Gutting Welfare Reform?
David Hill reports for the Washington Times that “Republicans are questioning the legality of a move by the Obama administration to absolve some states from a federal requirement that welfare recipients engage in “work activities.” Hill goes on to explain:
“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that it will consider requests from states that wish to waive the requirement, which was at the heart of the 1996 welfare-reform law negotiated between congressional Republicans and President Clinton.
“Administration officials say the change will give states more flexibility in developing new reforms, but GOP lawmakers argue the move is an illegal “power grab” aimed at undoing progress made under the current law.
“This is a brazen and unwarranted unraveling of welfare reform,” said Rep. David Camp, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. “This ends welfare reform as we know it.”
“Current law requires that at least 50 percent of welfare-receiving households in a state — and 90 percent of those with two parents — have an adult participating in regular “work activities,” which range from full-time employment to job training, community service or pursuit of a GED certificate.”
In a news article that includes a helpful video, Fox News adds:
“How exactly the HHS change will play out is unclear. In Thursday's policy directive, the department said the states may seek a waiver from the work component of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, in order to "test alternative and innovative strategies, policies and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families."
“HHS stressed that any alternative should still aim to get welfare recipients into gainful employment. Any plan that "appears substantially likely to reduce access to assistance or employment for needy families," will not be approved, the memo said.
“But HHS is suddenly allowing for more flexibility in a program known -- and in many circles, lauded -- for its rigid framework. Currently, states have to have 50 percent of their caseload meet certain work participation requirements, though there are ways around that as many states fall short.”
For a comprehensive background on the issue, see Amy Payne’s post last Friday at the Heritage Foundation’s blog, The Foundry, including:
“Welfare reform replaced the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children with a new program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The Heritage Foundation played a pivotal role in building bipartisan consensus for the reform and providing many of the recommendations that became part of the law. The whole point was that able-bodied adults should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving welfare aid.
“This reform was very successful. TANF became the only welfare program (out of more than 70) that promoted greater self-reliance. It moved 2.8 million families off the welfare rolls and into jobs so that they were providing for themselves. Child poverty fell, and single-parent employment rose. Recipients were required to perform at least 20–30 hours per week of work or job preparation activities in exchange for the cash benefit.
< . . . >“While the 1996 welfare reform successfully moved people from welfare into work, it did not “end welfare as we know it.” Now, however, the Obama Administration has ended welfare reform as we know it. The President cannot hide his disastrous unemployment record by depriving Americans of the hope of a job. He should immediately reverse this course, and offer constructive ideas for economic growth rather than government dependence.”
At the Daily Caller, Mickey Kaus provides “some quick initial reactions to the administration’s apparent surprising (and possibly illegal) attempt to grant waivers of the work requirements written, after great effort, into the 1996 welfare reform law.”
In its Monday Morning Brief, the Patriot Post writes about the undoing of welfare reform.
And finally, Tom Lifson writes at American Thinker:
“There can be no mistake now: the Obama administration is seeking to create a permanent majority of Americans receiving money from taxpaying, working Americans. Food stamps are hyped through advertising, work requirements are being sabotaged (contrary to law), unemployment insurance extended for years.
“If you work hard, pay taxes, and obey the law, you are a target. If you give up, call yourself a victim, and demand money that other people earned, you are part of the new dependant majority that will keep Democrats in power forever, or so they must hope.
If you wish to express your concern about the gutting of welfare reform, here is contact information for Arlington’s two Senators and its Representative on Capitol Hill so you can either call them or e-mail them:
- Senator Jim Webb (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
- Senator Mark Warner (D) - write to him or call (202) 224-2023
- Representative Jim Moran -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376.
Additional reporting, including the folks at Salon and T
- Washington Examiner. Joel Gehrke's Beltway Confidential.
- Washington Examiner, columnist Byron York.
- Salon, Alex Pareen wonders, "Why are conservatives and triangulating Democrats suddenly worried that Obama has killed Clinton's welfare reform?
- Talking Points Memo says Republicans are attacking the President "for giving states flexibility on welfare reform.
- Jennifer Rubin, blogging at the Washington Post's Right Turn blog, writes, "Obama's imperious use of executive orders and refusal to enforce the laws of the land fairly and completely is a constitutional disgrace. But his policy judgment is so off-kilter that it also demonstrates Obama’s faulty approach to immigration, welfare, administration of justice, etc. The policy implications are far more politically damaging and reinforce conservatives’ fears that a second Obama term would witness a lurch to the left."