those affected earned more (their earnings more than doubled), found new jobs in diverse industries, and overall were financially better off.
For those who took entry-level type jobs, the study found that many of them moved up to longer-term, higher-paying jobs within only a few months.
A study on a similar policy in Maine found similar results:
In an interview published in Forbes, the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services Mary Mayhew summarized the findings, “the results of promoting work rather than discouraging it were shown to be dramatic and a stark contrast to the years of allowing people to remain . . . dependent on government assistance.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaredmeyer/2017/06/01/maine-shows-how-to-make-welfare-work/#a9c06fc5ee17
Social scientist Arthur Brooks agrees: “Study after study shows that for the majority of people, work (both market work and non-market work) is an intrinsic source of worth, of earned success, and human happiness.”
The most compassionate thing we can do is create opportunities for people to make better lives for themselves, and nothing does this more effectively than work.
When those who can work do work, it allows the state to concentrate spending on the truly needy—those who can’t work, the disabled. Medicaid work requirements prioritize the needy and help able-bodied adults improve their lives.