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Welfare Reform in a Jobless Economy

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Posted on Aug 24, 2011
Wikimedia Commons via Miller-McCune

Bill Clinton signs the Welfare Reform Act of 1996.

Although the recession has increased demand for social programs such as food stamps, welfare rolls have not kept pace with the drastic increase in human misery. Long story short: Welfare reform, launched 15 years ago in a booming economy, broke the system, which is not working in a time when jobs are hard to come by.


Reform came with a change in culture, Loprest said, both on the part of state agencies that actively sought to limit enrollment and on the part of would-be participants, who shied from the stigma of public assistance and the declining value of its benefits. Assistance has remained flat since 1996, meaning it’s now worth less in inflation-adjusted dollars.

In 1996, more than 80 percent of families eligible for the program enrolled in it. By 2005, that figure had fallen to 40 percent. In some states, the caseload decline during the recession has simply been an extension of that trend. The data have varied dramatically by state, as welfare reform’s new block grant formula gave individual states much greater control over how they operate the program. In 2009, 80 percent of poor families in California participated. In Texas, 8 percent did.

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By nf, August 25, 2011 at 11:19 am Link to this comment


Well you got me, my 5th grade education betrayed me once again.

Did you ever consider that a 16 year old girl is akin to an extortionist/terrorist ?  This type of human being occupies a unique place in our society. She can, at will, decide not
only to become pregnant and give birth to a child she cannot provide for,  but also place the burden of feeding, housing, doctoring, educating and jailing said offspring on the
rest of us. This all the while as she takes whatever funds she can get her hands on and
ink her body with tattoos that will in no doubt limit any employment opportunities that
might have been available, and spend the rest on chemicals to make her feel better.
Now, you may take this as being anti feminist, I on the other hand, present this as
merely an example of how the taxpayers are forced to clean up the mess created by all
of your enlightened progressive institutions. I don’t blame you, you’re simply lacking in
what we 5th graders call street smarts.

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By kerryrose, August 25, 2011 at 10:12 am Link to this comment


You are describing the current system in all its simplicity.  TANF provides for the needy in measured doses because its temporary and because it is employment-based.  No work - no money.  It attempts to dictate morality by punishing parents and children.

A truly enlightened and progressive institution that allows the poor to change their circumstance and does not exacerbate and worsen it.  (That is sarcasm, nf, since you do not seem perceptive enough to notice without being told.)

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By Lew Dunbar, August 25, 2011 at 9:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I sometimes get the impression that you bleeding hearts forget that these women have these children in poverty because they chose to have intercourse. Here is some advice for females that want to avoid/escape poverty: quit having intercourse when you have no money.

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By nf, August 25, 2011 at 6:02 am Link to this comment

The only way to make welfare better is to change it in a very basic way. The system should certainly meet the basic needs of the truly needy, but must administer to those needs in measured doses. It should make the poor rethink the idea that they can continue to have children with no realistic way to provide for them, and take for granted that the great middle class will see to all of their needs plus plus. Only when welfare is seen as a disaster in one’s life will one try to avoid it at all costs.

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By kerryrose, August 25, 2011 at 5:39 am Link to this comment

There is no Welfare anymore.  It is call TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.  TANF is always a temporary support and is only given if the participant accepts any low-wage job.  Even in the 90’s when it was possible to get low-wage jobs often the jobs were not nearby.  Women had to leave at 6am and take a bus to a minimum wage jog that was 2-hours away.  There was no childcare at all or from 7-9 and 5-7 durning the communte hours.  Children were shuffled around or stayed home alone during these hours.

What TANF did, for those who propose how great it was but really have no clue, was break-up families, abandon low-income children, and lock mothers into an unskilled slavery from which it was impossible to escape.

Now, there are not even minimum wage jobs, so 80% of people eligable for assistance can not get it.  Many single mothers choose to live in dire poverty rather than abandon their children.  It is always easy for the privileged to dismiss the love and needs of low-income mothers and children, and view the situation from rational ‘economic’ terms, but that economizing of our society has been its biggest downfall.

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By prisnersdilema, August 24, 2011 at 9:08 pm Link to this comment

Bill Clinton, accomplished for the Republican party, a goal that had long eluded them.

It marked the Demarcation, much like Kennedy’s assasination, of when the Democractic party, began to accept Republican delusions, for it’s own.

To Clinton’s shame, welfare Reform was supposed, to work by beginning a national campaign of child support enforcement, to make up for the cuts in welfare.

Instead what happened is that states were rewarded with huge federal grants in a 50 to 1 ratio for every dollar in child support they collected. This created an incentive to collect the highest possible child support orders, against middle class men. No consideration was made as to whether or not support orders left the non custodial parent with the ability to put food on the table or a roof over his or her head. 

Subsequenlty, many millions of middle class families were destroyed, the poverty rate for children increased, and men found themselves in jail, without any due process. While through adminstrative law they were dispossed of all their worldly possessions, future income, and the ability to support themselves.

The states gladly used their new found income not to help children, but to enrich those holding enforcement contracts, and the courts that prosecuted so called dead beat dads. Despite, claims that it was done to help children, no federal grant money that they recieved was ever spent on children. 

Thus Clinton single handedly plunged millions of people into poverty by ending Welfare, and contributed to the destruction of middle class homes, by creating incentives for divorce, and eliminating the right of due process for men caught in the system. Leading to hundreds of thousands of adminstrative incarcerations, as well as suicides.

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