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Newt Gingrich on Welfare & Poverty

Former Republican Representative (GA-6) and Speaker of the House

 


Obama is the Food Stamp President; teach poor to get jobs

Q: You refer to Obama as "the food stamp president." It sounds as if you are seeking to belittle the poor and racial minorities.

GINGRICH: The fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history. Now, I know among the politically correct, you're not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable. I'm going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn some day to own the job. [For example], NYC pays their janitors an absurd amount of money because of the union. You could take one janitor and hire 30-some kids to work in the school for the price of one janitor, and those 30 kids would be a lot less likely to drop out. They would actually have money in their pocket. They'd learn to show up for work. They could do light janitorial duty. They could work in the cafeteria. They'd be getting money, which is a good thing if you're poor. Only the elites despise earning money.

Source: Fox News debate on MLK Day in Myrtle Beach, SC , Jan 16, 2012

Fight crisis of secularism with church-based charity

In a Gingrich White House, America would battle a "crisis of secularism" that has degraded the nation's moral character. Freedom of religion would survive, but the nation would need to reclaim its Christian heritage. Government wouldn't solve the problems of the poor, but perhaps community groups and churches could.

The themes are akin to many of those he struck as Speaker of the House. Then, his major proposal was a dramatic dismantling of government welfare. In its stead would come private charities, many of them faith-based, that he said did a better job of uplifting the neediest. It was public vs. private, secular vs. religious.

In part because of Gingrich's own efforts, the promotion of religious groups and faith-based services is now built into the highest levels of government. Gingrich led Congress to enact a major welfare reform law, which included a historic provision allowing faith-based groups to win government contracts to run social service programs.

Source: Jaweed Kaleem, Huffington Post, "Church, State" , Dec 12, 2011

FactCheck: Poverty rate has fallen under War on Poverty

Bill O'Reilly of Fox News cited the same statistics as in Newt Gingrich's book on the War on Poverty; Gingrich wrote: "From 1965 to 2008... the years-long decline in American poverty suddenly stopped. By 2009 the poverty rate stood at 14.3%--about where it was when the War of Poverty began."

PolitiFact.com reports: [LBJ's programs] focused on elderly poverty, which is down to 13%. [Gingrich also] uses the wrong numbers. The poverty rate was 17.3% in 1965, not 14%. So the poverty has fallen by 3 percentage points, or by about 1/6 its original level. Counting different years shows even more decline. In 1962, the poverty rate ranged was 20%. In pre-recession 2007, it stood at 12.5%. Comparing 1962 and 2007, the poverty rate dropped by over 1/3.

Source: FactCheck 2012 on "A Nation Like No Other" by PolitiFact.com , Jul 26, 2011

When free welfare is provided, people choose not to work

President Lyndon Johnson famously announced the War on Poverty. From 1965 to 2008, total spending on this "war" reached nearly $16 trillion in 2008 dollars. And what did we get in return? Soon after the War on Poverty programs were adopted, the years-long decline in American poverty suddenly stopped. By 2009 the poverty rate stood at 14.3%--about where it was when the War of Poverty began. In 1960, nearly 2/3rds of low-income households were headed by persons who worked, but by 1991, the proportion had fallen to 1/3, with only 11% working full time, year round. With the government providing so much in free welfare, many people chose not to work. Welfare recipients who go to work lose their benefits as their income rises. This is effectively an extra tax on work that must be paid on top of the usual array of federal, state, and local taxes.
Source: A Nation Like No Other, by Newt Gingrich, p.109 , Jun 13, 2011

1996: One out of 184 programs block-granted back to states

In 1996, welfare reform returned the share of federal spending on the program to each state in the form of a "block grant" to be used in a new welfare program. The key to the 1996 reforms was that the new block grants to each state were finite, not matching, so federal funding did not vary with the amount the state spent. If a state's new program cost more, the state had to pay the extra costs itself. If the program cost less, the state could keep the savings.

There was just one problem with the 1996 reforms: they only reformed one federal program. The federal government sponsors another 184 means tested welfare programs, including Medicaid, Food Stamps, 27 low-income housing programs, 30 employment and training programs, 34 social services programs, and 24 low-income child care programs, among others. All these programs could and should be block granted back to the states just as AFDC was in 1996, effectively shedding the federal government of responsibility for welfare.

