Brookings Forum: “Welfare Reform Ten Years Later”
Brookings Institution held a forum entitled “Work Over Welfare: Welfare Reform Ten Years Later” on Thursday, November 16. Featured speakers included Newt Gingrich, who was the Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1996 when President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) into law and Charles Stenholm a former Congressman from Texas who “crossed the aisle” to work with the Republican majority to craft the welfare legislation. Mr. Gingrich noted that by the time Congress acted to reform the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, the vast majority of the public favored welfare reform—including a majority of welfare recipients. Mr. Gingrich also indicated that while results have been positive for many of the families who exited cash assistance, there are others for whom it has not been successful. He stated that “[T]here are across this country a substantial number of Americans who are outside the system, who don’t know how to be productive, don’t know how to lead complete lives, don’t know how to get educated and when they look at these income distribution patterns – if you adjust for the number of people who are literally out of the system, just redistributing money is not going to get them there.”
The panelists following Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Stenholm’s presentation further explored the outcomes of welfare reform, the outlook for the upcoming Congress, and the need to focus on the single men who are often non-custodial parents who remain in dire poverty.