Friday, April 11, 2008

In-depth: From Welfare Shift in ’96, a Reminder for Clinton

Go to New York Times original
In the summer of 1996, President Bill Clinton delivered on his pledge to “end welfare as we know it.” Despite howls of protest from some liberals, he signed into law a bill forcing recipients to work and imposing a five-year limit on cash assistance.

As first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton supported her husband’s decision, drawing the wrath of old friends from her days as an advocate for poor children. Some accused the Clintons of throwing vulnerable families to the winds in pursuit of centrist votes as Mr. Clinton headed into the final stages of his re-election campaign.

Despite the criticism and anxiety from the left, the legislation came to be viewed as one of Mr. Clinton’s signature achievements. It won broad bipartisan praise, with some Democrats relieved that it took a politically difficult issue off the table for them, and many liberals came to accept if not embrace it.

Mrs. Clinton’s opponent in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Barack Obama, said in an interview that the welfare overhaul had been greatly beneficial in eliminating a divisive force in American politics.

Mrs. Clinton, now a senator from New York, rarely mentions the issue as she battles for the nomination, despite the emphasis she has placed on her experience in her husband’s White House.

But now the issue is back, pulled to the fore by an economy turning down more sharply than at any other time since the welfare changes were imposed. With low-income people especially threatened by a weakening labor market, some advocates for poor families are raising concerns about the adequacy of the remaining social safety net. Mrs. Clinton is now calling for the establishment of a cabinet-level position to fight poverty.


No comments: