The Beginning of the End of Welfare Reform?

As if there were not enough reasons to oppose the Big Boondoggle, otherwise known as the stimulus bill, it appears that Democrats have slipped in a provision that would take the first steps toward undoing the 1996 welfare reform.

A provision of the bill would establish a $3 billion “emergency fund” for states to use to pay for increases in their welfare rolls. Significantly the legislative language would reward states for increasing their caseloads, regardless of whether the increase was due to increased unemployment or other economic conditions or simply because the state loosened its work requirements or time limits. It also shifts the base for states caseload reduction bonuses in a way that will discourage states from holding down the growth in welfare. And, while the grant does not eliminate welfare reform’s central concept of replacing the individual entitlement to welfare with a state block grant, it certainly weakens the foundation.

This effort to undermine welfare reform, should not be seen in isolation. As an Illinois State Senator Barack Obama was highly critical of the 1996 reform. Recent articles and editorials in the New York Times have signaled a new campaign on the Left to restore welfare to its pre-96 rules. And, of course, the stimulus bill also dramatically increases non-cash welfare benefits like Medicaid and food stamps.

I’m not sure that when the American people voted for change, they were really seeking a return to 40-years of welfare failure.