The strange, new fight over welfare reform

Updated
 
The strange, new fight over welfare reform
The strange, new fight over welfare reform

You may have heard from Uncle Jim recently that our rascally president has “gutted” the welfare reform law signed into law by President Clinton in 1996. Indeed, conservative media seems quite worked up about this, with Fox promoting a Heritage Foundation item on Friday, and the Washington Times and Lou Dobbs pushing the same line.

The truth isn’t nearly as shocking.

Mitt Romney and a slew of other leading Republicans on Friday slammed the Obama administration’s decision to relax some welfare requirements, despite the fact that Republican-led states sought the policy change.

The move, announced Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services, allows states to request waivers to the work requirements spelled out in the 1996 welfare reform. A work requirement would remain, but the idea is to let states and localities have flexibility administering it so they can experiment with ways to improve the number of people making the jump from government assistance to jobs – something many states would like.

As it turns out, the states that pushed the hardest for the change were Utah and Nevada – both of which are led by Republican governors.

And yet, the Obama administration giving more flexibility to Republican governors has been widely condemned, not just by conservative media outlets, but also by prominent GOP leaders. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) went so far as to call the move “a partisan disgrace.”

Do White House critics even pay attention anymore to the policies they’re condemning? If Obama is giving Republican officials at the state and local level the flexibility on welfare requirements that they requested, how in the world is that “a partisan disgrace”? For that matter, if the work requirement will remain in place, why would anyone characterize this as “gutting” the work requirement?

Here, by the way, is the actual policy directive from the Department of Health and Human Services (via James Carter). Someone might want to get a copy to the Speaker’s office and Fox News.

Welfare

The strange, new fight over welfare reform

Updated