The NY Times today runs a piece analyzing the landmark 1996 welfare reform legislation and its still lingering effects:
Ten years after a Republican Congress collaborated with a Democratic president to overhaul the nation’s welfare system, the implications are still rippling through policy and politics.
The law, which reversed six decades of social welfare policy and ended the idea of free cash handouts for the poor, was widely seen as a victory for conservative ideas. When it was passed, some opponents offered dire predictions that the law would make things worse for the poor. But the number of people on welfare has plunged to 4.4 million, down 60 percent. Employment of single mothers is up. Child support collections have nearly doubled.
“We have been vindicated by the results,” said Representative E. Clay Shaw Jr., Republican of Florida and an architect of the 1996 law who was vilified at the time. “Welfare reform was one of the most successful policy changes in our nation’s history.”
In an interview, former President Bill Clinton said he was “more convinced than ever” that he had been right to sign the bill, after vetoing two earlier versions that he had seen as too harsh.
“The bill has done far more good than harm,” Mr. Clinton said. “Most of the people who got jobs are still working.”
When the 1996 law was passed, Democrats like Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, liberal advocacy groups like the Children’s Defense Fund and liberal academics predicted that it would increase child poverty, hunger and homelessness. The predictions were not fulfilled.
For much more on this from the Heritage Foundation, watch Welfare Reform at 10: Marking the Milestone. Also, read The Impact of Welfare Reform, by Robert Rector.