July 14th, 2012

Obama reforms welfare reform: because he can

Mickey Kaus points out a recent action of Obama’s that’s been flying under the radar, and deserves a lot more attention:

Here are some quick initial reactions to the administration’s apparent surprising (and possibly illegal) attempt to grant waivers of the work requirements written, after great effort, into the 1996 welfare reform law…

The Democrat’s 2009 stimulus bill changed the incentives of the 1996 reform by once again rewarding states that expanded their welfare rolls…Rector and Bradley of Heritage (among the first to attack Obama’s action) make the case that the law’s work requirements were specifically designed to not be waivable, and that Obama is using HHS’s authority to waive state reporting requirements as a tricky way of voiding the underlying substantive requirements that are to be reported about. The Heritage argument–that what HHS did was illegal–seems powerful, but I haven’t read the other side’s brief. Perhaps Obama is invoking the long-lost “we can’t wait” clause to enact a change that would never pass a democratically elected Congress–in this case not because Congress is “gridlocked” and and “dysfunctional” and “partisan” but because relaxing work requirements has never been popular with voters…

HHS’s rationale is not the recession, but the alleged need to find “new more effective ways to meet the goals of [the reformed welfare program], particularly helping parents successfully prepare for, find, and retain employment.” In short, job prep, counseling and training…Job training for welfare recipients always sounds good–instead of making a single mom take a dead end $10/hr job, why not let her stay on the dole while she gets a degree that will let her land a higher paying position? The problem is that if you let single moms mix welfare and training that will encourage more single moms to go on welfare in the first place–sign up, and we’ll pay you to go to community college! The rolls might grow, not shrink…

Read the whole thing.

Kaus wonders why Obama is doing this because, after all, it’s not a move designed to be popular with a lot of voters. I offer the following:

(1) The move may not be wildly popular, but it’s certainly popular among Obama’s base, for that all-important election turnout. And I don’t know why Kaus labels the move “surprising,” because Obama has long criticized the original law, and in the late 90s he vowed to “use all the resources at his disposal to undo it.”

(1) So now he’s got a lot more resources at his disposal; he’s doing this because he can. Obama has a history of going around Congress, though czars and agencies and executive decisions that bypass the stated will of the people and have so far been largely unchallenged. Here he’s experimenting with pushing the envelope even more, and if re-elected (and especially if Congress is Republican and refuses to go along with his wishes), expect to see a lot more of this.

(2) Obama’s general goal is always to foster greater government dependence for greater numbers of people.

(3) There may be a Cloward-Piven agenda here, as well. Recall that the original thrust of Cloward-Piven involved overburdening the welfare system, and have no doubt that Obama is very, very familiar with this sort of technique:

The [Cloward-Piven] strategy was formulated in a May 1966 article in left-wing magazine The Nation titled “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty”.

Cloward and Piven…were critical of the public welfare system, and their strategy called for overloading that system to force a different set of policies to address poverty. They stated that many Americans who were eligible for welfare were not receiving benefits, and that a welfare enrollment drive would strain local budgets, precipitating a crisis at the state and local levels that would be a wake-up call for the federal government, particularly the Democratic Party, thus forcing it to implement a national solution to poverty. Cloward and Piven wrote that “the ultimate objective of this strategy [would be] to wipe out poverty by establishing a guaranteed annual income…” There would also be side consequences of this strategy, according to Cloward and Piven. These would include: easing the plight of the poor in the short-term (through their participation in the welfare system); shoring up support for the national Democratic Party then-splintered by pluralist interests (through its cultivation of poor and minority constituencies by implementing a national solution to poverty); and relieving local governments of the financially and politically onerous burdens of public welfare (through a national solution to poverty)…

Michael Reisch and Janice Andrews wrote that Cloward and Piven “proposed to create a crisis in the current welfare system – by exploiting the gap between welfare law and practice – that would ultimately bring about its collapse and replace it with a system of guaranteed annual income. They hoped to accomplish this end by informing the poor of their rights to welfare assistance, encouraging them to apply for benefits and, in effect, overloading an already overburdened bureaucracy.

Whatever Obama’s motives might be, Romney is not ignoring this, even thought the MSM may be. Here’s his response, which I hope will be followed by more:

Friday morning, with Obama’s action still largely unreported, Romney released a statement…

“President Obama now wants to strip the established work requirements from welfare,” Romney said. “The success of bipartisan welfare reform, passed under President Clinton, has rested on the obligation of work. The president’s action is completely misdirected. Work is a dignified endeavor, and the linkage of work and welfare is essential to prevent welfare from becoming a way of life.”

