MaryJo Bane

Recent Articles

Welfare as We Might Know It

Why I resigned in protest over President Clinton's signing of welfare reform--and what can still be done to repair it.

I n August 1996, President Clinton signed welfare reform legislation that signaled the end of an era in the country's response to needy families. No longer will cash assistance to dependent children be guaranteed by the federal government. Instead it will be provided, or not, by states using block grants. In signing the legislation, the President identified a number of "flaws" that he promised to fix after the election. Other Democrats, some of whom voted for the bill, took up the President's refrain. Their statements implied that there was little to worry about in the legislation, since any problems with it could be solved in the 105th Congress. This implication is wrong—and not just because Congress remains Republican. The fundamental flaws in the law are not in the food stamp or immigrant provisions that the President has singled out for criticism, but in the abdication of federal responsibility for the poor. Even if cuts in food stamps and immigrant benefits could be restored,...