Welfare Reform at 20: What We’ve Learned About Fighting Poverty | The Daily Signal


Two decades ago, President Bill Clinton signed one of the most successful public policies into law — welfare reform. It was called the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act – and its results were dramatic. Welfare rolls plummeted by 60 percent. Employment among low-income Americans surged. And poverty rates for single mothers dropped to historic lows. You would think such success would encourage lawmakers to apply the lesson learned to other programs. Unfortunately, Washington doesn’t usually work that way. Only a handful of our country’s 80 means tested welfare programs actually require recipients to work. And such requirements are what separate those who truly need assistance from those who don’t. When we don’t require able-bodied adults to work or even prepare for work, we’re discouraging them from entering the job market and achieving independence. And equally important, we’re diverting assistance and attention from those who truly need it. And the majority of Americans support such a policy – almost 90 percent agree with the following statement: The next round of welfare reform may be on the horizon and two members of Congress who are on the right policy path are Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. One of the keys to developing good policy is ensuring we measure poverty correctly from the get-go. Some critics of welfare reform have claimed it actually increased the number of people living in extreme poverty. Extreme poverty being defined as those Americans living on less than two dollars a day. But is that actually true? Let’s look at the facts: According to the most recent government survey, the majority of families designated as living in alleged “extreme poverty” owned cell phones, DVD players, or computers. Only one percent said they did not have enough food to eat. And when you factor in other assistance these families are receiving, such as food stamps, the number of families considered “extremely poor” drops by almost half. For every 4,469 families with children in the United States, only one lives in extreme poverty. And while one is too many, the government data shows that the number of extraordinarily poor families is far lower in America today than it was before welfare reform was enacted – and that is especially true for single parents with children who were most directly impacted by the 1996 law. Finally, welfare programs have not only discouraged work, they have discouraged marriage. Almost every one of the 80 federal programs incentivize recipients not to get married. Marriage is the greatest protector against child poverty. Children born to a married mother and father are 80 percent less likely to be poor than those in single-parent homes. And that means than any meaningful legislation to fight poverty must end the discrimination against marriage currently embedded in our welfare laws. Twenty years ago, a democratic president and republican Congress came together to do the right thing in helping our nation’s poor – but we still have a very long way to go.

One Comment

  1. Lulu Chin said:

    It is all a way to buy votes. Vote for me and I will give you something for free meaning I will take your neighbor's property and redistribute it to you. Communist Philosophy.

    August 23, 2016
    Reply

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