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Jesse Ventura: Welfare
By Laura McCallum
August 10, 1998
Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

JESSE VENTURA'S VIEWS ON WELFARE echo the sentiment behind welfare reform. The former mayor of Brooklyn Park says welfare should be a safety net, not a career, and each recipient should be required to get a job.

Ventura: I don't care what it is - whether it's delivering newspapers, shining shoes - whatever it is. Then you find a number and you study to find out what the magical number is that someone would need to survive on. That way, if that person is making - let's say hypothetically, for argument's sake, we'll pick out $1000 a month - if the person goes and gets this shoe-shining job or delivering newspapers and only makes $150 a month, well then, subsidize them the remainder. And that way, as the person keeps working, guess what's gonna happen? Their income's gonna go up, and the welfare subsidy's gonna go down and eventually, they're gonna be off it.
Ventura's ideas sound pretty similar to what's already happening in Minnesota. Under the 1997 welfare reform law - aimed at getting welfare recipients into the workforce - recipients aren't penalized for going back to work, and their welfare checks decrease as they make more money. Ventura says welfare-to-work is an improvement, but he'll wait to see the results in four to five years.

Ventura's other criticism of the welfare system is one you don't typically hear from politicians: that it only helps the poor.

Ventura: If you're a middle-class person who comes on hard times - you get no support at all. You can go down there until you're blue in the face and you'll get nothing, and I don't think that's right either. It should be a safety net for all citizens, pretty much. I mean, of course, not the rich - if you're worth a million dollars, and you get laid-off your job ... but there should be a net also for hard-working middle-class people, that if they get laid off or something happens that they can receive some type of assistance and not have to jump through 43 hoops.
That idea seems to contradict Ventura's - and the Reform party's - overall stance of less government, more personal responsibility. In fact, Ventura takes a hard-line view of single parents on welfare.
Ventura: You make your bed and you sleep in it. You know, government wasn't responsible for that child coming into the world - you are. You as a citizen are, and it's called personal responsibility. And I think government's role is to attempt to make parents as responsible as they can, by certain means, maybe.
Ventura says government should make delinquent parents pay child support. He is less convinced that government should provide day care for people on welfare entering the workforce. Ventura suggests encouraging welfare recipients to provide child care for other recipients, who can then go to work. That's an idea that's been discussed, according to officials with the Department of Human Services, but it hasn't been tried on a widespread scale. The Department of Children, Families and Learning says it has a mentorship program for anyone interested in becoming a child care provider, including welfare recipients.

On the issue of transportation - another common barrier for people on welfare going back to work - Ventura says he supports light rail. He says if the state had a light rail system, all Minnesotans could afford to get to their jobs.