Sunday, February 1, 2009

NYTIMES: Welfare System Failing to Grow

Nation: Times seems unhappy with the fact that welfare systems around the country are not growing fast enough with people depending on government to be their saviors.

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.

...The deepening recession offers a fresh challenge to the program, which was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 amid bitter protest and became one of the most closely watched social experiments in modern memory.

The program, which mostly serves single mothers, ended a 60-year-old entitlement to cash aid, replacing it with time limits and work requirements, and giving states latitude to discourage people from joining the welfare rolls. While it was widely praised in the boom years that followed, skeptics warned it would fail the needy when times turned tough.

So the problem is that in hard times it is not easy to get back on the dole?

“When we started this, Democratic and Republican governors alike said, ‘We know what’s best for our state; we’re not going to let people starve,’ ” said Mr. Haskins, who is now a researcher at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “And now that the chips are down, and unemployment is going up, most states are not doing enough to help families get back on the rolls.”

...Born from Mr. Clinton’s pledge to “end welfare as we know it,” the new program brought furious protests from people who predicted the poor would suffer. Then millions of people quickly left the rolls, employment rates rose and child poverty plunged.

But the economy of the late 1990s was unusually strong, and even then critics warned that officials placed too much stress on caseload reduction. With benefits harder to get, a small but growing share of families was left with neither welfare nor work and fell deeper into destitution.

“TANF is not an especially attractive option for most people,” said Linda Blanchette, a top welfare official in Pennsylvania, which cut its rolls last year by 6 percent. “People really do view it as a last resort.”


All welfare should be seen as a last resort, the whiners in this piece come from the thinking that welfare is for the poor as a lifestyle that should be growing by leaps and bounds except for that darn 90's reform.

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