|Obama’s Welfare Abuses: From Worse to Worst|
By Quin Hillyer
Wednesday, July 25 2012
My colleague Ashton Ellis was Johnny-on-the-spot two weeks ago in highlighting the utter lawlessness of the Obama administration’s move to gut a core requirement of welfare reform – but a fortnight later, it looks as if the implications are even worse than they first appeared.
As Ellis and the Heritage Foundation both explained, Obama issued an executive order purporting to “waive” the work requirements that were so important to the 1996 overhaul of what had been Aid to Families with Dependent Children – the most prominent of the 73 different types of “welfare” programs sponsored by the federal government. Those changes to AFDC (turning it into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF) stand as probably the single-most effective individual domestic-program reform in modern American history. As Heritage summed it up, “It moved 2.8 million families off the welfare rolls and into jobs so that they were providing for themselves. Child poverty fell, and single-parent employment rose.” (Taxpayers also saved tens of billions of dollars, although the importance of the reform was more humane than fiscal.)
Yet, via illegal executive fiat that stands as a poke in former President Bill Clinton’s eye as much as a shiv in Republican ribs, the current president has now taken the second of two steps that could steadily reverse all the tremendous gains that resulted from TANF. Three years ago, legally but wrongheadedly, Obama took the first step by including within his controversial, $825-billion “stimulus” package a little-noticed rollback of some of the other incentives for states that rewarded success in moving people from welfare to work.
The apparent motivation is purely political: The administration clearly is hoping that the gratitude of short-sighted welfare recipients will outweigh the anger of the broader electorate, among which welfare reform is popular. The Obamites must be betting on that same broader electorate being not necessarily attentive to changes that don’t affect it directly and immediately.
“They’re just abolishing all the standards,” Heritage’s Robert Rector told me on Wednesday, “and when the dust settles, no work will be required.”
The combination of the two welfare-policy reversions could be devastating, especially when combined with the Obama-backed massive expansions of food stamps and of eligibility for unemployment insurance. As others (including the American Enterprise Institute) have noted, the Obamite re-invigoration of the welfare state will almost assuredly catch millions of people anew in a “dependency trap” in which it is actually less financially beneficial to work than it is to game the system. Or, at least, that calculation of benefits would apply in the short term and the near horizon; the long-term social pathologies, of course, could be devastating for those who fall into (or willingly hurl themselves into) the dependency trap.
Unfortunately, the problems with Obama’s new executive order on welfare aren’t limited to their functional effects: The illegal form is equally detrimental to the nation’s polity. The abuses of this imperial presidency apparently know no bounds.
As Heritage’s Matthew Spalding and the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel, among others, have recently highlighted, Obama is running roughshod over the famed “checks and balances” that keep power from being dangerously concentrated in any particular hands, especially that of the executive. He ignores the law to provide what amounts to effective amnesty to an entire category of illegal immigrants. He won’t enforce laws against marijuana, won’t defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, imposes by fiat the equivalent of a “cap-and-trade” emissions limit, and instituted versions of “net neutrality” and “card-check” policies without proper authority as well.
Illegal “recess appointments.” Illegal use (again) of “waivers” to interfere in state education curricula. Multiple abuses of “executive privilege” (and of spurious offshoots of the same). Refusal to prosecute voter-intimidation cases and anti-fraud statutes. Imposition of drilling moratoria even in contempt of court. Seizure and redistribution of the ownership rights of secured creditors of auto companies.
And so on. The examples of Obama’s tyrannical abuses abound. And now this, this abominable destruction of good policy and republican procedures inherent in his executive “waivers” on welfare reform, rips to shreds the fruits of a bipartisan achievement that has stood the test of 16 years.
If allowed to stand, these waivers will do grave damage to our constitutional system and to effective and humane social policy. They are a brazen affront to the American people who for decades demanded welfare reform and who for 16 years have reaped its benefits. Perhaps frighteningly, they also may provide a window into the soul of Barack Obama – and they show a soul utterly alien, in multiple ways, to the traditional American notions of government limited in both form and function.
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