Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Lessons from welfare reform

Another friend with a wise comment about Bill Clinton's Op-Ed in today's NYT:

Wouldn’t it be great if the same kind of op-ed could be written ten years from now with the subject being education instead of welfare? No one thought this reform was possible, the vested interests were too strong, so perhaps there is hope, although the vested interest against education reform are of course much stronger and extremely intransient. I hope we can one day say: “Simply put, (education) reform worked because we all worked together.”


August 22, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor

How We Ended Welfare, Together

TEN years ago today I signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. By then I had long been committed to welfare reform. As a governor, I oversaw a workfare experiment in Arkansas in 1980 and represented the National Governors Association in working with Congress and the Reagan administration to draft the welfare reform bill enacted in 1988.

Yet when I ran for president in 1992, our system still was not working for the taxpayers or for those it was intended to help. In my first State of the Union address, I promised to “end welfare as we know it,” to make welfare a second chance, not a way of life, exactly the change most welfare recipients wanted it to be.

Most Democrats and Republicans wanted to pass welfare legislation shifting the emphasis from dependence to empowerment. Because I had already given 45 states waivers to institute their own reform plans, we had a good idea of what would work. Still, there were philosophical gaps to bridge. The Republicans wanted to require able-bodied people to work, but were opposed to continuing the federal guarantees of food and medical care to their children and to spending enough on education, training, transportation and child care to enable people to go to work in lower-wage jobs without hurting their children.

On Aug. 22, 1996, after vetoing two earlier versions, I signed welfare reform into law. At the time, I was widely criticized by liberals who thought the work requirements too harsh and conservatives who thought the work incentives too generous. Three members of my administration ultimately resigned in protest. Thankfully, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans voted for the bill because they shouldn’t be satisfied with a system that had led to intergenerational dependency.

The last 10 years have shown that we did in fact end welfare as we knew it, creating a new beginning for millions of Americans...

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