Jesse Ventura on Welfare & Poverty

Former Independent MN Governor

Transition from Welfare to Self-Sufficiency

Everyone gets down on his or her luck at one time or another. Minnesota is committed to helping those who are really down, particularly families with children. But that help should be temporary, should not substitute for the parentsí own responsibility to support and care for their children, and, above all, should encourage people to become as self-sufficient as possible. Minnesotaís welfare reform has been successful in helping many people find and keep jobs. Many of these jobs, however, are either less than full- time or pay low wages that require continuing dependence on public support. Our commitment to self-sufficiency [should] identify strategies to help low-income families become truly independent through their own efforts, but with appropriate public support. Our success in moving people toward self-sufficiency depends not just on living support, job training and education, but also on stable and affordable housing, safe child care, accessible health care, and transportation.
Source: The Big Plan: Self-Sufficient People , Dec 10, 2000

Social programs should be a safety net, not a hammock

Any time government has money to give away, itís because it was taken from somebody else. Thatís why Iím fundamentally opposed to government programs that simply hand out cash to anybody who whines loudly enough. The danger is that these kinds of programs invariably grow bigger and more costly without addressing the root of the problem: the reason that people are in need of a handout in the first place. Dependence on the government tends to encourage more dependence on the government.

Donít get me wrong. Iím all for a government-funded social safety net. What kind of nation would we be if we werenít able to help people when they were genuinely in need? But weíve got to make sure our government programs remain safety nets and not hammocks.

Source: Do I Stand Alone, by Jesse Ventura, p. 52-53 , Jul 2, 2000

Focus welfare on jobs & training

We need to focus our welfare energies on tackling the real causes of joblessness. Youíve heard it said that our blue-collar job base is shrinking; that the number of manufacturing jobs is dropping because of automation. If this is so, then weíd better acknowledge it and act on that knowledge.

It makes more sense to retrain people for the existing job market than to try to manipulate the economy artificially. Successful people are flexible. Governmentís role is not to temper the economy to the types of jobs people want, but to make sure that people have ample opportunity to get the jobs that exist.

The vast majority of people applying for welfare are willing to work. For most, the problem is they donít have the skills. About 50% donít have a high school degree. Some have mental health problems. Many donít have the best social skills. If the problem is that people arenít employable enough, we need to work on helping them become employable.

Source: Do I Stand Alone, by Jesse Ventura, p.131-32 , Jul 2, 2000

Believes in private charity, not government charity

The government is not a charity institution. Constitutionally, thereís nothing supporting the idea that people have the right to expect charity from the government. I believe in charity. But I also believe that government programs funded by tax money are about the worst possible way to help out people in need. Private charities are much better, because people can get involved in the ones that are most meaningful to them.

I get very disturbed when I see people demonstrating with signs that say ďWelfare Rights.Ē There is nothing in the Constitution that says you have a right to welfare! Do you know what welfare is? Itís taking money from someone who is working to give to someone whoís not!

Maybe we should set up welfare so that it makes up the gap between what someone needs to live on and what theyíre able to earn, [in exchange for government-supplied jobs]. For example, I think we need to have monitors on school buses. I believe everyone should have a job to do, no matter how modest.

Source: Ainít Got Time To Bleed, p. 43-6 , Jan 1, 1999

Support LIHEAP, low-income heating assistance.

Ventura signed the Midwestern Governors' Conference resolution:

Source: Resolution of Midwestern Governors' Conf. on LIHEAP 00-MGC2 on May 25, 2000

Maintain federal Social Services Block Grant funding.

Ventura adopted the National Governors Association position paper:

The Issue

Despite an ongoing need to provide social services to families, the elderly, and the disabled, federal funding for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) has been cut dramatically over the past few years, indicating a weakening of the historic state-federal partnership to serve needy Americans. In 1996, as part of the historic welfare reform agreement, Congress agreed to provide the states $2.38 billion each year for SSBG. Since that time, funding has been chipped away little by little. This year, SSBG is funded at $1.725 billion.

