In case you haven't heard, President Barack Obama has been accused of trying to "gut" the landmark 1996 welfare reform law (a claim some on the left have dismissed as "racist"). By granting states waivers to redefine the work requirements for welfare recipients, his critics argue, the president has created a situation where people will be tempted to remain on government assistance.
But is this true? Well, considering the increase in the number of "able-bodied" Americans on food-stamps, a new report from the Washington Examiner argues the Obama administration has already done this with its 2009 suspension of a separate welfare requirement.
"In addition to the broader work requirement that has become a contentious issue in the presidential race, the 1996 welfare reform law included a separate rule encouraging able-bodied adults without dependents to work by limiting the amount of time they could receive food stamps," writes the Examiner’s Philip Klein (of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz wrongly accused him of misquoting her fame).
"President Obama suspended that rule when he signed his economic stimulus legislation into law, and the number of these adults on food stamps doubled, from 1.9 million in 2008 to 3.9 million in 2010," he adds.
Klein’s article is based on a recent report from the Congressional Research Service.
"This report once again confirms that President Obama has severely gutted the welfare work requirements that Americans have overwhelmingly supported since President Clinton signed them into law,” said Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in an emailed statement.
"It’s time to reinstate these common-sense measures, and focus on creating job growth for those in need," he added.
But what were the old guidelines for food-stamps?
Under the previous rule, Klein notes, able-bodied adults without dependents were limited to "three months in a 36-month period" unless, that is, the food-stamp recipient "works at least 20 hours a week; participates in an employment and training program for at least 20 hours per week; or participates in a (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) 'workfare' program for at least 20 hours per week."
Yeah -- the Obama administration suspended all that back in 2009.
"Though the weakening of the economy would have led to an increase in food stamp usage with or without a waiver, the doubling of the use of food stamps by the able-bodied population without dependents exceeded the 43 percent increase in food stamp usage among the broader population over the same 2008 to 2010 time frame [emphasis added]," Klein notes.
"This gives more weight to the idea that the waiver fueled the food stamp growth among the population it affected, beyond where it would have been even in a weak economy," he adds.
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Front page photo source courtesy the AP.