On Wednesday, President Donald Trump stayed true to his slogan of “Making America Work Again.”
His administration’s Department of Health and Human Services, headed up by Secretary Tom Price, announced that they had officially removed former President Barack Obama’s 2012 directive, which weakened work requirements for welfare reform.
You may recall a 2012 controversy over President Obama rescinding the work requirements from the 1996 welfare reform bill. The incident became a campaign issue when Mitt Romney released an ad on the matter and spoke out against it on the campaign trail.
“President Obama now wants to strip the established work requirements from welfare,” Mitt Romney said at the time. “The success of bipartisan welfare reform, passed under President Clinton, has rested on the obligation of work. The president’s action is completely misdirected. Work is a dignified endeavor, and the linkage of work and welfare is essential to prevent welfare from becoming a way of life.”
At the time, supporters of President Obama downplayed the announcement, treating the entire issue as if it were some sort of conspiracy theory. It wasn’t, although Romney’s version of it was not quite accurate, either.
Obama had not actually ended the work requirement — he had, however, allowed states to request waivers from it if they adopted their own requirements — potentially far more flexible or even non-existent, some feared.
As our editors noted at the time:
Obama’s July HHS memo invites states to apply for waivers that change the “definitions of work activities” to better meet “the work goals” of welfare reform. In other words, the state of California could (as one state did before 1996, according to the Government Accountability Office) count Weight Watchers attendance as “work,” and thus keep more people on the state’s welfare rolls without making them work. This is exactly the type of administrative discretion that welfare reform was designed to prevent.
Today, the Trump HHS department has finally and officially ended the process.
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