Debate Paper on the Welfare Act

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Janeta Bolden
Professor Greenwood
HUM 411-985
5.15.2012
Debate Paper

In 1996, in order to fulfill his campaign promise to "end welfare as we know it" President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), as a result both the fabric and management of the national welfare system were altered. With any policy change comes conflict in the form of opposing perspectives, and the two conflicting viewpoints that will be discussed for the basis of this paper were induced as a result of the enacted PRWORA. Michael Tanner, the first author to be discussed within this paper defended the belief that the alterations to welfare reform achieved desirable results. Author Stephen Pimpare, the voice of the opposition, blasts the PRWORA and its aftereffect.

Michael Tanner discussed, how the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) has been the catalyst for the decline of poverty in the United States. Tanner began his argument by accenting the opposition of many American liberals, that anticipated that the passage of this bill would bare cataclysmic results such as, forcing families into absolute poverty. Through the use of statistical data, Tanner discussed how a decade later, the results of the aforesaid bill have proven to be quite opposite of the conjecture.

Comparatively, Stephen Pimpare sought to discuss, how the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) has come to fail the recipients that it was originally intended to benefit. Pimpare admits that although, the number of welfare recipients were reduced, there has not been enough substantial evidence to indicate that this was, as a result of welfare reform. Instead, Pimpare believes that the decline in poverty was attributed to forces unrelated to the enactment of the PRWORA. Although, poverty declined in the mid-1990's, he affirms that it is on the rise once more and in large part due to welfare reform. Pimpare continues his argument by making the struggles of former welfare recipients a focal point. By encouraging employment among the poor, the PRWORA placed a work requirement, and a five year lifetime cap on cash assistance, which Pimpare believes has made the lives of those that left welfare, particularly single mothers, that much harder. He more or less explains that under the policies of the PRWORA the federal governments attempt at bringing an end to welfare meant giving states more control over program requirements; doing away with previous federal matching funds, and reducing the incentives for bringing in new welfare recipients. According to Pimpare, without these incentives and the increased authority given to states, many now delegate their allotments for the use of programs or budget deficits that are unrelated to the welfare expenses for which, the funding was initially intended, and the few states that do invest funds into welfare related programs do so by contracting private organizations.

Each author agrees that there has been reductions in welfare rolls, but neither believe that this decline occurred for the same reasons. Michael Tanner asserts throughout his article that "rolls" declined in large part as a result of the PRWORA; giving only slight praise to economic growth. Tanner believes that this among other factors are an effective appraisal of the PRWORA's overall success. Although, Stephen Pimpare also acknowledges cuts in the "rolls", he denies that the PRWORA was the influence. He credits the diminishment of the "rolls" to the decline of unemployment and higher wages. He affirms that if it had not been for the implementation of welfare reform, poverty would have been substantially lower then it was.

An additional point, addressed by both authors, is how former welfare recipients have fared beyond their enrollment under the enacted PRWORA. Each side of the...
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