Vice President for Family Income Support Policy
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan said yesterday that his budget aims to begin “welfare reform, round two.” According to Chairman Ryan, “That means block-granting means-tested entitlements — like food stamps, like housing assistance — back to the states so they can customize these benefits, have time limits, work requirements, the kinds of successful policies that made welfare reform so successful.”
But the statistics he cites about welfare reform’s “success” come from the early years of welfare reform, when the unemployment rate was exceptionally low — in April 2000 it fell to 3.8 percent, below what economists consider full employment. Since a safety net is supposed to help people during times of economic need, the true measure of success is how it does during the worst of times, not the best of times. And, 15 years after Congress enacted welfare reform, we can see clearly that it is not the resounding success that Chairman Ryan claims.
The facts speak for themselves:
The real agenda for “welfare reform, round two” should be to fix the failings of round one and build on successes like the TANF Emergency Fund, which states used to place 250,000 people in temporary jobs and provide basic and emergency assistance to many others. It shouldn’t be to extend a failed model to other critical programs.