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Ending Welfare as We Knew It | Retro Report

Ending Welfare as We Knew It | Retro Report


How many years have you gone without a job? I can’t think how long. It’s been a long time. By the mid 1990s, a drumbeat of media attention had convinced many Americans that people on welfare were either cheats With wigs and disguises, she conned welfare
workers into believing she was 12 different people. or loafers. Some people on welfare make more money than
people that are working. Why should we have to pay for you to sit at
home, watch your soap operas? The number of Americans receiving cash benefits had hit a record 14 million and Republicans wanted radical change. They create a culture of poverty and a culture
of violence, which is destructive of this civilization. So how did a Democrat become the one to do
away with this once-sacred entitlement? Today we are ending welfare as we know it. And 20 years later,
how are the poor doing without it? The President of the United States signed
the measure, an act to safeguard children and to help working men and women
forestall poverty and want. Created in the 1930s to help destitute widows
with children, welfare had evolved into a $25-billion entitlement, serving a growing
number of unwed mothers. My mother had me when she was 16
and I had him when I was 16. Welfare has proliferated and grown into a
leviathan of unsupportable dimensions. Republicans had been trying
to overhaul welfare for decades. I think the Republican diagnosis was accurate,
that there were way too many moms on welfare. If they would get jobs, it would be better
for them, and better for their kids, and better for society. But in a political twist, it was a Democrat in 1992 who grabbed onto the issue and made it his own. They’re a new generation of Democrats,
Bill Clinton and Al Gore and they don’t think the way
the old Democratic Party did. Welfare should be a second chance, not a way of life. Bill Clinton proposed putting time limits on cash assistance and requiring recipients to go to work, an approach that appealed to conservative voters having doubts about the young governor from Arkansas. During the New Hampshire primary,
he was in trouble. He had maybe evaded the draft, a little bit. Maybe he had used marijuana,
but maybe he didn’t inhale. There was talk of womanizing, Jennifer Flowers. So yes, welfare was very important to his
being nominated. No one wants to change the welfare system
as badly as those who are trapped in it. Once in office, Clinton’s focus was on creating
jobs for welfare mothers. But Republicans sought more punitive measures. Let’s talk about what the welfare state
has created. Let’s talk about the moral decay. To curb soaring out-of-wedlock births,
they proposed cutting off welfare to unwed mothers who continued to have children. Don’t feed the alligators. In a bitter debate, a Republican congressman
compared welfare recipients to animals living off handouts,
while a Democrat invoked Nazi Germany. This Republican proposal certainly isn’t
the Holocaust, but I’m concerned. They’re coming for our children. They’re coming for the poor. Clinton vetoed two Republican bills as too harsh.
But up for re-election in 1996, he signed a third. Welfare recipients would have to find work, or else. After two consecutive years on welfare or
five years over a lifetime, benefits can be cut off, whether or not the recipient has a job. Ron Haskins, who helped draft the Republican
bill, says it was a revolution in policy. Americans, no matter how poor, would no longer
be guaranteed cash help from the government. Think of a Democratic president that would
sign a welfare reform bill like that. President Gore wouldn’t have done it. Kennedys would never have done it. There are many Republicans who wouldn’t have
done a bill as tough as the one that was passed in 1996. There’s going to be a million children thrust
into poverty by this bill. Peter Edelman and other Clinton administration
officials resigned in protest. Nobody has any legal right to get assistance,
so therefore you’re free to turn people away. I was always clear that that spelled big, big, big trouble. The new law was an experiment,
giving individual states vast new powers to decide how to spend welfare funds,
and who could receive them. What happened next shocked nearly everyone. The White House announced today that federal efforts to reform welfare have worked even better than expected. With a booming economy and plentiful jobs,
welfare recipients left the rolls in droves, as many as 200,000 a month. A lot of mothers went to work. 60% of them, roughly, got jobs. They earned about eight or nine bucks an hour. Child poverty declined to its lowest level
ever, for kids in female-headed families. I mean, that’s an astounding change. Waxler took part in a welfare-to-work training program after being on public assistance for nearly two years. Now she supports herself. The media generally portrayed the new program, called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, as a success. By 2000, welfare caseloads had sunk to their
lowest level in 30 years. Any time you allow the states to have the
opportunity to set up programs that are actually going to work in their states, you’re going to be much better off. But that narrative was about to change. Welfare reform was conceived and implemented
in the mid to late 90’s when the economy was booming. But that was then. This? This is a very different now. With the new millennium came an economic downturn
and, in 2008, the Great Recession. American workers were laid off the job last
month in numbers not seen in over three decades. To make matters worse, state budgets were
in free fall, and the hunt was on for new revenues. Jodi Liggett worked in the Arizona state government
when TANF began. In a state like Arizona, we’re not going
to raise taxes on folks if at all possible. And there is this big fat bag of money with
TANF written on the outside of it. The temptation is just too great. Using their new authority under the welfare
law, states siphoned off billions in TANF money to pay for everything from pre-K programs to college scholarships. The numbers are staggering. In Arizona, it was foster care. Nearly 18,000 kids are in the state system. Arizona moved 75% of its welfare money into
child protection and other services, leaving leaving little for job training, child care and cash
assistance for the poor: the core purposes of TANF. The flexibility in TANF and the things that
states did were absolutely perfectly legal. But if you’re spending less than 20 percent
of the poverty program on poverty, that really says something about your values. It’s not as if those dollars were removed
to build roads and bridges. They were used to support another important function of the safety net—and that’s strengthening families. So the monies were not hijacked. But having spent the money elsewhere,
states came up short when demand for welfare spiked during the economic crash. So they changed the rules. We saw states creating more barriers at the front end to make it harder for families to actually get on assistance. We saw states cutting time limits during a
time when there was no work available. Not because people didn’t need assistance, but because they couldn’t get the money back
that they had put into other things. Some states also reduced benefits. Last year, Starsha West, a 26-year old single
mother from Phoenix, applied for TANF for the second time in her young life. Her monthly payment: $237. At the time, I needed it. Like, me and my kids’ father had split, so at the time I did need it. I wasn’t working. I needed to take care of my children. West also applied for food stamps and began
looking for work. She and her children found housing through
a local homeless shelter. I’m grateful for me and my children to have
a roof over our head. I see a lot of homeless people, a lot of homeless
women with children, so it’s kinda hard. She’s lucky to have gotten help. Despite having the third highest poverty rate
in the nation, Arizona has moved 27,000 people off welfare since the recession, whether they had a job or not. There is an overarching mindset that public
assistance should be temporary, that it should be reserved for the most needy and that we
should be about helping people get on their way. The effect of that mindset, nationally, is
that welfare is now a shadow of its former self. 20 years ago, 68 out of every 100 poor families
in the U.S. received cash assistance. Today, that number is 23. But in conservative states like Arizona and
Indiana, it’s 8, in Texas 5, Louisiana 4. Cash assistance is dead, really dead, in more
than half of the states in the country. So the consequence is big increases in extreme poverty, deep poverty,
incomes that are below half the poverty line. Today, 46 million Americans live in poverty,
nearly half in deep poverty, meaning incomes of around $10,000 a year or less. With cash assistance waning,
other government entitlements, like food stamps and disability pensions,
have seen record enrollments. Now, they’re under attack as the “new welfare.” The United States of America or the United
States of Entitlement? Taxpayer dollars to buy stuff at an adult
store called Kiss My Lingerie. 20 years ago, Bill Clinton had high hopes
for welfare reform. After I sign my name to this bill, welfare
will no longer be a political issue. What does he think now? I did not foresee that.
I didn’t foresee this Tea Party wave that would believe one more time that poor people were the problem in America. The former president and his wife, candidate
Hillary Clinton, say his landmark law could use improvement, and admit that too many who
need assistance aren’t getting it. It did far more good than harm, but now given
the changed climate and the aftermath of the crash, the poorest welfare families, about
15% of the total, are worse off. And we should do something for them. And we oughta – all of us who supported it should admit that. But many conservatives still celebrate welfare reform for ending dependency and cutting rolls from 14 million to four. Now they want to do to food stamps what was
done to welfare: hand over the reins to the states. Ron Haskins says welfare reform
brought needed change, but is cautious about giving states too much control of other entitlements. I have to say that what is happening with
welfare reform has caused me to reevaluate my confidence that the states will do the right thing. Because we have states that are very conservative,
and they’re going to spend the money where they think it should be spent, and not where
you think it should be spent. I would characterize TANF 20 years in as a
bold experiment that failed. It’s this expectation that states will do a better job. But a better job doesn’t mean increasing
the number of people who are in deep poverty, which is what we saw. I mean, that’s what states did. As for Starsha West, she is now off welfare and food stamps but, like many former welfare recipients, she has joined the ranks of the “working poor.” Her job at a daycare center pays $9 an hour,
leaving her family still below the poverty line. I’m happy. But if push come to shove, and I had to result in, you know, turning back, then that’s just something that I have to do. But she may not be able to turn back to welfare. In July, Arizona will impose a new time limit
on benefits of one year, the shortest in the nation. That means roughly 1,600 families could lose
cash assistance, including 2,700 children.

