Welfare Reform Not a Disaster ? Part II

Robert Waldmann

I argued that the conventional view that welfare reform was a success is based on the coincidence that the economy boomed right after welfare war reformed, the journalists stopped paying attention, not noticing the following increase in severe poverty during the Bush non boom.

Now we are in a severe recession. How is the reformed welfare system working ? According to Jason DeParle’s article in the New York Times it is a disaster.

WASHINGTON — Despite soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis in decades, 18 states cut their welfare rolls last year, and nationally the number of people receiving cash assistance remained at or near the lowest in more than 40 years.

The trends, based on an analysis of new state data collected by The New York Times, raise questions about how well a revamped welfare system with great state discretion is responding to growing hardships.

DeParle doesn’t theorize, but I can’t help guessing that states are tossing people off welfare, because they are under budgetary pressure and the very poor are very politically weak. Some might believe that TANF should be eliminated, but I don’t see how anyone can defend the present system which gives less assistance when there is more need and presses people harder to get jobs when it is much more nearly impossible for them to find them.

DeParle does note that “The economic stimulus bills pending in Congress would provide matching grants — estimated at $2.5 billion over two years — to states with caseload expansions.” Oh wow, if matched by state funds that would be even more than $600 per year per recipient. Time to open a cadillac dealership.