Obama Bids Farewell to Welfare Reform

by Gerri Willis

When I was reading about the President's latest "We Can't Wait" initiative, I had to check the date on the newspaper because it gave me a serious case of déjà vu.

It's a move that combines everything you've come to expect from the President this election cycle: ignoring the laws of the land and making welfare easier to get.

It all goes back to 1996, when the Welfare Reform act was signed into law. This transformed it from being a life-long entitlement into a temporary program. At the heart of the reform was a requirement that to get benefits you have to work, prepare for work, or be looking for work.

The result? Enormous success.

After four years, welfare caseloads were cut in half. People were getting jobs and leaving the program. That's how a safety net is supposed to work.

And these aren't crummy jobs either! A study found that four years after leaving welfare, only 4% of working mothers were earning minimum wage or less. Poverty dropped. Childhood hunger was cut in half.

So what's the President doing now?

Rolling back welfare's work requirement.

The Department of Health and Human Services has quietly issued a policy memo claiming the right to waive welfare's work requirements.

By the way, these are the same bureaucrats who are in charge of Obamacare. Now, liberals say this change is supposed to make the program "more flexible."

But we've heard those excuses before. That's what they said about food stamps. They opened up the eligibility requirements, and the program exploded.

During the recession, food stamp spending went up over four times as much as other programs for the poor like Medicaid.

So the policy's familiar. And so is this Presidential power grab, which ignores Congress, the body actually elected by the American people and charged with making law. Here the HHS is just claiming the authority to do this.

Even though the Welfare Reform act, written by Congress, explicitly prohibits waiving the work requirement. But the President decided we can't wait for Congress, and is pushing through the changes he wants.

You know, I remember a time when our constitutional-scholar-in-chief did know the difference between Congress and the Presidency. It was just last year.

“America is a nation of laws, which means I, as the President, am obligated to enforce the law. ... Congress passes the law. The executive branch's job is to enforce and implement those laws.”

Isn't it amazing how the President's view of the Constitution can "evolve" in an election year?