FROM Luke Shaefer
20 years since welfare reform, are the poor better off? When President Bill Clinton spoke in the White House Rose Garden on August 22, 1996, he claimed, “today we are taking an historic chance to make welfare what it was meant to be. A second chance. Not a way of life.” Then he signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, a radical overhaul of the nation’s welfare law. Instead of giving poor people cash assistance for however long they needed it, the new law implemented strict requirements. People had to work or be in some kind of training program in order to receive their benefits, and a five year lifetime limit on benefits was instituted. The result: the number of people receiving cash assistance was slashed from more than 12 million in 1996 to around 4 million today. Is that a good thing? Did the law spur people to get jobs or are poor people in worse shape now, a generation later?
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