The Agenda

Peter Suderman on the Workfare Waivers

Peter Suderman of Reason offers a sober take on the significance of the recent move by the Department of Health and Human Services to grant states waivers from the work requirements established under the 1996 welfare reform legislation. Basically, critics believe that HHS is claiming authority that it does not have under the 1996 statute, and there is at least some reason to worry that this new flexibility will be used in ways that are very much in tension with the goals set out by the architects of the legislation. But there is no way to know in advance how this authority will be used in practice. The Obama administration claims that it will act responsibility, only granting waivers that are consistent with the broader goal of facilitating the welfare-to-work transition. Conservatives are skeptical, in part because there are many on the center-left who see the post-1996 welfare system as inappropriately punitive and ungenerous.  

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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