From the Heritage Foundation explains the 1996 Welfare Reform Act and its detractors.
Last Thursday, the Obama Administration quietly issued new bureaucratic rules that overturned the popular welfare reform law of 1996. This was an illegal move, and it completely undoes years of progress that helped millions of Americans.
The 1996 reform replaced the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with a new program called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). At the core of the TANF program were new 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, pre-reform 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, in exchange, to engage in constructive behavior to increase self-sufficiency and reduce dependence.
The TANF work requirements were not onerous. Under the law, some 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 under six and 30 hours for mothers with older children.
[…]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.
None of this reduced the left’s antipathy for welfare reform. The left had strongly opposed work requirements in welfare in 1996. When TANF faced reauthorization in 2001, they again aggressively sought to repeal federal work standards; they repeated the attack in 2006. For the most part, they lost those battles. But they were not done.
[…]Having lost repeated legislative battles to abolish workfare, the left has now gone backdoor, using an arcane bureaucratic device called a section 1115 waiver to declare the actual work standards written in the TANF law null and void and grant federal bureaucrats carte blanche authority to devise new replacement standards.
Now that we are in an election year, I expect to see a lot of promises by the Democrats of more and more handouts, bailouts and rewards to all of their various constituencies. And all paid for by the job creators in the private sector, and their hard-working employees. After all, “the private sector is fine” and “if you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen”.