Rep. Tom Marino
On President Barack Obama’s first day in office in January 2009, he gave a speech to senior staff and Cabinet secretaries in which he stated, “Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.” Despite this rhetoric, what has proven to be the touchstone of his presidency has been a persistent refusal to enforce laws with which the president disagrees.
A recent decision by the Obama administration will unilaterally undermine a bipartisan law widely considered to be one of the most successful reforms of the 1990s. On July 12, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed regulations that would give the Obama administration more authority to waive the work requirements included in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program established in the 1996 welfare reforms signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
The 1996 welfare reform law instituted new requirements that a percentage of recipients of welfare funding must meet certain work participation standards including employment, community service, on-the-job training and vocational educational training.
These reforms successfully transformed the nation’s welfare program from a system of one-way handouts to a system that provides a safety net while encouraging job training and employment.
In an op-ed written on the 10-year anniversary of the enactment of the welfare reform law, Clinton highlighted the successes of the law and its work requirements. He emphasized how the law shifted the emphasis of welfare from “dependence to empowerment.”
Clinton touted the facts that welfare rolls “dropped from 12.2 million in 1996 to 4.5 million” and “more than 20,000 businesses hired 1.1 million former welfare recipients.” He further noted that “sixty percent of mothers who left welfare found work, far surpassing predictions of experts.”
Unfortunately, Obama and others on the left are ignoring the successes of the program and doubling down on failed economic policies that have led to prolonged unemployment and dependence on government handouts instead of the opportunity and success that come from individual effort.
According to the census, under Obama the number of Americans living in poverty has reached the highest level ever recorded and median family income has declined by $1,154, its lowest level since 1996. According to the Department of Agriculture, 15 percent of Americans receive food stamps, Â
an increase of 45 percent since Obama took office.
Obama’s plan to sidestep the welfare work requirements appears to be nothing more than an attempt to secure votes from those who refuse to even try to look for employment.
In this regard, the administration is catering to those who reject personal responsibility, insist that hardworking taxpayers support them and believe it is a guaranteed right to collect welfare benefits.
This is a re-election strategy that a growing number of the American people are rejecting. ÂIn fact, a recent poll showed that an overwhelming 83 percent of Americans support the Âwelfare work requirements that Obama is targeting.
The people I meet in my Pennsylvania district want to cut government spending, reduce the size and scope of Washington, and keep taxes low. The decision by the Obama administration to weaken TANF work requirements and essentially gut bipartisan welfare reforms takes our nation in the wrong direction.
We are a caring nation, and the neediest among us should receive necessary assistance, but the work requirements should remain in place to make welfare what Clinton called a “second chance, not a way of life.”
These welfare reforms were enacted with strong bipartisan support. Instead of undermining the law, Obama should be highlighting it as a shining example of how Republicans and Democrats can work together to reform an ineffective program plagued by failure.
Rep. Tom Marino, a Republican from Lycoming County, was elected in 2010 to represent the 10th Congressional District of Pennsylvania.