Welfare: Don’t Repudiate Resounding Results, Replicate Reform

A new move from the Obama administration would waive work requirements under TANF (cash assistance). Requiring recipients to work was a central provision of the highly successful 1996 welfare reform. In 12 years, half of the national caseload transitioned to jobs.

Unfortunately, work requirements were watered down. Indeed the 2009 federal stimulus rewarded states for expanding welfare rolls, undermining the Clinton-era reforms. Rather than “ending welfare as we know it,” Obama’s latest unilateral action would take us back to where we started.

Rather than repudiating welfare reform, policymakers should extend work requirments to other welfare programs. This includes Medicaid, the largest welfare program—indeed the largest program in the Pennsylvania budget.

Reforms that incentivize work would save money and improve the lives of the poor, ending the cycle of dependency.