Ending Welfare As We Know It

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Last Thursday, in another assault on the democratic process that has become standard operating procedure for the Obama administration, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a policy directive that purports to grant states more “flexibility” in implementing the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. In reality, the policy change eviscerates the federal works requirements that were the essential ingredient of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act signed into law by president Bill Clinton in 1996 after painstaking, bipartisan efforts achieved through the democratic process.

“President Obama just tore up a basic foundation of the welfare contract,” Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) said in a statement. Jordan also characterized the move as a “blatant violation of the law.” What Jordan is referring to is a claim by the administration that the traditional TANF work requirements can be waived or overridden by a legal device called the section 1115 waiver authority under the Social Security law. “Therefore, HHS is issuing this information memorandum to notify states of the Secretary’s willingness to exercise her waiver authority under section 1115 of the Social Security Act to allow states to test alternative and innovative strategies, policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families,” the directive states.

Yet the “mandatory work requirements” in TANF are not listed under section 1115. They are contained in section 407 of the law, precisely because Congress wanted to shield them from HHS bureaucrats. One section of the law is waivable under section 1115. That is section 402, which requires states to notify the HHS about how they will comply with the other sections of the TANF. As the Heritage Foundation points out, waivers granted under section 402 only apply to the reporting requirements, not the essential parameters of the requirements themselves. The administration’s sleight-of-hand? Since work requirements of section 407 are mentioned in section 402, all them can be re-written at will by HHS and/or state bureaucrats.

The directive asserts that alternative plans could “combine learning and work” to fulfill the work requirement, or let “vocational educational training or job search /readiness programs” count as well. In the past, some states have attempted to claim that activities such as hula dancing, attending Weight Watchers, and getting bed rest constitute “work.” Such attempts were shot down by the law as it was written. Under the guise of giving states more flexibility, the Obama administration has taken what Bill Clinton himself described in a 2006 New York Times editorial as “welfare legislation shifting the emphasis from dependence to empowerment” and turned it on its ear.

“On Aug. 22, 1996, after vetoing two earlier versions, I signed welfare reform into law,” Clinton wrote. “At the time, I was widely criticized by liberals who thought the work requirements too harsh and conservatives who thought the work incentives too generous. Three members of my administration ultimately resigned in protest. Thankfully, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans voted for the bill because they thought we shouldn’t be satisfied with a system that had led to intergenerational dependency.”

By any reasonable measure, the law was a smashing success. In 1994, there were 5.1 million families on Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFCDC), the program that preceded TANF. Ten years later, the number had shrunk to 2 million, representing a 60 percent decline. The poverty rate for single women with children fell from 42 percent in 1996, to 34 percent in 2002, marking the first time the number had ever declined below 40 percent. Hunger among children, especially black children, along with the number of welfare caseloads, was cut in half by 2003. As Bill Clinton notes, as a result of the Welfare to Work Partnership, “which my administration started to speed the transition to employment, more than 20,000 businesses hired 1.1 million former welfare recipients. Welfare reform has proved a great success, and I am grateful to the Democrats and Republicans who had the courage to work together to take bold action.”

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  • stevefraser

    You would never know this listening to the Party of Stupid.

  • truebearing

    In the short term, Obama is trying to buy votes, or more precisely, motivate his minority base to vote because they have something to lose…easy, lazy money. This shows what contempt he has for fellow blacks.

    In the long term, this is all about the Cloward-Piven strategy of destroying the economy with debt. Obama will solidify his base of illiterates, illegals, addicts, malingerers, and pathologically envious by handing them money, with no expectations. The strain on governmental budgets everywhere will in turn raise the intensity of the communists calls for taxing the rich out of existence. This is pure evil…. or typical Obama.

    • Sprinklerman

      "This is pure evil…. or typical Obama."

      Shouldn't that be…"This is pure evil…AND typical Obama."?

      • kendrick1

        Please quit straightening the deck chairs while the ship is sinking.

    • Grob Hahn

      It's amazing the array of dirty tricks Obama and democrats in general routinely employ. Obama has very little in common with most black Americans so it should be no surprise to see him use them over and over. The man has the perfect disguise and too many black Americans seem to think that a slice of the pie is headed their way as long as Obama is "king" (I'm still amazed how few black Americans understand term limits). It really doesn't matter. If Obama loses, we'll have riots that will be denied as racially motivated. However, if Obama wins, we'll have riots because of false pride giving way to reckless empowerment. The misdirected (but directed nonetheless) army will march either way. Look at the "successes" they have already had as they riot all over America.

      Obama has played them SO well.

      • Jim_C

        When your dumbass predictions don't come true, will you come back and apologize?

  • Oneputt

    A suggestion for a Romney Campaign website: Obamafordictator2012.com

  • Johncdavidson

    Every cabinet member in Obama's administration should be on trial for treason if our legal system worked properly..

    • Jim_C

      You should be tried as a juvenile for having a juvenile understanding of law and treason.

  • pagegl

    This is another example of the leftist definition of bipartisanship: do it my way.

    • Jim_C

      "What I've said about compromise and bipartisanship is I hope to build a conservative majority in the United States Senate so that bipartisanship becomes Democrats joining Republicans to roll back the size of government, reduce the bureaucracy, lower taxes and get American moving again."

      ~ Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock

      WHAT??? You mean Republicans have the same definition?

  • Glennd1

    You really have to wonder what these folks are thinking. I know, so,e of you are thinking he wants to collapse the system, but really, how can anyone look at this program and not call it a roaring success? I heard one leftist discussing it, who was complaining about how hard it was on the single mothers, some sob story about walking to work for a couple of miles for a menial job. Wow, what about all those single mothers who aren't on welfare, isn't it hard for them to work too? And maybe, this disincentive could convince people by example that being responsible about reproducing is a good idea. Sigh…

  • BS77

    46 million on food stamps. millions on welfare and unemployment. millions getting subsidized housing, medical care, transportation and education….how long can this bubble last before it pops?

  • mark

    Stop the contant doul………………….get a job. They have money for Macdonalds, the lottery they are the size of gorillias, but they are starving………..I'm sick of my tax dollars going to 14% of the population who refuse to work and they're fathers of they're children won't marry them!!!!!!!!