American Elephants

Poverty, and How To Fix It. by The Elephant's Child

Best Headline of the Month: by The Elephant's Child

Syria threatens to use WMD which are
figment of neocons’ imagination

William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has great fun reporting on everybody’s comments on current affairs in Syria.  Well, not everybody—just all the liberals, and the Assad regime.  Do read the whole thing.

There Are Limits to What a President Can Do— It’s Called the Constitution. by The Elephant's Child

Kathleen Sebelius’ HHS recently issued an “Information Memorandum” that eased the requirements of the 1996 welfare -reform law. The administration claims that they are simply tweaking the hugely popular and successful law. Opponents believe that the memorandum is intended to shred a bill that was carefully written, passed and reauthorized by an elected Congress.  Kathleen “Waiver Queen”Sebelius is once again inviting interested states to apply for waivers to the welfare-reform law, allowing them to “test alternative and innovative strategies, policies and procedures” to “improve employment outcome.” Uh huh.

The Secretary is interested in using her authority “to challenge states to engage in a new round of innovation that seeks to find more effective mechanisms for helping families succeed in employment.” Doesn’t that sound innocuous.

Aid to Families with Dependent Children was the welfare program introduced by Lyndon Johnson in 1964.  Under AFDC a welfare check had become an entitlement, available to any poor mother with no obvious means of support. It had been intended to help widowed and abandoned mothers, but over time, never-married mothers came to dominate the welfare rolls and to stay there, often for decades. It was encouraging mothers to be dependent and encouraging absent fathers to be absent.

When it became apparent that generations of young mothers were becoming welfare-dependent. policymakers tried an assortment of demonstration projects to reduce the welfare rolls. They involved job-training, education, assorted support services, but the only thing that worked— what got people off of welfare— was getting a job.

The 1996 Welfare Reform — Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) —centered on the principle of “work first.” Welfare offices would become job-search centers and time on government assistance would be limited to five years. Liberals believed that this approach would create homeless, abandoned children, malnutrition and extreme poverty. They fought it fiercely. When Bill Clinton signed the bill, several top official at HHS resigned in protest. What happened was startling to the poverty pushers. Mothers went to work in record numbers, black child poverty sank to its lowest rate in history, and way lower than it had been before reform. Welfare rolls plummeted. But a stubborn group of anti-welfare reform activists in academia, government and the nonprofit sector remained convinced that “work first” led to dead-end jobs and damaged individual ambition and talent.  Government owed the needy more support services.

WalMart worked with the welfare reform program (TANF), giving jobs to new workers. There was an enormous outcry at the time because WalMart was helping former welfare mothers to get their government-paid health care. Liberals assumed that WalMart was taking advantage of welfare mothers and then refusing to pay for their health care. But the government required them to keep government health care for at least the first year. WalMart promotes from within, and those who work hard can not only progress, but share in the company’s prosperity.

The benign-seeming encouragement of waivers rings alarm bells for everyone familiar with the program. The poverty-promoters want people on welfare and dependent on the government where government can keep track of them, and of course, make sure they are getting benefits. Some believe that the “work first” group have won the ideological battle. If the HHS document is intended to loosen work requirements, it may violate the law. But given the lasting popularity of the law, it would seem unlikely that the administration would risk expanding welfare. Certainly no state wants their welfare rolls to grow.

OTOH, Obama has been active in attempting to change—by executive action—laws that he doesn’t like. The domestic policy staff doesn’t believe in “work first;” they want education, job training and support. Obama keeps talking ‘job training’ even though all efforts so far have been failures.

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, who helped to write the 1996 law, says this legal maneuver clearly violates the letter and intent of the TANF law. Members of Congress agree that a section 1115 waiver cannot modify or weaken TANF’s work requirements. In the past bureaucrats have attempted to define “personal care activities,” “massage,” “motivational reading,” “journaling.” “attending Weight Watchers” and “helping relatives with household tasks” as meeting work requirements.

Obama has increased federal means-tested welfare spending by a third since taking office. Last year federal and state spending hit $927 billion. Overall Obama plans to spend $12.7 trillion on means-tested welfare over the next decade.

No matter how much income Obama attempts to redistribute, it won’t work. Liberals keep trying, but all they produce is misery for everyone. As Tom Sowell said “What do the poor most need? They need to stop being poor. And how can that be done on a mass scale except by an economy that creates more wealth? Yet the political left has long had a remarkable lack of interest in how wealth is created. As far as they are concerned, wealth exists “somehow” and the only interesting question is how to re-distribute it.”

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