Commentary: What’s wrong with a little work?

By Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

When did “work” turn into a four-letter word?

Did I miss something? I thought working, so you could be independent and not have to rely on others, was a good thing; apparently not to critics of Gov. Mike pence and his administration’s move that able-bodied individuals actually work or look for work in order to get food stamps.

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org.

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org.

The big change taking effect this spring is pretty straight-forward. If you are an able-bodied

Commentary button in JPG - no shadowadult with no kids, you can only get food stamps for three months out of a three-year period, unless you’re working or in a job training program for at least 20 hours a week.

The federal government had waived work requirement for Indiana, but the state decided not to reapply. However, if the economy heads south, it can. It’s estimated this would impact about 65,000 of the 877,000 people on food stamps to the tune of about $102 million annually. Critics lament this change, saying we’re picking on the poor, and, because there’s no living wage, there’s no incentive for people to go to work. Here’s an incentive to work, survival. If you want to eat, you’ll work.

Work is also not just good for body, but it’s good for the soul. Remember your first paycheck and how you felt that it was money that you earned and the feeling of independence that came with it? I still have a photocopy of my first check from my first full-time broadcaster job.  It was only $600, but in 1994, it was pretty good money for a 20-something doing radio news in Bloomington, Illinois. And I can’t put a price on the pride that came with it.

And on top of that, if you don’t give people a reason to get off the dole, they never will. It’s the family member who stays on your couch and keeps telling you that eventually he will look for a job. If you don’t light a fire under his rear end, eventually he will take root. You know exactly what I’m talking about so don’t even look at me funny.

And by the way, this isn’t the first time the state has had to light the fire under folks. A couple years ago, the Department of Workforce Development changed the rules so that when you filed for unemployment you had to report to Work One center on a regular basis to prove you were looking for work. Guess what? A few thousand people dropped off the unemployment rolls. Imagine that. Even in the latest HIP 2.0 proposed expansion the state has incorporated a jobs element so individuals can become self-sufficient.

So requiring someone who is able-bodied to either get a job or let the state help them find one in order to get assistance is not a bad thing. And yes, we should look at removing some of those barriers that keep those who made mistakes decades ago from finding stable work. And we should continue bipartisan efforts to close the skills gap and enhance the Hoosier workforce so more people can get those jobs that require more than a high school diploma, but not a four-year degree. Workforce Development offers a ton of programs to help people not only find jobs, but develop the soft skills they need to have a proper resume and have a successful interview.

This takes some effort on the part of the participant but don’t tell me that it’s better for an able-bodied person to get government assistance rather than gainful employment. The last time I checked, welfare and food stamps were supposed to act as trampolines, not hammocks. Work is not a four-letter word, but “lazy” is.

Abdul is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at

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One Response to Commentary: What’s wrong with a little work?

  1. I like you.