July 17, 2012
Last week, President Obama unlawfully gutted the successful 1996 welfare reform law, specifically its requirements that recipients must work.
The welfare reform law was very successful. In the four decades prior to welfare reform, the welfare caseload never experienced a significant decline. But, in the four years after welfare reform, the caseload dropped by nearly half. Employment surged and child poverty among affected groups plummeted. The driving force behind these improvements was the rigorous new federal work requirements contained in the TANF law.
Rector and The Heritage Foundation championed the cause of welfare reform in the 1990s and the legislation signed into law by President Clinton drew heavily from his work.
The basic idea of the welfare reform, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, is that “able-bodied adults should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving welfare aid.”
But as Heritage Foundation legal experts explain, the administration unlawfully evaded the legislation and illegally and unilaterally cut the requirement. There is a clear “and express, legal prohibition in the 1996 statute against what HHS seems to want to do,” Todd Gaziano and Robert Alt note.
The Heritage Foundation was among the first to expose President Obama’s efforts to undo welfare. Since then, the media has acknowledged Robert Rector’s work on the issue. According to the Associated Press:
‘‘They have arrogated to themselves complete control over this program, and they did it through what’s essentially foul play,’’ Robert Rector, a nationally known social policy expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Friday.
Rector, who helped draft the original legislation, said the administration’s move amounted to an end-run around the law’s work requirement and therefore violates the law.
He was backed up by House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the senior Republican on the committee that oversees welfare. Camp called the waiver plan ‘‘a brazen and unwarranted unraveling of welfare reform,’’ while Hatch called it a ‘‘power grab.’’
By his actions, President Obama is denying able-bodied welfare recipients the much needed encouragement to seek a fulfilling career. This is unfortunately consistent with his remarks this past weekend: “If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.”
If energy equals the capacity to do work, then dignity is the end result of work. When President Obama altered welfare legislation last week so that recipients are not required to work, he effectively denied them of a sense of dignity.
Do you think having a job provides a person with confidence and dignity?