Dems And Welfare: A Response

The author, who asked to remain anonymous, is a former Democratic Hill staffer who spent years in trenches of welfare reform.

"I can assure you that Democrats are not "secretly gutting welfare reform."  Democrats have long been concerned that the "caseload reduction credit" is a blunt instrument.  Why exactly should a state get credit towards the work participation standards just because they have fewer people on the caseload?  The evidence is pretty clear that it's not like 100% of people who leave welfare get jobs -- the "leaver studies" of the late 90s suggest that, at best, 2/3 of those who leave have jobs at some point.  What Rector at Heritage is arguing -- and has always argued -- effectively means that states should get credit towards the work participation rate for families they cut off and end up in homeless shelter.  How is that work?  What Democrats have tried to get -- including during the early 00's reauthorization -- was a more targeted "employment credit" that would give states credit for former recipients with jobs.  Crazy liberals like Blanche Lincoln and John Breaux supported this switch."
In the current context, the idea that states should continue to have an incentive to cut their rolls further without regard to the status of the former recipients is particularly dangerous.  But we're not going to rewrite the whole law right now.  (That's actually a sleeper 2010 issue, which is a longer conversation for another day.)  So they're effectively holding the current incentive where it's at, rather than the accelerating requirement the conservatives put into the '06 reauthorization.

And the idea that Republicans aren't pushing this because they don't want to be seen as "poor people bashers" is kind of hilarious.  On the Hill we assumed it was because Rector was more focused on anti-immigrant policies these days.  A pretty clear lesson of the four-year long welfare reauthorization debate was that there wasn't much political juice left in the issue -- didn't exactly see it on page one much, did you?