Where The Welfare Queens Went
It's never been entirely clear, however, where all those people went. Sure, many of them got jobs during the late-90s expansion. But some may have simply been bounced from one form of welfare to another.
A new report by the Congressional Budget Office finds that even as AFDC/TANF (the former Aid to Families with Dependent Children program was renamed Temporary Assistance to Needy Families by the '96 act) shrank, other federal benefits programslike the earned income tax credit (EITC), Food Stamps, Medicaid, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) swelled.
"Unlike the pattern with AFDC/TANF, those other four programs have generally experienced increases in participation in recent decades," CBO says. And as of 2003 each program served more people and required more money than TANF. SSI, for example, was serving 6.9 million people in 1996. In 2003, it claimed 8.4 million beneficiaries. Food Stamps go to 24 million people, up from 17 million just three years earlier.
The people who left AFDC could be different from the folks who've recently enrolled in SSI or Food Stamps. And even if they are the same people, getting Food Stamps or SSI might be an improvement over receiving AFDC. But it doesn't seem like the "self-sufficiency" the White House boasts about. It seems like welfare reform has done no better than welfare at curing the underlying problem, which, once upon a time, was called "poverty."