Source: A Nation Like No Other, by Newt Gingrich, p.110-111 , Jun 13, 2011

$1,000 tax credit for low-income first-time homebuyers

Gingrich has an affinity--all too common even among conservative politicians--for gimmicky, special interest tax incentives that empower politicians to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. His favorite device is the tax credit.
Source: Club for Growth 2012 Presidential White Paper #1: Gingrich , May 24, 2011

Ten Lessons from Successfully Transforming Welfare

There are ten big lessons I have drawn from the successful efforts to design and implement welfare reform. I suggest that we apply these lessons to developing solutions that will elevate the condition of our fellow citizens.
  1. Successful reform always starts with a big idea
  2. Decide whether to repair or replace
  3. Great change never starts with government
  4. Cheerful persistence is necessary to successfully deliver large-scale reform in a free society
  5. Collaboration is critical (including involvement of key governors)
  6. Real change always requires winning the argument
  7. Words matter; communication good policy
  8. Real change must be consistent with broad American values
  9. Opponents of reform must be forced to carry the burden of their positions
  10. Real change must be citizen-centered.
Source: Real Change, by Newt Gingrich, p. 270-274 , Dec 18, 2007

Echoed Bush's "Thousand Points of Light"

For decades conservatives had been talking about the need to welcome volunteers, particularly religious volunteers, in the battle against the nation's social ills. It made no sense, they insisted, to disallow religious organizations to receive federal funding when they were often more effective in dealing with some problems than the state was. Moreover, interpreting the 1st Amendment as a ban on religious influence in social services was silly, they protested. Surely things had gone too far and to the detriment of the poor, the illiterate, and the drug addicted. It was time for a change, they insisted.

It was this very unshackling of volunteerism that President George H. W. Bush had meant by his "thousand points of light," a theme echoed by Newt Gingrich. A society committed to individual responsibility and reliance on God rather than slavish reliance on government gave conservatives a blueprint for genuine reform.

Source: The Faith of George W. Bush, by Stephen Mansfield, p. 99 , Apr 12, 2004

Boys Town-style orphanages better than kids on welfare

Newt Gingrich, the soon-to-be Republican Speaker of the House, was eager to flex his muscle. Minor controversy erupted over remarks he made about welfare reform and orphanages. Some Republicans had suggested that the nation could reduce welfare rolls by placing the children of welfare mothers in orphanages. The idea was to prohibit states from paying welfare benefits for two groups of children: Those whose paternity was not established and those born out of wedlock to women under 18. The savings, according to this proposal, would be used to establish and operate orphanages and group homes for unwed mothers.

I thought this was a horrible idea. In a speech before the New York Women's Agenda on Nov. 30, 1994, I criticized Gingrich.

Gingrich swung back: "I'd ask her to go to Blockbuster and rent the Mickey Rooney movie about Boys Town [an orphanage]. I don't understand liberals who live in enclaves of safety who say, 'Oh, this would be a terrible thing.'"

Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p.262-263 , Nov 1, 2003

Reach majority by better ideas, not by handing out goodies

I dreamed of helping to elect a Republican majority in the House when there had not been one in 24-years, and at the time of which I speak, would not be one for another 16 years.

I wanted that GOP majority to be a certain kind of majority, one based on ideas. I also wanted it to represent a party that would be open and beckoning to a majority of our fellow Americans not because we were handing out goodies to people but because we had better proposals for them and their families’ futures. In short, I wanted to do nothing less than replace the welfare society with a society full of opportunity. I dreamed of a society that would begin to move the powers of a smothering, overcentralized federal government back to the states and local governments back into the hands of volunteers much closer to the people and better aware of their real needs and wants.

Source: Lessons Learned the Hard Way, by Newt Gingrich, p.16 , Jul 2, 1998

Replace "welfare state" with "opportunity society"

The greatest moral imperative we face is replacing the welfare state with an opportunity society. For every day that we allow the current conditions to continue, we are condemning the poor--and particularly poor children--to being deprived of their basic rights as Americans. The welfare state reduces the poor from citizens to clients. It breaks up families, minimizes work incentives, blocks people from saving and acquiring property, and overshadows dreams of a promised future with a present despair born of poverty, violence, and hopelessness.

The defenders of the status quo should be ashamed of themselves. The current system has trapped and ruined a whole generation while claiming to be compassionate. The burden of proof is not on the people who want to change welfare. It is on those who would defend a system that has clearly failed at incalculable human cost.

Source: Renew America, by Newt Gingrich, p. 71-72 , Jul 2, 1996

Enterprise zones let poor create their own jobs

Almost every public housing project in the US has an underground economy of people working for barter without securing government licenses or paying taxes. Jack Kemp has been the leading advocate of "enterprise zones" that would encourage job creation within the legal system. Kemp has long proposed massive tax and regulatory breaks for anyone who would invest in poor neighborhoods. Since these neighborhoods pay almost no taxes anyway and since they drain the pubic treasury through welfare payments, the cost of giving them tax breaks would be relatively small. If new investment helped poor people make the long-term transition from welfare to productive work, these enterprise zones would more than pay for themselves.

