Obama guts Clinton-era welfare reform
Americans are often told that Washington doesn’t work anymore because of hyper-partianship on both sides of the aisle. Many point to the the 1990’s as the “good ol’days,” when President Bill Clinton and a Republican-controlled Congress were able compromise on important domestic polices.
While the friction in Washington is often blamed on Republicans, President Barack Obama has certainly contributed substantially to the inability to compromise. His latest stunning move is to roll back welfare reform, one of the best bipartisan policy achievements of the last 20 years:
The Department and Health and Human Services announced the agency will issue waivers for the federal work requirement of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program — considered a central facet of welfare reform in 1996 — Thursday.
The “Information Memorandum” states that the agency will be issuing waivers for TANF’s work participation requirements for parents and caretakers as a way to find new approaches to better employment outcomes.
“While the TANF work participation requirements are contained in section 407, section 402(a)(1)(A)(iii) requires that the state plan ‘[e]nsure that parents and caretakers receiving assistance under the program engage in work activities in accordance with section 407,’” the memo, signed by HHS Director of the Office of Family Assistance, Earl Johnson, explained. “Thus, HHS has authority to waive compliance with this 402 requirement and authorize a state to test approaches and methods other than those set forth in section 407, including definitions of work activities and engagement, specified limitations, verification procedures, and the calculation of participation rates.”
The goal, according to the memo, is to improve employment outcomes by “encouraging states to consider new, more effective ways to meet the goals of TANF, particularly helping parents successfully prepare for, find, and retain employment.” HHS will also require states to provide a method for evaluation and monitor progress.
While this may sound harmless, it’s actually pretty stunning. Over at the Heritage Foundation, Robert Rector and Kiki Bradley note that move effectively ends welfare reform as we knew it:
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.
The new welfare dictate issued by the Obama Administration clearly guts the law. The Administration tramples on the actual legislation passed by Congress and seeks to impose its own policy choices—a pattern that has become all too common in this Administration.
Our own Kevin Boyd recently explained how the U.S. Department of Agriculture was promoting food stamps, which is already seeing record enrollment, in an astounding way by encouraging “food stamp parties” where guests can enjoy “activities, games, food, and entertainment” while receiving information from the host about food stamps.
This is incredibly unfornature all the way around. Welfare reform was truly one of the big successes in recent memory. And now it’s been undone by an administration that is putting politics over good public policy.