« WSAU Opinion Blog

OPINION - Restoring balance

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  On the surface, some of the policy changes in Governor Walker’s budget seems mean-spirited. People who are unemployed will have to apply for four jobs a week instead of two to keep their benefits. The able-bodied who are on food stamps will have seek work for 20-hours a week or get into a job-training program or get kicked off the rolls. A year ago BadgerCare premiums were increased, and more people who had access to private-sector insurance were forced to take it, even if their costs were higher.

This seems like a showdown between taxpayers and takers. It isn’t. It’s a more fundamental question of whether these benefits are supposed to be temporary or permanent. The Governor’s answer is temporary, and as temporary as possible.

Consider a family on BadgerCare. When the program was originally designed, some parents could sign their kids up for BadgerCare and take employer-provided healthcare for the adults in their family only. They’d still have to pay premiums, but when their kids were sick they’d have to co-payments and no deductibles – a sweetheart deal. So how long would those families want to stay on BadgerCare? Forever. They’d never leave the program unless they were kicked off.

When someone gets fired or laid off, their job search should begin immediately. In the meantime they’re tapping into an unemployment insurance program that’s under funded where taxpayers and businesses have to make up for federal dollars that the state is borrowing to send out their checks. That person has an obligation to the rest of us to not just sit around and collect money – currently for up to 64 weeks.

An able-bodied adult without children – there are 63,000 of them on food stamps – should indeed be striving to make themselves employable to get off the dole. What’s the alternative? An indefinite handout?

Our government, and society in general, have an obligation to people who fall on hard time. But people who fall on hard times have an obligation to us… to work towards being self-supporting as soon as possible. That’s been missing from the equation for a long time. Our governor is trying to restore that balance.

Chris Conley