From Inverstor's Business Daily
Welfare Reform: On the 10th anniversary of its enactment, Bill Clinton takes credit for Republican welfare reform legislation he twice vetoed. All he can really take credit for is getting out of its way.
A joke making the rounds in the 1990s had Bill Clinton gazing out the Oval Office one evening as an aide said, "Beautiful sunset, Mr. President." To which Bill Clinton replied, "Thank you."
Taking credit for other's achievements was — and is — his style.
True, on Aug. 22, 1996, Clinton did finally sign the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. But he did so only after the 1994 GOP tsunami swept the House of Representatives after four decades and adviser Dick Morris told him his re-election depended on it.
Clinton plays his usual word games when he writes in his New York Times op-ed on Tuesday that "a majority of Democrats and Republicans voted for the bill."
Look closer and you see that of the Democratic senators, 25 voted in favor and 21 voted against. All Republican senators voted in favor. And in the House, only two Republicans voted against the bill, with 233 voting for it. Exactly half of House Democrats, 98, liked the welfare system as they knew it.
It was a Republican bill passed by a Republican Congress, signed after 30 Republican governors sent Clinton a letter urging him to sign it, saying: "You have consistently said that we must 'end welfare as we know it.' The time is now. This is the bill. The rest is up to you."
So when Clinton's editorial 10 years later is titled, "How We Ended Welfare, Together," we say: What do you mean "we"?
Clinton's first veto of virtually identical legislation came on Dec. 6, 1995, and the second on Jan. 6, 1996, in the dead of night. Before he finally signed it on Morris' advice, Sen. Daniel Moynihan was quoted in the Aug. 12, 1996, issue of U.S. News & World Report as saying of Clinton: "If it were 14 weeks after the election, he'd say no."
In Clinton's op-ed, he brags of having "given 45 states waivers to institute their own reform plans."
Some governors at the time remember it differently. California's Pete Wilson complained on Sept. 6, 1995: "In California, we sought a federal waiver for one reform we wanted to make to reduce welfare grants and make work more attractive than welfare. That was over a year ago, and the Clinton administration continues to delay it at a cost to taxpayers of $3 million a week."
Then there was Wisconsin's Tommy Thompson, the architect of the state's groundbreaking welfare reform plan who would later become Health and Human Services secretary. He said of Clinton's waiver system: "Four years after promising to end welfare, the president is bragging about a piecemeal, Washington-knows-best waiver process. We can't end the 50-year social disaster called welfare by handing out one waiver at a time."
We couldn't and we didn't.
Clinton reluctantly embraced genuine welfare reform only when his own political future was on the line. During the first two years of his administration, when he had a Democratic Congress, he did nothing.
The man whose wife, presidential wannabe Hillary Clinton, conspired during those two years in secret meetings to nationalize one-seventh of the nation's economy with a draconian and Byzantine health care system, wasn't going to limit government handouts on his own.
This Republican legislation has been a tremendous success. Since 1996, welfare rolls have been cut by almost 60%, 1.6 million fewer children live in poverty, and more single mothers are employed than ever.
No wonder Bill Clinton wants to take credit for it. But if it had failed, no doubt Hillary would be running on the issue in 2006.
If Republicans hadn't taken control of Congress in January 1995, we wonder whether it would have happened at all.<!--