President Obama‘s administration announced last week they were going to drop the “workfare” requirements, established during President Bill Clinton’s administration, that have defined welfare for the last 15-odd years.
Although former Speaker Newt Gingrich blasted the decision as “exactly the wrong values,”compared to the outcry over Obama’s other unilateral decisions, conservatives have been mostly muted. For example, when Obama announced his decision decision to create a pseudo-Dream Act via memo, the conservative movement erupted with righteous indignation. But there has been relatively little outrage over the welfare change, and that is a bit surprising.
Conservatives, after all, spent decades working to reform welfare, and establishing work as the cornerstone of social welfare spending was a shining achievement of the 1990s. It was fiscally responsible, highly popular, morally appropriate, fundamentally conservative, and even bipartisan.
So the fact that this is going largely unheeded by the conservative movement is disconcerting.
I do hope, however, that conservatives will unite behind Michigan Rep. Dave Camp and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who have introduced legislation that limits the power of the administration to dismantle the ‘workfare’ program.
Here’s a statement from Hatch on Obama’s decision:
Gutting welfare work requirements with the stroke of a pen and without congressional input is simply unacceptable and cannot be allowed to stand,” said Hatch. “Neither the Obama Administration nor any Administration should have the power to unilaterally change the law as it sees fit. Work requirements were an essential part of the landmark 1996 Welfare Reform law and shouldn’t be scrapped at the whim of Washington bureaucrats. This legislation restores critical welfare work requirements so Congress can thoroughly and thoughtfully examine the TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] program in a way that balances states concerns, while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used to get people off welfare and on a path to self-sufficiency. If the Administration is so sure that they have the authority to waive TANF work requirements, why are they dragging their feet in responding to Congress with the legal reasoning behind this action?
The presidential race taking place right now is largely about the economy — but conservatives should remember the chief difference between competing worldviews. This is a longstanding difference, and on this, our president quite clearly thinks government is consistently the answer to our society’s problems.
To which conservatives should respond: