Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation Suggests Welfare Checks are the Modern Substitute for Marriage

Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation
Caryn Freeman 7:011PM EST
The Government Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending held a hearing today on duplication, overlap and inefficiencies in federal welfare programs.  Witnesses, Patricia Dalton, Chief Operating Officer Government Accountability Office, Robert Rector  Senior Research Fellow The Heritage Foundation, John Mashburn Executive Director The Carleson Center for Public Policy and Lisa Hamler-Fugitt Executive Director Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food banks testified today. The subcommittee, whose hearings are typically docile and temperate, became somewhat antipathetic when Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation said for the record that “welfare checks have supplanted the male earner” and suggested to the committee that the benefit be reduced to the single parent and increased for married couples to encourage marriage. Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) seemed to agree with Mr. Rector’s opinions “we have a system that encourages people not to be married” the chairman said. Ranking member Dennis Kucinich, seemed perturbed by Mr. Hector’s statements and asked the witness to clarify his statements for the record, “Do you mean to say that welfare checks are a substitute for husbands? Do you mean to say that for the record? If you are we are going to have to go further into this.” The was room still, as onlookers appeared confounded by these statements as well. “Okay, let’s go further into this” Rector replied. “There is a culture where “they” think it is not important to be married before they have children. Single unmarried women with a high school education or less are they largest percentages of those on welfare….if you don’t want to be poor get married”

All sides seem to agree that there are vast inefficiencies in the federal welfare system Patricia Dalton, Chief Operating officer at the Government Accountability Office, noted that out of forty seven programs only five were tested and that there was little to no data on the other forty-two programs. “Did they get a job, are they sustaining a job, are they making a livable wage? There is no data on this.”  Part of the problem with the current welfare system is poorly written legislation at the federal level and antiquated technology at the state level. Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, Executive Director at the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food banks, described how she has to ask people to come out of retirement to work the current operating system because IT programs don’t teach students how to use these antiquated systems and called for the federal government to invest in technology so welfare agencies are able to track duplications and inefficiencies rather that making cuts across the board. “Data equals dollars,” Ms. Hamler-Fugitt said, “to deny assistance to the hungriest of the hungry due to our inability to collect data is unconscionable”

Ohio has been one of the hardest hit states in the country by the current economic downturn. Seventy percent of Ohio’s residents are eligible for food assistance. While the state has also seen record enrollment in community colleges while very few jobs come to the state and the jobs that do come are retail jobs and other low paying positions. Ms. Hamler-Fugitt told the committee “People are training for jobs that aren’t even there, (in Ohio). Chairman Rep. Jordan (R-OH), who passed legislation when in the Ohio State Assembly requiring deadlines for those receiving assistance to told the committee, “deadlines influence behavior” according to Chairman Jordan, “no one got kicked off of the program, people found work.” Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) quietly stepped into the hearing, disappointed with the level of discourse regarding welfare checks being a modern substitute for husbands Cummings said, “I’m sitting here and I can’t believe what I am hearing.” He spoke to Mr. Hector directly, “Unless you are a woman and have stood in a woman’s place, you are making some strong statements.” Hector approached Rep. Cummings after the hearing, they spoke briefly and Hector apologized to Cummings as the congressman left the hearing.