The 1996 Welfare to Work Law, I believe is the best part of the Clinton Presidency. Along with moving the Democratic Party back to the Center-Left and making it a national party again. That can win outside of Washington, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, the traditional McGovernite and more social democratic areas of the country. Because the Welfare to Work Law, gave millions of Americans who probably only knew Welfare as far as any income that was coming into their homes, the opportunity to go to work. To finish their education and get themselves a good job. Which is what Welfare to Work is really about.
The only way to cut poverty in America, is to empower people at the bottom and near-bottom to move up the economic ladder and become economically self-sufficient. That gets to things like education and job creation, as well as economic development and infrastructure in low-income communities. You can give someone on public assistance the biggest public assistance checks that you possibly can that American taxpayers are willing to subsidize. But as long as people on public assistance are collecting those checks and can’t support themselves without those checks, they’re on Welfare and living in poverty.
So to actually move people out of poverty, you have to empower them to get a good job. And tell them that they can’t stay on Welfare indefinitely and use that time to improve themselves and prepare to become members of the American workforce. That means childcare for their kids, requiring parents who are no longer involved in their kids lives to pay their child support payments. Encouraging employers to hire and train people who are on Welfare. And making education and job training available to people on Welfare so they can finish their education and get themselves a good job and get off of Welfare all together.
As President Clinton said many times, the Democratic Party should be the party that is about opportunity, empowerment, liberalization, liberation. Liberalization and liberation being my words, but that we should be a party that is about using government to empower people. Using a limited responsible government to empower people at the bottom and near-bottom who are struggling to work their way up the economic ladder and be able to live in freedom. Like most of the rest of the country. Not using government to make more people dependent. Or saying that people who are low-skilled and have kids can stay on public assistance indefinitely simply because they are low-skilled and have kids. As if they are disabled, or something for those reasons. Welfare to Work, is a big part of that.
C-SPAN: President Bill Clinton’s Welfare Reform Press Statement