The carrot and the stick is an old approach to politics, but whipping around the stick will only make the donkey very, very mad.

This is something that Conservative Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum seems to overlook with his tough-guy stance against unemployment.

“We will go after all of the means-tested entitlement programs — Medicaid, food stamps, all of those programs — and do what we did with welfare,” says Santorum, referring to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.

The changes made then “encouraged” Americans to seek jobs along with receiving welfare, and according to Bill Clinton, fulfilling his campaign promise to end welfare as we knew it – and indeed it did.

Now Santorum wants to do the same thing, except this time he is enlarging the scope to completely leave the unemployed with nothing but a slap on the hand and a stern warning to ‘get a job or else.’ Santorum wants to make new changes that no longer entitle the poor to federal benefits. He instead wants a flat amount along with stricter time limits and work requirements.

Too bad Santorum forgot that the 1996 reforms came when the economy was growing by 4% a year and employment was abundant – at least compared to today’s abysmal employment prospects.

John Bierbusse, executive director of nonprofit workforce-development agency Michigan Works!,  contests Santorum’s claims that welfare recipients are content with their lot in life. Bierbusse points out that the average weekly welfare benefits in Michigan is just $296 in 2010 – just two-thirds of the federal poverty standard for a four-person family.

Bierbusse goes on to say that “if the jobs were there, people would flood back into the labor market.” Bierbusse’s claim is solidified by Labor Department statistics, which show that our unemployed – 12.8 million in total – outnumber job openings by a whopping four to one. That means four people compete for every job that comes out on the market.

So yes, it would ease up government financing when you push people out of benefits and into jobs. The only problem is that there are no jobs out there. So what do you expect the poor and unemployed to do, create jobs out of thin air?

It is heartless, ignorant and short-sighted ‘solutions’ like this that give Rick Santorum and the conservatives he aims to represent a bad name.

Last updated: March 11, 2012 by & filed under Blog

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