Obama Administration Undermines Welfare Reform, Sets Country Back ?

By Kochakian, Charles | New Haven Register (New Haven, CT), July 29, 2012 | Go to article overview

Obama Administration Undermines Welfare Reform, Sets Country Back ?


Kochakian, Charles, New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)


By Robert Rector

THE Obama administration has quietly issued new bureaucratic rules that overturned the popular welfare reform law of 1996. This illegal move completely undoes years of progress that helped millions of Americans.

The 1996 reform replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with a program called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). At the core of TANF were federal work standards that required able-bodied welfare recipients to work, prepare for work or at least look for work as a condition for receiving aid. Welfare reform turned "welfare" into "workfare."

Under the old AFDC program, welfare was a one-way handout: Government mailed checks to recipients who did nothing in return. Reform changed that.

The new TANF program was based on fairness and reciprocal responsibility: Taxpayers continued to provide aid, but beneficiaries were required to engage in constructive behavior to increase self-sufficiency and reduce dependence.

The TANF work requirements were not onerous. Under the law, 40 percent of adult TANF recipients in a state were required to engage in "work activities," which is defined as unsubsidized employment, subsidized employment, on-the-job training, attending high school or a GED program, vocational education, community service work, job search or job readiness training. Participation was part-time, 20 hours per week for mothers with children younger than 6 and 30 hours for mothers with older children.

This drove liberals to apoplexy. They denounced the reform as an "awful" policy that would do "serious injury to American children." According to them, reform was "blaming the victim" and workfare was "slavefare."

Prior to welfare reform, the AFDC caseload had not declined significantly since World War II. After welfare reform, the caseload dropped by 50 percent and employment and earnings experienced an unprecedented surge upward.

As welfare dependence fell and employment increased, child poverty among the affected groups fell dramatically. For a quarter century before the reform, poverty among black children and single mothers had remained frozen at high levels.

Immediately after the reform, poverty for both groups experienced dramatic and unprecedented drops, quickly reaching all-time lows. …

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