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Welfare rolls, which were slow to rise and actually fell in many states early in the recession, now are climbing across the country for the first time since President Bill Clinton signed legislation pledging "to end welfare as we know it" more than a decade ago.
The recent rise in welfare families across the county is a sign that the welfare system is expanding at a time of added need, assuaging fears of some critics of Mr. Clinton's welfare overhaul who said the truly needy would be turned away.
"To me it's good news," says Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, who helped draft the 1996 welfare-overhaul law as a Republican congressional staffer. "This is exactly what should happen."
This was an example of what are commonly called Trojan Horse movements -- mass movements whose outward purpose seems to be providing material help to the downtrodden, but whose real objective is to draft poor people into service as revolutionary foot soldiers; to mobilize poor people en masse to overwhelm government agencies with a flood of demands beyond the capacity of those agencies to meet. The flood of demands was calculated to break the budget, jam the bureaucratic gears into gridlock, and bring the system crashing down. Fear, turmoil, violence and economic collapse would accompany such a breakdown -- providing perfect conditions for fostering radical change. That was the theory.
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.
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 senior scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation, argued that Obama’s spending proposals in effect encouraged individual states to add more families to their welfare rolls; the more Americans sign on to the dole, the more state budgets will benefit from US Treasury payouts.