One of the great accomplishments of Bill Clinton was the welfare reform passed with his conservative Congress. By instituting a work requirement to receive benefits, many freeloading off the system were forced off the dole and into employment.
By every measurement, reform was a success, both reducing those receiving aid and reducing poverty (as Reagan once said, the best antipoverty program is a job).
The Obama administration was able to use the recent financial crisis to relax requirements for receiving aid, which may have made sense for a brief period. However, after the Department of Agriculture removed the work requirement for food stamps, it wasn’t until 2013 that states began to re-institute their work requirements.
One of the first states to reverse Obama’s policy was Kansas. And as the results show, other states should follow their lead if they care about the economy.
As the Daily Caller reports on the findings from the Foundation for Government Accountability:
“These reforms immediately freed nearly 13,000 Kansans from welfare,” the report detailed. “Nearly 60 percent of those leaving food stamps found employment within 12 months and their incomes rose by an average of 127 percent per year. That higher income more than offset the food stamps they lost, increasing economic activity and bringing in new resources for other state priorities.”
Other states were slow to follow Kansas, nevertheless they have begun reinstating food stamp work requirements, too. In 2015, 40 states still had the requirements waived, but 23 of those states started 2016 by reinstating them. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities warned Jan. 21 the policy shift was damaging because it meant 500,000 people will lose benefits.
“Long-term welfare caused severe damage,” the reported continued. “The data shows that the less time these able-bodied adults spend on welfare, the quicker they can get back into the workforce once they are freed from welfare and the more money they will make.”
Food stamp recipients usually have three months to find a job or enroll in federally-approved training programs. Since the 23 states reinstated their requirements in January, the full impact of the decision will not be felt until at least March, but probably later.
It may have been reasonable to temporary remove work requirements in a time when one cannot be reasonably expected to go out and find a job — but that recession was nearly a decade ago. It’s important to judge policies by both their intentions and their results, and the results of Obama’s welfare policy has been the undoing of successful Clinton-era reform.
[Note: This post was authored by The Analytical Economist]