Last Thursday, the Obama Administration quietly issued new bureaucratic rules that overturned the popular welfare reform law of 1996. This was an illegal move, and it completely undoes years of progress that helped millions of Americans.
What Welfare Reform Accomplished
The 1996 reform replaced the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with a new program called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). At the core of the TANF program were new federal work standards that required able-bodied welfare recipients to work, prepare for work, or at least look for work as a condition for receiving aid. Welfare reform turned “welfare” into “workfare.”
Under the old, pre-reform AFDC program, welfare was a one-way handout: Government mailed checks to recipients who did nothing in return. Reform changed that. The new TANF program was based on fairness and reciprocal responsibility: Taxpayers continued to provide aid, but beneficiaries were required, in exchange, to engage in constructive behavior to increase self-sufficiency and reduce dependence.