Monday 9 April 2012

New York Times Revisits 1996 Welfare Reform Debate, Bemoans Limits on Assistance

See, "The New York Times Wants to Bring Back Welfare Dependency":

You'd have to recall the welfare policy debates at the time. Remember, Bill Clinton signed the 1996 reform bill into law, called the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). The old welfare program, in place since the New Deal, was AFDC, Aid to Families with Dependent Children. More than any other piece of federal legislation, "welfare" was responsible for accelerating the breakup of the black family and creating the mindless cycle of government dependency. People will often defend the old welfare system by noting that the typical recipient over the life of the program was a white mother of two who had either lost a breadwinner or had become unemployed. She stayed on the program for a period of a couple of years. What people didn't want you to notice (and you were attacked as racist when you did) was the huge growth of black dependency on the welfare rolls. AFDC contributed to family disintegration since the program was only available to single mothers. There were no time limits and benefits would increase with the number of children. While on welfare, families would receive a smorgasbord of public services in addition to cash payments. Public housing, health coverage for the poor through Medicaid, food stamps, etc. --- these programs combined provided families with so much public support there was literally no incentive to find a job. And those stuck on welfare were those with the least skills, especially blacks, and the entire regime came to symbolize the failures of the Great Society welfare state model. Conservative criticism became so significant that even prominent Democrats promoted the suggested reforms (see especially, Charles Murray, "Does welfare bring more babies?", and Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980). These efforts culminated in President Clinton's signature legislation, with its creation of the new limited welfare program TANF, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

When Clinton signed the bill, Peter Edelman, who was Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the Department of Health and Human Services, resigned in protest. He now claims vindication, as the numbers of the poor have soared during the Great Recession. DeParle gladly quotes Edelman at the New York Times piece...
RTWT at the link.

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