NGAís Position

The nationís Governors have consistently supported the broad flexibility of the SSBG and are adamantly opposed to cuts in federal funding for the program. Governors believe that funding for SSBG is among the most valuable federal investment that can be made for the nationís most vulnerable population. Further cuts will be difficult for state and local governments to absorb and will cause a disruption in the delivery of the most critical human services. Governors believe that funding for SSBG should be restored to $2.38 billion, and transferability should be permanently restored to 10 percent, the levels that were agreed to as part of the 1996 welfare reform law.

In 1996, Governors reluctantly agreed to a slight reduction in funding for SSBG, from $2.8 billion to $2.38 billion, with the understanding that funding would remain at $2.38 billion through fiscal 2002, and then return to $2.8 billion. However, the federal government has consistently broken that promise. The nationís Governors strongly urge Congress and the administration to reject the proposed cuts and to restore funding and flexibility to the program.

Source: National Governors Association "Issues / Positions" 01-NGA14 on Sep 7, 2001

Maintain flexibility & funding levels for TANF block grants.

Ventura adopted the National Governors Association position paper:

The Issue

The 1996 welfare reform law, including the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, needs to be reauthorized before September 30, 2002.

NGAís Position

    In 1996, the Governors, Congress, and the administration entered into a historic welfare reform agreement. In exchange for assuming the risk involved with accepting the primary responsibility for transforming the welfare system from one of dependency to self-sufficiency, Governors agreed to guaranteed funding for the life of the TANF block grant along with significant flexibility to administer federal programs. The current NGA policy on welfare reform makes three key points:
  1. Maintain flexibility. The TANF block grant was created so that states could develop innovative approaches to addressing welfare reform, and states have been successful in tailoring their programs to meet the individual needs of their citizens. This flexibility must be maintained so that states can continue the progress of welfare reform.
  2. Maintain investment. States are provided with $16.5 billion each year in federal TANF funds, which together with the required state maintenance-of-effort funds, finance welfare reform. Some will argue that the funding should be cut because of the dramatic drop in caseloads. But TANF is no longer just about cash assistance - states are now serving a much broader population than under the old welfare system, and states are now providing services to families that help them succeed and advance in the workplace, not just cutting a check for cash each month.
  3. Move toward greater program alignment. The Food Stamp Program is one example of a program that is in great need of reform, and its connection to welfare reform should be discussed in the context of reauthorization. Other related programs that should be considered include child support, child welfare, housing, the Workforce Investment Act and Medicaid.
Source: National Governors Association "Issues / Positions" 01-NGA17 on Sep 21, 2001

Other governors on Welfare & Poverty: Jesse Ventura on other issues:
MN Gubernatorial:
Mark Dayton
MN Senatorial:
Al Franken
Amy Klobuchar

Newly seated 2010:
NJ Chris Christie
VA Bob McDonnell

Term-limited as of Jan. 2011:
AL Bob Riley
CA Arnold Schwarzenegger
GA Sonny Perdue
HI Linda Lingle
ME John Baldacci
MI Jennifer Granholm
NM Bill Richardson
OK Brad Henry
OR Ted Kulongoski
PA Ed Rendell
RI Donald Carcieri
SC Mark Sanford
SD Mike Rounds
TN Phil Bredesen
WY Dave Freudenthal
Newly Elected Nov. 2010:
AL: Robert Bentley (R)
CA: Jerry Brown (D)
CO: John Hickenlooper (D)
CT: Dan Malloy (D)
FL: Rick Scott (R)
GA: Nathan Deal (R)
HI: Neil Abercrombie (D)
IA: Terry Branstad (R)
KS: Sam Brownback (R)
ME: Paul LePage (R)
MI: Rick Snyder (R)
MN: Mark Dayton (D)
ND: Jack Dalrymple (R)
NM: Susana Martinez (R)
NV: Brian Sandoval (R)
NY: Andrew Cuomo (D)
OH: John Kasich (R)
OK: Mary Fallin (R)
PA: Tom Corbett (R)
RI: Lincoln Chafee (I)
SC: Nikki Haley (R)
SD: Dennis Daugaard (R)
TN: Bill Haslam (R)
VT: Peter Shumlin (D)
WI: Scott Walker (R)
WY: Matt Mead (R)
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Page last updated: Nov 23, 2011