Last Updated:November 27 @ 07:08 am

Charen: Has Obama Made a Fatal Misstep?

By Mona Charen

Until this week, the Obama campaign's strategy of interest group payoffs and demonization of Romney seemed, if tawdry, at least a possible route to re-election. The president's promises to deliver more and more "free" stuff for carefully selected grantees -- adorned in the language of sticking up for the "middle class" -- appeared to have a chance of success.

But the decision to embrace one of the least popular Democratic positions of the past 100 years -- opposition to the work requirement for welfare recipients -- is inexplicable politically. It's also illegal and imperious. Let's stick with politics, because it's old news that Obama has contempt for the rule of law. He's declined to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" on many subjects: immigration, the Defense of Marriage Act, labor laws and environmental rules, among others. Those were lawless but politically logical acts. Not this.

Welfare policies (along with weakness on defense and crime) had been a vulnerability for Democrats throughout the 1970s and 1980s -- an Achilles heel that Bill Clinton recognized in 1992. His promise to "end welfare as we know it" was the gravamen of his claim to "new Democrat" status. Once safely elected, Clinton downgraded welfare reform, and, in fact, increased funding for all of the traditional welfare programs in the federal budget. But when Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives in 1994, they took the initiative. By 1996, after vetoing two welfare reform bills, Clinton was advised by Dick Morris that if didn't sign the legislation, he wouldn't be re-elected; it was that important to voters. Immediately after signing the bill, Clinton's approval rating on welfare jumped by 19 points.

The law changed the old AFDC, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, to TANF, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. In place of the open-ended entitlement to benefits for unmarried women and their children, the law imposed a five-year limit and the requirement that those able to work seek employment. In 2005, the work requirements were strengthened.

The prospect of asking welfare recipients to seek work struck most liberals in 1996 (including Obama) as degrading, cruel and doomed to failure. Three high-ranking Clinton administration officials resigned in protest. The New York Times called the reform "atrocious," objecting that "This is not reform, this is punishment." Tom Brokaw, interviewing the president, said "all the projections show that ... (the reform) will push, at least short term, more than a million youngsters ... below the poverty line." The Children's Defense Fund called the law "an outrage ... that will hurt and impoverish millions of American children ... and leave a moral blot on (Clinton's) presidency." Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan called the law "the most brutal act of social policy we have known since the Reconstruction. ... In five years' time, you'll find appearing on your streets abandoned children ... in numbers we have no idea." Sen. Edward Kennedy, with characteristic understatement, called the bill "legislative child abuse."

Well, what really happened? Welfare caseloads declined by 50 percent within four years of the law's passage and by 70 percent by the time Obama took office. The overwhelming majority of those who left welfare rolls did so because they found jobs -- and not just the worst jobs, either. By 2001, a Manhattan Institute study found, only 4 percent of former welfare mothers were earning minimum wage. The poverty rate declined from 13.8 percent in 1995 to 11.7 percent in 2003. Black child poverty dropped to its lowest levels in history. Childhood hunger was cut in half. It was the greatest social policy success of the past 50 years.

Yes, the late 1990s were boom years for the economy. So had the 1960s and 1980s been. Yet welfare rolls increased during those previous expansions.

Why did Obama do it? Why issue new regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services (in bold violation of the law) granting waivers to states to alter work requirements? Obama's election notwithstanding, there is little reason to think that the nation has moved left on the welfare issue. Most working Americans, including most poor Americans, believe that paying people for idleness is wrong.

Obama is trying to persuade Americans that while he has expanded food stamps to unprecedented levels, extended unemployment insurance to 99 weeks, vastly increased the already overwhelmed Medicaid program, created a new trillion dollar entitlement with Obamacare and expanded the size of the federal government to a percentage of gross domestic product not seen since World War II, that he is not the dependency president. By stepping back into history to embrace the Democrats' nemesis -- unrestricted welfare -- he has clinched the argument for the opposition.



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  1. billwvComment by billwv
    July 17, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

    Obama always has been and continues to be a complete and unabridged zero. There is no substance to this creep period. When he opens his lying lips; it is only to put his big overgrown foot into it. He cares nothing about the American public; exactly the opposite: he is a dictator wannabe and that is what makes him so dangerous.
    Our best bet is to vote out the Delirium-in-Chief in November.

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  2. wolfComment by wolf
    July 17, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

    He’s lost a lot of the black voters from 2008. By telling them they don’t have to work now and still receive their money and benefits handouts….he’s hoping they get fired up to rush to the polls and vote for him again. After the election, he’ll pull his executive order and revert to the law. But at that point, he’ll have gotten the votes he wanted and he’ll ignore them again.
    By the way…we talk about him always opening his mouth to lie..and I honestly believe he only opens his mouth to change feet. :)

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  3. OldpatriotComment by Oldpatriot
    July 17, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

    BHO is so wrong on everything I don’t know where to start so I will keep it short and not so sweet. The man is a total menace to the American way of life.

