The new administration's economic stimulus plan may undo reforms that cut the dole queues, critics say
RONALD REAGAN started it, Bill Clinton finished it and last week Barack Obama was accused of engineering its destruction. One of the few undisputed triumphs of American government of the past 20 years – the sweeping welfare reform programme that sent millions of dole claimants back to work – has been plunged into jeopardy by billions of dollars in state handouts included in the president’s controversial economic stimulus package.
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As Obama celebrated Valentine’s Day yesterday with a return to his Chicago home for a private weekend with family and friends, his success in piloting a $785 billion (£546 billion) stimulus package through Congress was being overshadowed by warnings that an unprecedented increase in welfare spending would undermine two decades of bipartisan attempts to reduce dependency on government handouts.
Robert Rector, a prominent welfare researcher who was one of the architects of Clinton's 1996 reform bill, warned last week that Obama’s stimulus plan was a “welfare spendathon” that would amount to the largest one-year increase in government handouts in American history.
Even Mickey Kaus, a prominent liberal blogger, has denounced what he describes as the “get more people on welfare” provisions of Obama’s bill. Writing at Slate, the political website, Kaus said: “Lack of jobs isn’t a reason to loosen work requirements . . . Have the Dems never heard of ‘workfare’?