A lot of news media covered this welfare-to-work order that the president signed yesterday. This order doesn't have the force of law. It directs agencies to figure out the policies that will help put more people back to work in an era of declining labor force participation despite a strong economy and available jobs.
But to hear the news media tell it, the mean president wants to pull the safety net out from under the poor and invalid, all to satisfy the dastardly Republicans who hate people.
What the stories miss in their vitriol, and in their claims that welfare-to-work requirements don't reduce poverty, is the actual set of rules around work requirements, and more importantly, the impact of having expectations — not only expectations of policymakers imposing the requirements on people, but of the people subject to them on their future selves. Which is to say, when people find work, they have a higher expectations of themselves, and that's a good sign of their future well-being.
And that, in fact, is the purpose of work — it's not merely to keep us proletariat occupied making widgets, it is to build our sense of dignity and our belief in our own value. And with that comes an actual "investment" in ourselves, our families, and our community.
So before the media get mad at people who encourage others to work, maybe it should try doing some work of its own — starting with not misrepresenting intent, a fair telling of the facts, and a focus on the impact of individual effort on personal outcomes.