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    • BJComment by BJ
      July 18, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

      “The man is a total menace to the American way of life.”

      In his mind, you’ve just given him the best compliment he could ever receive.

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  4. joelinpdxComment by joelinpdx
    July 17, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

    To answer the question in the title; Has Obama Made a Fatal Misstep? The answer is no. The American people made a fatal misstep in 2008 when they elected the jerk. If he somehow gets re-elected and promises, yet again, to uphold the constitution he should be charged with perjury and impeached on the spot.

    Obozo is an unrepentant liar. He lies with impunity and for the crassest of reasons. The American people should not repeat their mistake and return this buffoon to office. Personally, I think he should be sent to prison for treason but I will be satisfied if he is returned to Chicago and never heard from again.

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    • ponderosadonComment by ponderosadon
      July 17, 2012 @ 11:22 pm

      I like that, I think we should have police standby to arrest each and every person re-elected as they take their oath of office. Because it should be obvious that no one who has taken the oath to uphold the constitution in the past four years has done so.

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    • PATRIOTComment by PATRIOT
      July 18, 2012 @ 8:17 am

      Police standing by to arrest politicians that are without question treasonous in their behavior is not only appropriate but should be mandatory. There has never been a president in my lifetime that has disrespected the rule of law as this president has. He should have been prosecuted for the payoffs he used to pass the health care law. He should have been prosecuted for the tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money handed over to the unions as a bribe. The blatant attempts to cede U.S. sovereignty to the U.N. is the grandaddy of treasonous acts. Name another president that even comes close to this level of wrong doing.

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  5. BaysidePapaBearComment by BaysidePapaBear
    July 17, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

    Obama cares ONLY about buying his re-election; his Communist/Marxist/Socialist background portends disaster for this country–both economically and morally. We need to have term limits for all of Congress, perhaps 1 4-year term for representatives, and 1 6-year term for senators. Electees should forever be banned from lobbying. Tort reform is crucial, to end frivolous lawsuits and ridiculous attorney enrichment. SCOTUS appointees should be limited to 1 10-year term. All judges must not be allowed to legislate from the bench. Many other serious changes must be made, and Obama’s policies overturned, as soon as possible after 6 Nov 12, lest our country become an Islamic wasteland of welfare recipients and miscreants. Obama is our de-facto Prevaricator-in-Chief: his oratorical skills camouflage his duplicity and his disdain for this country; Muslims will tell you that ANY MALE BORN MUSLIM IS A MUSLIM FOREVER. Surprisingly, PM Steven Harper has seen the light and instituted many responsible reforms for Canada–we need to emulate HIM–quite a reversal of history! Any damage that Obama does between 6 November and Inauguration Day must be immediately repealed thereafter.

    I’m a retired, disabled two-tour Vietnam veteran who is appalled at what’s happened to this country in the last fifty years: may God save us from the ravages of Communism/Marxism/Socialism. Our forefathers would be equally appalled! We need men, and women, of real integrity and patriotism; e.g., Jimmy Stewart, Audie Murphy, John Wayne, Red Skelton, Laura and Barbara Bush, Gary Sinise, Dinesh D’Souza, Pat Boone, and Paul Harvey. “Good day….”

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  6. freedomforallComment by freedomforall
    July 17, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

    Well it looks like the anoited one has found a way to keep his loyal desciples walking in his footsteps. Now that the unemployement payments have been exausted, they can step directly into welfare state. The unemployed have grown accustomed to having a steady income, so, this is just another extention to keep them dependant on Obummer. I just wish that they would all wake up and listen to what he says… Let me see, those that struggled for years to create a bussiness, did not really create their bussines. It was everyone else that created the bussiness that they operate. I guess that means that he did not not become the leader of the great country, Everyone else did, So the people should take what he has claimed. Yes, let us do that in November.

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  7. ClarkCComment by ClarkC
    July 19, 2012 @ 6:47 pm

    All the glowing reports about welfare reform ignore the fact that out-of-wedlock births have not decreased, and are fully subsidized and encouraged by our welfare system. Yes, after five years, the momma has to go to work, once the kid is school-aged and being taken care of by the state via before-school and after-school programs, school lunch programs, food stamps, public housing, etc. So, one welfare program, the old AFDC (now TANF) is time-limited. Great. What about the total destruction of the family unit that is still being wrought by our welfare state?

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