We’ve all seen the charts and graphs that reveal to us (not surprisingly) that Washington’s 77 welfare and entitlement programs are going to spell doom for our national debt problem if left unchecked.

“Welfare reform” strikes a bad note with some Americans, who fear that (especially now with a Republican House) cuts to entitlement programs will put extra burdens on the already-poor and already-marginalized parts of society.  Other Americans recognize the reality of our limited resources.  They might say something like, “If only we had infinite wealth, we could provide everything for everyone, but we don’t.”

The latter group might be tagged as heartless, or they might just be realistic.  But one point that I often see missing from the conversation about welfare reform is this: Reforming and shrinking our federal welfare system is morally good and compassionate.  While many people recognize that reducing the scope of welfare programs is necessary, they may see it as a necessary evil.  I’m proposing that welfare reform, at this point, is both necessary and good.

Ronald Reagan once said, “We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.”  When people talk about the American dream, they usually do not mention food stamps.  Instead, they talk about providing for oneself and one’s family and having the freedom to succeed and pursue happiness.

The debate about welfare reform is on the horizon.  It should be a debate about more than what to do with our limited resources.  It should be a philosophical debate. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) has introduced the “Welfare Reform Act of 2011.”  This piece of legislation would require that people on food stamps be employed or be actively looking for or training for work.  And it would cap total spending for welfare programs at 2007 levels (adjusted for inflation going forward) when unemployment drops below 6.5 percent. To me it sounds like an effort to help those who are sincerely trying to help themselves.

The government shouldn’t provide everything for everyone.  That shouldn’t be the ideal.  The goal should be shrinking welfare rolls, increasing employment, and a growing economy that presents better prospects for us all.