“It’s time for conservatives to get back in the game,” on welfare reform, write Representatives Jim Jordan (R–OH) and Steve Southerland (R–FL) in The Washington Times.
While conservatives successfully reformed the largest cash assistance welfare program back in 1996, inserting work requirements and changing the program to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, Jordan and Southerland note that conservatives “never used the TANF model to reform the rest of welfare. Down 10-0, conservatives scored one goal and high-fived all the way to the locker room. Meanwhile, liberals spent the next 16 years trying to undo the accomplishments of 1996.”
Despite a long list of accomplishments from the 1996 reform—including a 50 percent drop in welfare caseloads within five years and plummeting child poverty—liberals have stood in the way of reauthorizations of the law, and loopholes have allowed states to skirt the work requirement. And just a little more than two weeks ago, the Obama Administration issued a directive to completely gut the work requirement from TANF.
Meanwhile, government welfare spending on now roughly 80 federal programs has been climbing higher, totaling $927 billion last year with no end in sight.
“Liberals only offer more of the same,” assert Jordan and Southerland. “We can do better.” Instead of throwing more dollars into more government programs, “we need to fight the causes of welfare dependence, and many times the answer lies outside of Washington.”
For example, they point to one private organization’s successes in fighting the causes of poverty, the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.
“We recently visited George Wythe High School in Richmond [Virginia], where the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE) runs a mentoring program for at-risk youngsters. Youth advisers, most from troubled backgrounds themselves, are available 24/7 to help students stay on the right track. George Wythe used to be the most violence- and crime-ridden school in the city. After just two years, the school reported a 26 percent drop in fighting, a 68 percent decline in truancy and 63 percent fewer dropouts.”
Fewer dropouts mean more students graduating and cutting their risk of avoiding poverty and government dependence.
“Conservative reformers have natural allies in groups like CNE and the families they help,” Jordan and Southerland assert. “Their hopes, dreams and frustrations with today’s ineffective liberal welfare state are no different from our own. They understand that no government check can replace earned success and supportive relationships. So let’s reach out, hear their solutions and work together to fight poverty.”