FROM USA TODAY: When President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (Welfare Reform Act of 1996), conservatives celebrated and liberals screamed; three administration officials quit their jobs in protest. The act ended a 60-year-old federal guarantee of cash aid for the poor.

Read the full story at USA Today.

Today, the worst fears of liberals haven’t materialized. States did not enter what critics feared would be a money-saving “race to the bottom.” Thousands of poor children did not wind up “sleeping on grates,” as Democratic senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan predicted.

Or is it too soon to tell?

Most of the women who left welfare remain in low-paying, unskilled jobs. Those with the greatest burdens — mental illness, substance abuse, criminal records — seldom make it easily from welfare to work. “They became the working poor,” says Sheri Steisel, a welfare expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures. “Many of these families are still struggling.”

More than half of those eligible for welfare payments don’t get them — a sign, critics say, that the new system discourages people who need help from applying. “We now simply have a system that provides less help in times when people are without work,” says Mark Greenberg, a liberal welfare expert at the Center for American Progress, a think tank.

Read the full story at USA Today.

While welfare was trimmed, other parts of the nation’s social safety net were expanding. The number of people receiving Medicaid and food stamps has soared by 50% since 2000. Medicaid is now the nation’s largest entitlement program, with 53 million recipients; 25 million people get food stamps. That upsets conservatives who applauded welfare reform. “The bulk of the welfare system is exactly the way it was back in 1972,” Rector says, “except that it’s bigger and more expensive.”

Read the full story at USA Today.

What do YOU think about today’s welfare reforms? Back to our essential question for this unit, what policies best serve the common good? What do you think about these policies? Are they best serving the common good? Why or why not?

One Comment for "USA Today: How welfare reform changed America"

  • Jeffrey Garcia

    This shows that welfare deserves to exist, I mean the poor is still struggling while someone who was getting by well without much welfare is still doing fine. Why must the welfare reform affect such innocent people who just want to live well?

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