With Kemp's leadership, we are now working to apply this model in Washington, DC. We hope to have a full-blown experiment by 1996.

Source: Renew America, by Newt Gingrich, p. 79-80 , Jul 2, 1996

Eight steps to improve opportunity for poor

    One of the encouraging developments of the last few years has been that a lot of truly caring, intelligent people have spent a lot of time thinking about the tragedy of modern welfare systems. As a result, we now have a fairly good idea of what works and what doesn’t. The eight steps we need for improving opportunities for the poor are:
  1. Shifting from caretaking to caring: Caretaking’s most important concern is to make the provider feel good, while caring’s first concern is the outcome for the person being helped.
  2. Volunteerism and spiritual renewal: more volunteers could get to know individuals and their families, [and ] emphasize spiritual salvation.
  3. Reasserting the values of American civilization
  4. Emphasizing family and work.
  5. Creating tax incentives for work, investment, and entrepreneurship.
  6. Re-establishing savings and property ownership.
  7. Learning as the focus of education.
  8. Protection against violence and drugs.
Source: To Renew America, p. 73ff , Jul 2, 1995

Welfare state has distorted beyond its original intent

Newt Gingrich's campaign speech, in 1993 and 1994, included: "It is impossible to maintain civilization with 12-year-olds having babies, 15-year-olds killing each other, 17-year-olds dying of AIDS, and 18-year-olds getting diplomas they can't even read. Yet that is precisely where three generations of Washington-dominated, centralized-government, welfare-state policies have carried us."

With those two sentences, refined from years of study and practice, Newt Gingrich found the message that convinced the nation to elect a Republican majority to Congress. That majority chose him Speaker of the House.

Those two sentences--one undeniable, the other contentious--are the essential Gingrich. They are the end result of a career-long search by Gingrich for a message simple and powerful enough to convince Americans that the welfare state had been distorted beyond its original intent. A mammoth, overreaching federal government now is causing more harm than good.

Source: Newt!, by Dick Williams, p. 3-4 , Jun 1, 1995

Error at core of welfare state is its dehumanization

The welfare system has failed because its core understanding of humans is wrong. Not because it doesn't have enough money. Not because the people who run it don't know what they're doing. Not because of some minor thing. At the heart of the welfare state is an error.

Look at what the welfare state does. The welfare state reduces citizens to clients, subordinates them to bureaucrats, and subjects them to rules that are anti-work, anti-family, anti-opportunity, and anti-property. Now, if you doubt this, one project might well be to apply for the system. Just spend two days being a person who's applying to get into the system.

The evening news is the natural result of the welfare state. That literally, when you watch the killings, you watch the brutality, you watch the child abuse, my question back would be: What did you think would happen when you put people in these kind of settings and you deprive them of their God-given rights and you then say to them, 'Now you are less than a full person.'

Source: Newt!, by Dick Williams, p. 33-34 , Jun 1, 1995

Welfare vouchers allow choice & reduce bureaucracy

In Gingrich's 1984 book Window of Opportunity, welfare programs received a scant three pages. Gingrich proposed that recipients receive cash and credit card vouchers directly in order to allow more choices and, not coincidentally, chip away at the bureaucracy. It was a precursor of the plank in the Contract With America to turn programs into block grants for the states.

In 1984, Gingrich said, "No one must fall beneath a certain level of poverty, even if we must give away food and money to keep that from happening." He urged the creation of day care centers for welfare mothers who would be forced to leave home to work or study. But in another preview of the Contract With America, Gingrich suggested that minor girls should be ineligible for Aid to Families With Dependent Children if they became pregnant. Aid would go first to their parents or guardians.

Source: Newt!, by Dick Williams, p. 39 , Jun 1, 1995

Food stamps crowd out space shuttles

The Speaker's fascination with space and technology is related to his concerns over a permanent welfare state. For Newt, the welfare state drains budgets and stifles innovation. Those who question whether Newt Gingrich has been consistent in his approach to welfare issues should take note of his words in 1984 on what stymies space exploration and government seed money for biotechnology and futurist research:

In "Window of Opportunity," Gingrich wrote: "The amazing fact was that America literally stood in the Moon and watched in its living rooms as the dream of freedom reached out beyond our planet in 1969. And yet we turned back and wallowed in the problems of the welfare state for a decade. Food stamps crowded out space shuttles; energy assistance crowded out a solar-power-satellite project that would have provided energy for all; more bureaucracy in Health and Human Services shoved aside a permanently manned space station."

