Last week, Barack Obama proved again that the presidential pen is mightier than both the lawmaking authority of Congress and the will of the people.
On July 12, his Department of Health and Human Services ripped the very soul from “Workfare,” the hallmark welfare reform act of the Clinton administration. The agency released a policy directive that, according to The Foundry’s Robert Rector and Kiki Bradley, “guts the federal work requirements that were the foundation of the reform law. The Obama directive bludgeons the letter and intent of the actual reform legislation.”
Essentially, the new directive allows individual states to define “work” for purposes of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, known as Workfare. In the past, states have attempted to call hula dancing, attending Weight Watchers meetings and being put on bed rest “work” for purposes of the act. Their attempts were always thwarted by federal work standards. Thanks to the new policy directive, those federal standards will no longer exist, and from here on out, anything goes.
The reason for the change is unclear. Workfare had always been considered, for the most part, an effective program. Six years after its enactment, the Heritage Foundation reported that poverty numbers dropped significantly, especially among minorities. Both hunger and welfare caseloads were also cut in half.
This isn’t the Obama administration’s first attempt to get more Americans covered under at least some form of public assistance. It expanded entitlements to the point where one in six Americans receive public assistance, earning Obama a new name, coined by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: “the food stamp president.” Rather than meet these charges head on, the administration has stepped up efforts to enroll more people in the federal food stamp program, utilizing both radio and TV ads.
While the administration has been boosting efforts to remove the stigma that often accompanies public assistance, the president has been trying to turn the tables, making it seem as if America’s movers and shakers are to blame. He ramped up these efforts in his Osawatomie, Kan., speech in December, when he called upon the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt to suggest the wealthy aren’t paying “their fair share.” This theme continued in his State of the Union address the following month, and he’s been hanging his hat on it ever since.
This “class warfare” narrative finally reached a fevered pitch this week, when, while off teleprompter at a Roanoke, Va., fire station, the president said, “If you got a business, you didn’t build that. Someone else made that happen.”
I once heard that a “gaffe” in Washington-speak is when a politician accidentally reveals his true thoughts. One can only assume that the president believes the world would be a better place filled with hula dancers and bed-resters — so long as the movers and shakers stick around to pay the bills.
In the following clip, the hosts of “The Five” discuss greed, class warfare and the administration’s dismantling of Clinton’s welfare reform act.
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