President Bill Clinton signing welfare reform legislation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
16 years ago congress passed and President Clinton signed a law creating Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), also known as welfare reform. This bi-partisan effort was arguably one of the most beneficial accomplishments of the entire Clinton presidency. The reform changed the focus of welfare from a system which sustains poverty to one which encourages adults who are able to seek employment to do so, and made sure that the government wouldn’t be taking care of them forever.
We Didn’t Need That Reform, Anyway
But the Obama administration doesn’t think the reform was such a good idea, which today gutted the reform via a “policy directive” issued through HHS (H/T to Big Government). The directed eliminates work requirements that states must implement in order to receive federal welfare funding. Why does this gut the reform? Heritage sums up the problem:
In the past, state bureaucrats have attempted to define activities such as hula dancing, attending Weight Watchers, and bed rest as “work.” These dodges were blocked by the federal work standards. Now that the Obama Administration has abolished those standards, we can expect “work” in the TANF program to mean anything but work.
As states become more flexible in their definitions of “work” more people will be added to the roles for longer periods of time. At a time of exploding budget deficits the administration seems hell-bent on spending more money at all costs, even if that money is used to discourage people from seeking employment. I will admit I find some sweet irony that one of Clinton’s most widely acknowledged, fiscally responsible achievements is being torn apart by his fellow Democrat.
In any case I do fear for the impact of actions like this on the long term economic recovery. With policies like these it should come as no surprise that unemployment remains above 8% for another month and employment participation is at historic lows.
Not so much a crisis since it’s been happening for a very long time now, but the administration continues to test the ways it can completely ignore the constitution by bypassing congress in order to enact its agenda. It’s a strategy that makes sense if Obama is concerned about losing in November or winding up in a deeply divided government even if he wins.
The President knows that even if managed to win reelection his party may not hold the Senate, let alone retake the already Republican controlled House. So his entire second term would be either very moderate as he would be forced to promote more bipartisan initiatives, or a completely dead in the water as neither side budges. The only way to head this off (apart from, you know, actually promoting better policies to win more seats in November) is to shred the constitution and legislate from the Executive Branch.
It could be a very interesting time if and when these actions ever come to a head.