Source: Newt!, by Dick Williams, p. 40-41 , Jun 1, 1995

Replace welfare state with opportunity society

We must replace the welfare state with an opportunity society. This issue has the moral urgency of coming to grips with what's happening to the poorest Americans. How can any American read about an 11-year-old buried with his teddy bear because he killed a 14-year-old, and not have some sense of, my God, where has this country gone? How can we not decide that this is a moral crisis equal to slavery?

I believe when we are told that children are so lost in the city bureaucracies that there are children in Dumpsters, when we are told that there are children doomed to go to schools where 70% or 80% of them will not graduate. When we're told of public housing projects that are so dangerous that if any private sector ran them, they would be put in jail, and we're given, "Well, we'll study it. We'll get around to it." My only point is: We can find ways immediately to do things better and to reach out and to break through the bureaucracy and to give every young American child a better chance.

Source: Inaugural Speaker speech, in Newt!, by D.Williams, p. 224 , Jan 4, 1995

Tell the poor the truth: to be middle class is to work hard

We don't tell the poor the truth, which is, to be middle class is to work hard. To be middle class is to do a lot of things you don't want to do. And yet the rewards, the ability to live a decent life, to plan your career, to send your kids to school, to go on a nice vacation, to have a decent home, those rewards are paid for by hard work, and there is no shortcut.
--Renewing American Civilization, Class 2

Show me a wagon train that had food stamps. Show me a wagon train that had able bodied adults who were not working. Show me a wagon train that dealt with its criminals while allowing them to wander around committing new crimes. Show me a wagon train that taxed the productive in order to subsidize people who did not want to do a day's work.
--Referring to N.Y. Governor Mario Cuomo's 1984 DNC Convention Speech

When the welfare state finds reasons to excuse people from personal strength, it begins the process of destroying them.
--Renewing American Civilization, Class 2

Source: Quotations from Speaker Newt, by A.&P. Bernstein, p.114-5 , Jan 1, 1995

Change America one church & one organization at a time

We're not going to change America in Washington D.C. We're going to change America one individual at a time, one family at a time, one neighborhood at a time, one church or synagogue at a time, one voluntary organization at a time, one private business at a time, and then one local government, one school board, one city council, one state legislature. And yeah, the Congress and the President are going to have a role to play in all this.
--Speech at the Capitol, Washington D.C. December 5, 1994
Source: Quotations from Speaker Newt, by A.&P. Bernstein, p.113 , Jan 1, 1995

End entitlements; require work

The Personal Responsibility Act caps the spending growth of AFDC, SSI, and numerous public housing programs, and the mandatory work program established under the bill. The cap equals the amount spent the preceding year for these programs with an adjustment for inflation plus growth in poverty population. The entitlement status of these programs is ended.

The bill also consolidates a number of nutrition programs into a block grant to states, funded in the first year at 95% of the total amount of the individual programs. Programs consolidated into the block grant include food stamps, the supplemental feeding program for women, infants, and children (WIC), and the school lunch and breakfast programs, among others. Under the block grant, states will distribute food assistance to economically disadvantaged individuals more freely.

Source: Contract With America, by Newt Gingrich, p. 72-73 , Dec 26, 1994

Build opportunity society to oppose the welfare state

Our opportunity society will be built on underlying concepts that all oppose the welfare state. Let's explore each principle by itself, and its analogue in the welfare state:
  1. Holistic vs. reductionist views of reality: reductionism has worked very well in the sciences, but whole beings need spiritual understanding.
  2. Systematic thinking vs. linear thinking: For example, the inter-relationship of crime, downtown business, and the chance for minority business to be successful.
  3. Organic life vs. mechanistic life: Compare our modern impatience with the more tolerant attitude of a traditional farmer.
  4. Traditional dreams vs. instant gratification: Liberalism tends to ignore the future by discounting the power of great dreams to move people.
  5. Long-term considerations vs. short-term expediency
  6. Geopolitical realities vs. the arrogance of a self-centered America
  7. Citizen emphasis vs. bureaucratic emphasis
  8. Personal ethics vs. governmentally-enforced rules
    Source: Window of Opportunity, by Newt Gingrich, p.124-42 , Sep 1, 1984

    Limit welfare to 2 years & cut welfare spending.

    Gingrich wrote the Contract with America:

    [As part of the Contract with America, within 100 days we pledge to bring to the House Floor the following bill]:

    The Personal Responsibility Act:
    Discourage illegitimacy and teen pregnancy by prohibiting welfare to minor mothers and denying increased AFDC for additional children while on welfare, cut spending for welfare programs, and enact a tough two-years-and-out provision with work requirements to promote individual responsibility.
    Source: Contract with America 93-CWA5 on Sep 27, 1994

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