The Founders’ Model of Welfare Actually Reduced Poverty

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

The Founders

Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin believed government has an obligation to help the poor. Both thought welfare policies should support children, the disabled, widows and others who could not work. But any aid policy, they insisted, would include work-requirements for the able-bodied.

Rather than making welfare a generational inheritance, Franklin thought it should assist the poor in overcoming poverty as expediently as possible: “I am for doing good to the poor.…I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.”

Moreover, local, rather than federal, officials administered this welfare, since they were more likely to know the particular needs of recipients and could distinguish between the deserving poor (the disabled and involuntarily unemployed) and the undeserving poor (those capable of work but preferring not to).

The Founders sought to provide aid…

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