He did so illegally, of course, in another brazen move that’s been all but ignored.
At one point in the Star Wars double trilogy, the character who starts out as a corrupt politician but morphs into an evil Sith Lord announces the suspension of the Republic in favor of the First Galactic Empire. Last week, President Obama did just that in regard to the American republic.
You didn’t hear about that? The party-controlled media in Star Wars didn’t report the event either.
Bipartisan Welfare Reform
One of the greatest bipartisan policy successes of recent decades was the 1996 welfare reform of the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, enacted into law by the then Republican Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton. The 1996 AFDC reforms returned the share of federal spending on the program to each state in the form of a “block grant” to be used in a new welfare program redesigned by the state based on mandatory work for the able bodied. Federal funding for AFDC previously was based on a matching formula, with the federal government giving more to each state the more it spent on the program, effectively paying the states to spend more on welfare. The key to the 1996 reforms was that the new block grants to each state were finite, not matching, so the federal funding did not vary with the amount the state spent. If a state’s new program cost more, the state had to pay the extra costs itself. If the program cost less, the state could keep the savings.
With those reversed incentives for the state bureaucrats running the program, the reform was shockingly successful, exceeding even the predictions of its most ardent supporters. The old AFDC rolls were reduced by two-thirds nationwide, even more in states that pushed work most aggressively. The reformed program was renamed Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).
As a result, in real dollars total federal and state spending on TANF by 2006 was down 31% from AFDC spending in 1995, and down by more than half of what it would have been under prior trends. At the same time, because of the resulting increased work by former welfare dependents, the incomes of the families formerly on the program rose by 25%, and poverty among those families plummeted. In his book on the 1996 welfare reforms, Work Over Welfare (2006), Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution reported, “[B]y 2000 the poverty rate of black children was the lowest it had ever been.”
This enormously successful reform grew directly out of the thinking of President Reagan and his chief welfare policy advisor, the late Robert Carleson, who developed Reagan’s welfare policies going back to California. (I worked directly for Carleson in President Reagan’s White House Office of Policy Development.)
An Impeachable Offense
But President Obama and his Marxist minions think it is oppressive to require the poor to work for welfare, as they firmly believe the poor have an unconditional right to live off of your work somehow. Consequently, last week on July 12 Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a so-called regulatory guidance announcing that the Department will favorably entertain requests from states for waivers from the work requirements on the TANF block grants.
The Obama administration has no legal authority to issue any such waivers from the work requirements adopted in the 1996 reforms. It cites Section 1115 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1315), which states that “the Secretary [of HHS] may waive compliance with any of the requirements” of specified parts of various laws. But as the Heritage Foundation notes, “Any provision of law that can be waived under Section 1115 must be listed in Section 1115 itself,” to be one of the specified parts of various laws eligible for waiver.
But “[t]he work provisions of the TANF program are contained in Section 407,” Heritage adds, not Section 1115. Heritage explains:
Critically, this section, as well as most other TANF requirements, are deliberately not listed in Section 1115; [so] they are not waivable. In establishing TANF, Congress deliberately exempted or shielded nearly all of the TANF from the Section 1115 waiver authority. They did not want the law to be rewritten at the whim of Health and Human Services (HHS) bureaucrats.
All that can be waived under the law are state reporting requirements to HHS under Section 402, not the core requirements of the TANF reforms contained in other parts of the law.
The impact of such waivers on the 1996 reforms are being overstated by some. The waivers would not “gut” the reform. Carleson believed that what drove the dramatic reform results were the finite rather than matching block grants and the incentives that created for the state bureaucrats administering the programs, not the work requirements. The Heritage Foundation’s Ed Meese, who was very close to Carleson, can confirm that. Carleson, in fact, did not even want federal work requirements, because he feared the federal bureaucrats administering them would pervert them into the opposite, and because he wanted to promote the principles of federalism and state sovereignty. Without those federal requirements, the above described incentives of the block grants can be expected to continue to drive states to get dependents on AFDC/TANF out to work.
But Carleson and Reagan did want state work requirements. In fact, it was federal regulations that stopped the work requirements, and the “workfare,” they wanted to implement at the state level when Reagan was Governor of California that led them to first conceive of block grants for the federal financing of the programs back to the states.
More troublesome is the outright lawlessness that Obama’s waivers represent, just like “recess” appointments when the Senate is not in recess, or Executive Orders or regulations without statutory or constitutional authority, or Obama’s refusal to enforce laws he does not like, such as the Defense of Marriage Act, or the immigration laws. The emerging Obama strategy is to trample the law with impunity, knowing the legal system grinds slowly in catching up with him, such as through suits invalidating any action his faulty recess appointees take.
Even more scary is that in a second term he will reach the point where he has appointed a majority of judges, sharing his belief that judges should hold the law to be whatever they want it to be. Too many of these judges will give his lawlessness a free pass, because they believe his policies are just, and the ends justify the means. The rule of law will then have collapsed, and America will be a third world country, like Argentina.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?