Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is one of the United States of America‘s federal assistance programs. It began on July 1, 1997 , and succeeded the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, providing cash assistance to indigent American families with dependent children through the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
TANF was created by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act instituted under PresidentBill Clinton in 1996. The Act provides temporary financial assistance while aiming to get people off of that assistance, primarily through employment. There is a maximum of 60 months of benefits within one’s lifetime, but some states have instituted shorter periods. In enforcing the 60-month time limit, some states place limits on the adult portion of the assistance only, while still aiding the otherwise eligible children in the household.
Way back when in the last century – oh around 1996 BB (Before Bill) – there were large numbers of people who spent their lives living off welfare. This “lifestyle” had been going on for a long time, so that there was even a term, “generational welfare”, coined to describe the phenomenon of successive generations of a family coming of age and hopping onto the welfare rolls. “Grandma was on it, then my mom was on it, and now I and my 5 kids are on it.”
Basically, kids grew up in the system. They observed their other family members and even a large number of their neighbors, content to spend their lives just hanging out, making babies, maybe passing the time with drugs or alcohol. The norm was to collect this money that while “free”, certainly didn’t provide for a very plentiful life. You can imagine that there was not much upward mobility in their lives, or in their neighborhoods, or across successive generations of any given family.
Here’s you in life BB:
I can’t claim to know all of the reasons that Bill chose to make these changes (oh geez, I can hear Newt screaming, “It was ME! I made that happen! I had to FORCE Bill to go along with me!”). I do know, however, that he limited welfare to 5 years, and people had to either do some work (not even full-time) or attend job training classes. Not too much to ask of someone, is it? The idea was to get someone trained in a skill, or get them immediately out there getting some work experience, as a transition between living off welfare and moving into a self-sustaining regular full-time job. It would certainly seem these program revisions would help people start making the changes needed to start climbing the ladder to greater prosperity.
Teaching them HOW to fish, rather than giving them a fish, right?
So, it’s been almost 20 years. What kind of results followed in the years “AB”?
The fundamental concept underlying TANF, which won bipartisan support under the Bill Clinton presidency, was its requirement that able-bodied adults work, or at least prepare for work, as a condition of receiving financial aid from the federal government. How successful was the program? In 1996, the year it was signed into law, more than 12 million families were on the welfare rolls, the poverty rate was 11%, and the unemployment rate was 5.4%. The following year, the number of caseloads dropped to just over 10 million, the poverty rate fell nearly a full point, and unemployment dropped to 4.9%. By 2000, the number of families on welfare had fallen to below 5.8 million, the poverty rate was 8.7%, and the unemployment rate was at 4%.
Now, to be fair, there are multiple ways to measure “success”. The paragraph above utilizes the indices of the decreasing rates of poverty, unemployment, and people on welfare. Other attempts to examine the effect of welfare take a different perspective, for example, by investigating whether the now-gainfully-employed former welfare recipients are any less poor than they used to be – and often they are not, because of the types of industries in which they seek employment (service, etc.). Of course, I think it’s important here to mention that better jobs and higher disposable income are directly related to education/higher training and limiting the amount of children – or shall we say – not having more children than you can afford (financially, emotionally, and time-wise).
In any event, I dare say the children growing up in these families in which the parents are working are more likely to learn from their parents’ modeling, grow up with an expectation of working, and achieve a higher level of success as adults than their own parents did (which used to be the common trajectory of most people’s lives). And maybe one of these days, the majority of our youth will see the benefit of even just their provided high school education, and “graduating” with some actual knowledge! What a concept for a way to improve yourself!
It seems that way back when, BB, democrats had to decide if they wanted to keep their potential voters stuck on the plantation, or did they really want to see them get ahead, ie their words matching their actions? Generational welfare by all accounts was accomplishing the former. Changing the rules to be a bit of a kick in the butt did seem to get people out of their lives of treading water, seemed to get them starting to swim forward toward the first step of a goal with their little fishies following in their wake, maybe sending some ripples out to others who might be observing.
And then Obama lumbered in, with his big stupid smile plastered on his face, like a big bull in a china ship, not having clue ONE about the future ramifications of his actions. What he has now done most definitely makes me wonder if his preference is to keep us all down on the plantation, joyously indebted to the plantation owner and wanting to keep voting for him. What did he do, you ask?
One has to give the president credit. Normally when he attempts to seize power that is beyond the scope of the executive branch, he does it late on Friday with an eye toward diminished media coverage.
….The revision by the Obama White House seeks to override the work requirement via the Secretary’s “waiver authority….
Apart from the legality of the move, several bigger question arise. First, why does the administration want to tinker with a program that has a proven track record of success? Second, how does waiving the welfare-to-work requirement square with the president’s demand that every American do his “fair share”? Third, and perhaps most compelling, how does Obama explain his continued flouting of Congressional authority when one of his biggest gripes as senator was President George W. Bush’s own power grabs?
A friend (h/t jem) passed on a newspaper clipping to me that felt apropos here. I retyped it in order to include it in the post:
Submitted by Billy Fleming
The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing the greatest amount of free meals and food stamps ever.
Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us to “Please Do Not Feed the Animals”.
Their stated reason for the policy is because the animals will grow dependent on the handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.
This ends today’s lesson.
And then of course there’s this ongoing problem:
I don’t think the jury is out on Obama on this topic anymore. But really – how can you teach someone to fish – when you don’t know how to fish yourself? When hard work is anathema to you? When YOUR way of obtaining fish is by cheating?
And what a treat – the “tartar sauce on the fish” is the dismantling one of Bill’s signature achievements. I guess if you can’t be better than Bill, try to “win” by taking his work away….
Looks like the democrats need to decide once again if they want a “captive audience” on the plantation, or do they want their actions to match their words? Perhaps step one will be kicking the Obamacrats OUT of our party, and getting ourselves back IN! We took so many steps forward with Bill. Obama deprived us of all the progress we would have made with Hillary, and now he’s even taking away the progress that Bill made. “Hey, watch over there, watch me drop a drone on an American citizen!! Cool!”