Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stimulus or Welfare Bill?

We're heading back to square one....

The tons of pork in the Stimulus Bill are now starting to perfume the air with their stench, but a potentially even more egregious aspect of the Bill is it's reestablishment of unlimited life on welfare.  The Democrats have moved back to square one on creating the environment that could enable a multi-generational class of citizenry to once again become totally dependent on Government support - Welfare.

Benjamin Sasse and Kerry Weems report in today's Wall Street Journal that the liberating provision of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, signed into law by President Clinton, which eliminated the previous open-ended entitlement capability that had existed since 1965, by replacing it with a finite, block grant approach called the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.  TANF reduced welfare cases from 12.6 million in 1997 to fewer than five million in 2007.

As a result of TANF, welfare recipients are limited to a total of five years of federal benefits over a lifetime. They're also required to begin working after two years of government support. States are accountable for helping their needy citizens transition from handouts to self-sufficiency. Critically, the funds provided to states are fixed appropriations by the federal government.
"Through a little noticed provision of the stimulus package that has passed the House of Representatives, the bill creates a fund for TANF that is open-ended -- the same way Medicare and Social Security are.
In the section of the House bill dealing with cash assistance to low-income families, the authors inserted the bombshell phrase: "such sums as are necessary." This is a profound departure from the current statutory scheme, despite the fact that, in this particular bill, state TANF spending would be capped. The "such sums" appropriation language is deliberately obscure. It is a camel's nose provision intended to reverse Clinton-era legislation and create a new template for future TANF reauthorizations."

Although this language is not in the Senate version of the Bill passed yesterday, it may well be sneaked back into the final Bill.  The three Republicans who voted for the Bill yesterday, Susan Collins, Olympia Snow, and Arlen Spector, should watch for this provision's reinsertion in the final Bill.  If snuck back in, this may provide even them with a reason to vote no....Welfare reform was one of the most significant accomplishment of the 1990's, and the potential reestablishment of this "crack' for our citizens would be an outrage.


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