Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Bob McDonnell: 'Obama decree guts bipartisan consensus'

Richmond Times-Dispatch

In 1996, President Bill Clinton worked with Republicans in Congress to reform our nation's costly and ineffective welfare programs. Upon signing the bipartisan bill into law, Clinton noted that the measure would "[restore] America's basic bargain of providing opportunity and demanding, in return, responsibility." And he was right. Most would agree that the measure has been a great success — except, apparently, President Barack Obama, whose administration last month took steps to remove one of its central requirements.

The Obama administration's recent decision was both unexpected and unexplainable, defying what we have learned from history and what we know about good government. Our nation was built on a commitment to the dignity and necessity of work. That commitment and its rewards have been passed down from generation to generation. And, in the 1990s, welfare reform ensured that value remained part of the laws governing our nation.

Building on successful state programs, like our groundbreaking legislation here in Virginia that I was honored to carry in the legislature as a delegate, Congress strengthened the welfare safety net by adding a requirement that individuals receiving financial support must also look for and find work. It's known as "welfare-to-work" for short. And while some were concerned that the measures in this reform were too tough, their doubts were soon erased.

Welfare caseloads that had remained unchanged for 40 years were quickly cut in half. The poverty rate among welfare recipients, especially children, plummeted. The percentage of single mothers with a job grew from 58 to 75 in less than a decade. Millions of Americans were moving off the welfare roll and moving up life's ladder.

Over the course of 16 years, welfare reform has proven to be a historic achievement. But, ignoring this record, the Department of Health and Human Services last month announced that it would allow states to propose programs that did not comply with federal work requirements. With a stroke of a pen, decades of bipartisan efforts to tie welfare to work were undone, and the heart of welfare reform was gutted.

As a candidate, the president claimed that he supported welfare-to-work policies. He once professed that work should be "a centerpiece of any social policy." He has now apparently changed his mind.
Worse still is the way this recent decision unfolded. President Obama did not work with Congress to secure legislative approval. He did not tell the American people about his decision — or ask them for their support. He simply decided that he did not like the existing law, and then chose to work around it.

By unwinding our nation's welfare-to-work requirements, the Obama administration is making a tragic mistake. Millions have benefited from this bipartisan reform. And while the Obama administration has given no indication that it will reverse this decision, this November voters will have a chance to elect someone who will.

When he was governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney was a strong proponent of welfare reform and fought hard to ensure it was implemented in accordance with federal guidelines. He understands that linking welfare to work reflected our country's most important principles and that the dream of overcoming hardship — and moving from government dependence to economic independence — is one that America must never turn away from.

This is yet another example of the very clear choice that Americans have before them in the coming election: a choice between President Obama's old-school liberal policies and government handouts, and Governor Romney's vision of increased economic freedom and opportunity.

What President Obama does not understand is that we don't want handouts — nor do we want to go back to the failed policies of the past. Instead, we want a president who can deliver an economic recovery, and the employment opportunities that so many of our fellow Americans still need. We want a president who will make sure our dreams of economic success can be realized. Those dreams are what made America great, and Mitt Romney will make sure they remain within reach for future generations.

We have a chance this November to elect a president who understands that while tough times don't last, tough people do. And Americans are tough. We may be experiencing hard times, but we will bounce back. This is at the heart of what makes our country great — and what made welfare reform successful.

President Obama's welfare policy accepts that tough times are here to stay, and jobs will remain in short supply. But what our country is experiencing doesn't have to be permanent. If we elect Mitt Romney as our next President, we can usher in a new era of opportunity and prosperity.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

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