Obama’s Latest Power Grab... Rewriting Welfare Reform Law
One has to give the president credit. Normally when he attempts to seize power that is beyond the scope of the executive branch, he does it late on Friday with an eye toward diminished media coverage.
His latest grab came on Thursday, albeit with little fanfare. A policy directive issued by his Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) act, better known as “welfare reform.”
The fundamental concept underlying TANF, which won bipartisan support under the Bill Clinton presidency, was its requirement that able-bodied adults work, or at least prepare for work, as a condition of receiving financial aid from the federal government.
How successful was the program? In 1996, the year it was signed into law, more than 12 million families were on the welfare rolls, the poverty rate was 11%, and the unemployment rate was 5.4%.
The following year, the number of caseloads dropped to just over 10 million, the poverty rate fell nearly a full point, and unemployment dropped to 4.9%. By 2000, the number of families on welfare had fallen to below 5.8 million, the poverty rate was 8.7%, and the unemployment rate was at 4%.
The revision by the Obama White House seeks to override the work requirement via the Secretary’s “waiver authority under section 1115 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1315)."
Although it is true that section 1115 allows HHS to “waive compliance” with specified parts of various laws, it is does not grant a carte blanche.
Rather, all provisions of the law that can be overridden under section 1115 must appear within section 1115 itself. But the work requirement, which is contained in section 407, does not, meaning that its provisions can’t be waived. Apart from the legality of the move, several bigger question arise.
First, why does the administration want to tinker with a program that has a proven track record of success?
Second, how does waiving the welfare-to-work requirement square with the president’s demand that every American do his “fair share”?
Third, and perhaps most compelling, how does Obama explain his continued flouting of Congressional authority when one of his biggest gripes as senator was President George W. Bush's own power grabs?
Howard Portnoy - July 14, 2012 - Examiner