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Congressman Tom Marino

Representing the 10th District of Pennsylvania

President Obama Gutting Successful Welfare Reform

September 5, 2012
On President Obama’s first day in office in January of 2009, he gave a speech to senior staff and cabinet secretaries where 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 this Administration has been a lack of transparency and a persistent refusal to enforce certain laws with which the President disagrees.     

Last week signified yet another disappointing decision by the Obama Administration to unilaterally gut a bi-partisan law that has been widely considered as one of the most successful reforms of the 1990’s.  On July 12, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) 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 1996 welfare reform law signed into law by Democrat President Bill Clinton.    

The 1996 welfare reform law instituted new requirements that a certain 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 transformed the nation’s welfare program from a system of one-way handouts to system that provides a needed safety net while encouraging job training and employment.    

In an op-ed written on the ten year anniversary of the enactment of the welfare reform law, former President Bill Clinton highlighted the successes of the law and its work requirements.  He emphasized that the law shifted the emphasis of welfare from “dependence to empowerment.”  The 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, President Obama and others from the extreme left are ignoring the successes of the program and doubling down on the failed economic policies of this Administration that have led to prolonged unemployment and dependence on government handouts instead of individual effort and opportunity.  According to the most recent Census data, under President Obama, the number of Americans living in poverty has reached the highest levels ever recorded and median family income has declined by $1,154, falling to its lowest level since 1996.  According to the Department of Agriculture, 15 percent of Americans receive food stamps, an increase of 45 percent since President Obama took office.

President Obama’s calculated scheme 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.  This Administration has shamelessly sought to persuade those that reject personal responsibility, those who insist that hard-working taxpayers support them, and those that insist it is their right to collect so-called welfare entitlements.  This is nothing but a shameless reelection strategy that a growing number of the American people are rejecting. In fact, a recent poll showed that an overwhelming 83 percent of Americans support the welfare work requirements that President Obama is targeting.

I was elected by the people of Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District cut government spending, reduce the size and scope of Washington, and keep taxes low.  I strongly oppose the decision by the Obama Administration to weaken the TANF work requirements and essentially gut the welfare reforms because weakening these reforms will take our nation in the exact wrong direction.  My colleagues and I in the House of Representatives will do all that we can do to ensure that welfare recipients receive the necessary assistance, but that the work requirements remain in place to make welfare, as Former President Clinton states, a “second chance, not a way of life.”