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The Sky Didn’t Fall

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Good morning, friends, and welcome to Wednesday!

In case you missed the final tally from the Summer Olympics, the United States dominated. American athletes won 121 medals: 46 gold, 37 silver, and 38 bronze. In fact, the U.S. won more gold medals than Germany and France, who tied for fifth in the medal count, won in total medals. Well done, Team USA.

Monday marked the twenty-year anniversary of welfare reform, a bill developed by conservatives in Congress, passed by both chambers with bipartisan support, and signed by a Democratic president.

The legislation’s path to enactment wasn’t easy. As welfare reform made its way through Congress and to the president’s desk, liberal naysayers lambasted the bill, warning it would force families out of their homes and onto the streets as well as lay waste to America’s cities. The New York Times went so far as to claim welfare reform “is punishment.”

For more on the bill, check out Kiki Bradley and Robert Doar’s Welfare Reform to Promote Work and Marriage, a recently released book in CRN’s Room To Grow series.

Bradley and Doar point to evidence disproving the left’s “the sky will fall” claims:

The critics were wrong. For the first time, a welfare program was changed so that it met recipients with the expectation that they could achieve, move upward, and find jobs. More than 2.8 million families did just that and left the welfare rolls. The child-poverty rate dropped from 20.8 percent in 1995 to 17.4 percent in 2006. More than 1.8 million children moved out of poverty.

The success of the pro-work welfare reforms of 1996 should guide further reforms of anti-poverty programs. Bradley and Doar write,

This positive case study should inform future reforms to food stamps, public housing, Medicaid, the Child Care Development Fund, Job Corps, and many other programs for the poor. It should also spur other reforms to promote self-sufficiency, strengthen civil society, encourage marriage, and help noncustodial parents become more responsible.

Conservative reforms to anti-poverty programs should incent work, promote raising children in married families, as well as bolster economic, job, and wage growth.

You may find Bradley and Doar’s book here, and don’t miss Scott Winship’s “Safety-Net Reforms to Protect the Vulnerable and Expand the Middle Class” (here), a chapter in CRN’s Room To Grow.