I hope it will be followed by more hard-hitting emphasis on what’s going on here by the Romney campaign.

[NOTE: Meanwhile, this new brouhaha is somewhat related.]

27 Responses to “Obama reforms welfare reform: because he can”

  1. Gary Rosen Says:

    I hope Romney hits this hard. The enactment of welfare reform under Clinton is a big reason the Dems are even a viable national party right now. Whatever else one may think of Clinton, he understood the politics here which is why he bucked the Democrat establishment to pass welfare reform, of course with a Republican congress.

  2. LisaM Says:

    I’m glad to see Romney calling him out on this stuff. With this guy, there could be so many reasons to do this. This one kind of feels like a jab at Bill Clinton. “Undermine my campaign? I’ll undo your signature bipartison accomplishment with a stroke of my pen.” Or he’s just thumbing his nose at conservatives by doing the one thing guaranteed to make every one of us angry – because he can. Or maybe he’s just trying to do as much damage as possible in case he loses in November. Or, he needs to open up a few jobs for those illegal aliens he’ll be issuing work permits to.

    It’s going to take years to undo all of this. Let’s make sure we get to start unraveling in 2013, not 2017.

  3. rickl Says:

    And where the hell is Congress? Why don’t they strike down these usurpations of power?

    Face it: Obama is a dictator. Congress is behaving like deer in the headlights, and is thus enabling him.

  4. texexec Says:

    I shudder to think what Obama will do if reelected and has no need to restrain himself to get a third term.

    I’m glad that Romney called him out on this but I do think the wording wasn’t as effective as it could have been. It’s worded like it’s meant for the board of directors of Bain or readers and commenters here at Neoneocon (in other words sophisticated and intelligent).

    It should be more concrete and simply worded for the average guy or gal on the street.

    Should have been more along these lines:

    “President Obama just removed the requirement that a person have work, be looking for work or be training for work before receiving a welfare check. This encourages persons to not work and become a drain on both Democrats and Republicans who do work. This highly successful, bipartisan law was passed under President Clinton.”

  5. Artfldgr Says:

    Mentioned this in the thread you edited…

  6. Darrell Says:

    More pandering to his base, I think they believe they can use this to show the mean republicans as harsh to the poor people, in usual tone deafness, they fail to realize that this was hugely popular with the electorate at the time and probably still is, I hope. It will be interesting to see Clinton’s reaction.
    On a positive note, this could help employers, now people applying for work will be the ones actually looking for work, with the ones getting the block checked for welfare requirements removed.

  7. Occam's Beard Says:

    It should be more concrete and simply worded for the average guy or gal on the street.

    Agreed. Romney should, like Sherlock Holmes striking the Addison’s viper in <The Speckled Band, turn the snake of division and class warfare around on the malefactor.

    “We all know times are tough, and we all know why, and yet the author of these tough times, the man at whose door the blame belongs, is now trying to place a still heavier burden on already overburdened hard-working Americans. And he’s doing it solely for political gain.

    No one minds helping out those who need a hand, but those receiving help need to meet us halfway. A Democratic President, Bill Clinton, joined with a Republican Congress to place a work requirement on those receiving welfare. Both Bill Clinton and Congress saw that that was only fair. Why should some people take it easy and receive free money to live off the work of others, who are themselves struggling to make ends meet? It’s unfair, and un-American, and will not happen in my Administration.”

    Something like that.

  8. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Well said, O.B.

    This is akin to the index finger aside the nose that Obama uses just because he can. If this is widely reported, (Which I doubt that it will be except in the alternative media.) it will assure that more independents will see him for what he is.

    By the way, neo, this is an outstanding rendering of the issue. I plan to copy and paste it in an email to all my correspondents. With proper attribution and a link to your blog of course.

  9. n.n Says:

    Obama has access to trillions of dollars in order to effect progressive corruption. Presumably, he is supported by a large minority who have elected to exchange their (and every other American’s) liberty for submission with benefits.

  10. Mr. Frank Says:

    One can hope that Bill Clinton will be pissed off enough to undo Obama.

  11. KLSmith Says:

    Mickey Kaus is an interesting but curious fellow. A Democrat with contrarian views (for his party) on illegal immigration and teachers/public employees unions, yet he still advocates for social “equality”.
    If you read his whole piece it seems he mostly blames this on a guy named Mark Greenberg, not Obama.
    It’s perplexing – he seems like a guy honestly questioning the liberal CW but still churns out pieces that could have been written by a fellow traveler.

  12. texexec Says:

    “This is akin to the index finger aside the nose that Obama uses just because he can.”

    Don’t think that’s his index finger, J.J. 🙂

  13. texexec Says:


    Your wording is great. You should apply to be a speech writer for Romney. Seems his staff needs some help.

