Reinstating Welfare Work Requirements

The pushback against the Obama administration’s illegal effort to gut welfare reform work requirements continues. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), Education & Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have introduced the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act, which would prohibit the Health and Human Services (HHS) from providing states waivers for welfare work requirements.

Last week, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius encouraged states to seek “waivers” of work requirements for welfare recipients from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. In 1996, this program was reformed by a Republican-led Congress (influenced by The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector) which ultimately forced President Clinton to sign the overhaul into law. The reforms enacted resulted in declines of government dependence, including:

  • Significant increases in the employment and earnings of single mothers;
  • Record declines in welfare dependency as TANF rolls fell by more than 57 percent; and
  • Significant reductions in child poverty in female-headed households, which even after the impact of a deep recession are still below pre-reform levels.

President Obama and his administration decided to undermine those reforms, by illegally changing the law without the consent of Congress. The 1996 reforms created new work requirements and included a provision which stated: “Waivers granted after the date of enactment may not override provisions of the TANF law that concern mandatory work requirements.” The law explicitly prohibits the very type of waivers that President Obama has just granted, putting him in violation of the law.

The Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act would reverse this illegal act – essentially reaffirming Congress’s original intent – by prohibiting the Secretary of HHS from:

  • Implementing or taking action on its guidance memo dated July 12, 2012 on TANF waivers relating to compliance with TANF work requirements, and;
  • Authorizing, approving, renewing, modifying or extending any experimental, pilot, or demonstration project that waives compliance with TANF work requirements.

The legislation would also rescind any waiver granted by the HHS for this purpose prior to this law being enacted.

Congressmen Camp, Kline and Jordan, as well as Senator Hatch, should be commended for their leadership. We must reinstate the welfare work requirements, which were the bedrock of the 1996 reforms that were so successful on weaning those on welfare away from government dependence by promoting strong work ethics.

Please Share Your Thoughts

3 thoughts on “Reinstating Welfare Work Requirements

  1. In the 90s, higher taxes created millions of jobs per year, thus allowing millions of unemployed to find employment to lift them from poverty.

    The many tax cuts in the 21st century have promoted unemployment – Mitt Romney was forced to work in the 90s to pay his taxes and he was forced to find ways to create jobs to make money and to ensure individuals could afford the products and services he made money on providing.

    Since 2001, Mitt Romney has been unemployed, a luxury he can afford because he takes home more and pays lower tax rates by being unemployed. By choosing to be unemployed, he’s not creating jobs.

    Mitt Romney remained unemployed when GM was just days away from insolvency. He argues the private sector should have financed restructuring GM, but he preferred to remain unemployed instead of calling President Bush and promising to organizing a private financing of a GM restructuring. He would have paid higher tax rates if he returned to work.

    So, all the incentives from the many tax cuts since 2001 has been to discourage job creation. Poor women with dependent children are not going to be able to start businesses without financing, or takeover insolvent corporations like GM, and the tax cuts have made work a high tax activity compared to being idle and unemployed and just living off the work of others.

    The work requirement waivers offered by the Obama administration are not the cause of the increasing unemployment caused by record low rates of job creation during the first six years of the Bush administration when conservative Republicans controlled Congress, a record worse than the job creation while Jimmy Carter was president – 10 million jobs in 4 years in the 70s when taxes were high and regulations were controlling all transport services, controlling power utility investment, when Nixon’s price controls were still being phased out, when oil production limits were being used as an economic weapons against the West, unions were strong, and banks were heavily regulated with zero interest allowed on checking and savings interest capped at 5%. With all the negative factors largely removed by 2000, the primary changes to government policy was almost total deregulation of finance and more tax cuts, and since then job creation has dropped far below what has been held up as the worst economic manager ever: Jimmy Carter.

    How will cutting off welfare to the poor who can’t find jobs and adding them to the hungry and homeless going to create jobs?

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