More incentives to go get a job

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At the heart of every social program should be the goal of no longer being needed.

WISCONSIN GOV. SCOTT WALKER wants President-elect Donald Trump to make the federal bureaucracy back off so state leaders can do more of what they want.

With a Republican in the White House and Republicans in control of Congress, Walker may get what he seeks. Total Republican control in Madison has cleared all barriers except those erected by the federal government.

Walker’s letter to Trump was a bit vague, but he did list certain details. We think he’s right on some, maybe a bit off base on others.

But it’s a debate worth having and goes to the heart of federalism, the system envisioned by the Founders in which the states were not supposed to be vassals of an all-powerful federal behemoth.

TAKE WALKER’S PROPOSAL to require drug-testing of able-bodied public aid recipients. He wants the feds to get out of the way so Wisconsin can move ahead with tests.

For the moment, set aside the specifics of such testing and look deeper at the rationale. It’s hard to say testing alone would accomplish much, and it might even cost more to test than the state likely would recoup in limiting benefits for anyone found to be an offender. But that’s not the point.

What the governor is really trying to do is push able-bodied adults without child dependents to get into the workforce and off the dole. The objective is to remove an incentive not to work, and to create an incentive for individuals to acquire marketable skills, keep their conduct clean and find gainful employment.

We believe most people — who are paying the taxes to provide those benefits — agree in principle with the governor. A compassionate society should provide sustenance to individuals who, through no fault of their own, are not physically or mentally capable of carrying their own weight.

But those who ought to be able to do for themselves should not be allowed to ride in the wagon while taxpayers pull it. That should be the baseline for every taxpayer-backed social program.

THE GOVERNOR ALSO wants Trump to shift control to states on whether to admit refugees from troubled countries. This one is more complicated.

Foreign affairs and immigration are federal responsibilities. The Constitution is clear on the point. At the same time, in the age of terrorism, the governor would be derelict in his duty if he shrugged and said, “not my problem.”

Still, the idea that 50 different states might be taking 50 different approaches sounds eminently unwieldy. A reasonable compromise would be giving states more of a voice in the resettlement of refugees — but not veto authority.

As for the governor’s plea for the feds to get out of the way of wolf hunters, that makes sense. States are in a better position to decide what’s proper within their own boundaries. Moreover, if a farmer is dealing with a wolf with an appetite for calves, he shouldn’t need a Washington bureaucrat’s permission to solve the problem with a rifle.

IT’S A SURE BET Republican officials all across America, seeing the red tide sweep over the nation’s capital city, are drawing up long laundry lists for incoming President Trump to approve.

Elections matter and Republicans mostly will get their way. Even so, a little restraint and humility should guide Trump as he finds himself buried in wish lists. Governing a big, diverse country works best when reforms are incremental and radical lurches left or right are avoided. After all, while Trump won the Electoral College more than half the country did not want this government and he lost the popular vote by about 3 million. Set a conservative direction — but step lightly.

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