Comments (11)

  1. great videos as always

  2. 1:37 This guy is delusional. Republicans were just playing Dog Whistle Politics. The vast majority on Welfare were whites. They created the myth of the Black Welfare queen to play to their misinformed base. Just like the Nixon administration started the drug war to go after Blacks and the anti war left.

  3. Great film. Thank you for this!

  4. I am disabled. My back was shattered in an automobile accident where I was a passenger. Almost completely wheelchair ridden, and I live in a liberal state, NY. And they still give me a hard time. Things need to change.

  5. Thanks President Clinton, the United States didn't become another Greece.

  6. Meanwhile Canada is starting a minimum guaranteed income pilot….

  7. This bill just needs to be reversed. Cool inside it's all because of those evil Republicans they want to take money from the poor and my mom lives off of disability if we lose that buddy that I'm not going to be able to probably eat fully

  8. So it would've maybe worked if it had been used by all states to get the poor get trained for jobs, but still, there would need to be a safety net (it obviously needs to influence people to get jobs but also a 1yr time limit when there are no jobs is too little, I feel like it should depend on job availability in the state or that the number of benefits should decrease the more time you're on them) still expecting people not to need Welfare when you allow them to get paid 8$/hr is laughable

  9. You should be forced to take randomized drug test if you want to be on welfare

  10. Just is still taken care of the kaiffers and Muslims

  11. Welfare reform became free labor, basically, for corporations. I worked with many people in retail who were receiving benefits. There are several giant corporations that now benefit from underpaying their staff. And the American public didn’t get any other benefit or lowered taxes from welfare reform. We still pay those taxes. But now the corporations and the politicians pocket that money

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