  14. baklava Says:

    I agree with what you wrote but there is one overriding factor.

    This change puts a large segment of unemployed people in the unreported U6 category. This means that the reported U12 category will shrink and the lapdog media will report that unemployment is down.

  15. baklava Says:

    Sorry. I meant u3

  16. baklava Says:

    Anyways… Totally calculated to manipulate unemployment stats before the election

  17. Don Carlos Says:

    The takers will conquer the makers.
    If one is not actively working against the Dems and BHO, one is part of the problem.
    Neo’s doing her part. I’m doing my Tea Party best, which includes badgering my “conservative” GOP rep and his staff.
    Y’all go do your share.
    We’ve all gotta bail or this vessel goes down.

  18. Francesca Says:

    I hope someone can help me understand where the President gets the power to undermine a duly voted upon and passed law; to refuse to implement a passed law; to pronounce executive orders whenever he feels like it; to hire Czars who have the power to make regulations without being accountable to anyone other than Obama. I simply cannot understand how these things can happen under our system. Doesn’t the Congress have the power to limit or stop these actions? Thank you for any information.

  19. rickl Says:

    Francesca Says:
    July 14th, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    I simply cannot understand how these things can happen under our system. Doesn’t the Congress have the power to limit or stop these actions?

    They certainly do. Apparently, they choose to look the other way.

  20. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    texexec: “Don’t think that’s his index finger, J.J. ”
    You’re right! What was I thinking? Middle finger salute would have been better. Well, at least you got my drift.

  21. Occam's Beard Says:

    Your wording is great. You should apply to be a speech writer for Romney. Seems his staff needs some help.

    Texexec, thank you for your kind comment. In the unlikely case that the opportunity should arise, I’d be pleased to help turn the Red tide in any small way I can.

  22. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Occam’s, Romney’s site to contact him with suggestions is here:

    Go, man!

  23. LisaM Says:

    Occam, I encourage you to contact Romney’s campaign. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, I offer my own experience. I posted an idea for a Romney commercial on another thread here. It was to use video/audio of Obama ridiculing Hillary for including a mandate in her health-care plan. A commenter encouraged me to send it to Romney. I did, and a week or so later, they came out with a commercial that was almost word-for-word what I had sent. Probably coincidence, but there’s a minute chance that they used my idea. It can’t hurt. And, after reading your posts for a couple of years, I can say that your ideas and wording are much better than mine.

  24. Curtis Says:

    I contacted Romney’s compaign. I’m in California, so, well, whatever I do in a volunteer way I hope will make an impact. Wouldn’t that be awesome to see California go Romney.

    I met Dov Fisher yesterday. He is a rabbi who writes occasional articles for American Thinker. He is one smart person. But that’s not what comes through as much as an aura of kindness and goodness. You know when you meet someone and you can just tell because their whole focus is on you?

    It was a Shabbat morning service and the weekly portion of Torah was about a man who had killed a man who was citing open rebellion against G-d. Now, this was a special case and the lesson isn’t that orthodox Jews should go around spearing people. But they should maintain a standard which is not apologetic and which calls all Jews to a fuller and deeper committment. In other words, there’s only so much deviation possible until G-d’s discipline asserts itself.

    Rabbi Fisher related how there was this prominent Jewish sociologist, who, in the sixties stated there weren’t going to even be any Orthodox Jews by 2000.

    He was wrong. Today they number about 30% of the Jewish community. And consider their repopulation numbers, in 40 years, they will be 60%. The behavior of selfish people (and selfish may mean rational) is not conducive to “mulitply and fill the earth.”

    Here’s a guy I like:

    The attempt made in recent decades by secularist thinkers to disengage the moral principles of western civilization from their scripturally based religious context, in the assurance that they could live a life of their own as “humanistic” ethics, has resulted in our “cut flower culture.” Cut flowers retain their original beauty and fragrance, but only so long as they retain the vitality that they have drawn from their now-severed roots; after that is exhausted, they wither and die. So with freedom, brotherhood, justice, and personal dignity — the values that form the moral foundation of our civilization. Without the life-giving power of the faith out of which they have sprung, they possess neither meaning nor vitality.”‘ –Will Herberg

  25. Occam's Beard Says:

    I’m flattered, but if you really think so … I’ll give it a shot!

  26. Curtis Says:

    Damn straight, OC. It’s your second career. However, to mean it you have to write a letter for Johnathon Pollard’s release.

    Kidding. Just kidding.

  27. Artfldgr Says:

    the slogan!!!

    Try OB and your sure!!!

    wait… isnt that taken already?

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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