Bill Clinton Says Big Flaw In His Welfare Reform Should Be Fixed

Bill Scher

Earlier this week, former President Bill Clinton delivered a 90-minute defense of his economic record, which some are analyzing through the prism of Hillary Clinton’s expected presidential campaign.

But within that defense, Clinton admitted to a big mistake: the five-year time limit on welfare benefits for parents with children.

As Clinton noted, it’s not necessarily a problem when jobs are readily available, but it’s just plain cruel in the middle of a jobs crisis.

It did far more good than harm. But now, given the changed climate and the aftermath of the crash, the poorest welfare families, about 15% of the total, are worse off. And we should do something for them. And all of us who supported it should admit that … We shouldn’t have a five-year time limit that includes prolonged recessions.

President Obama tried to mitigate this problem with a program allowing states waivers for other work requirements if they wanted to experiment with other methods to move welfare recipients into the workforce, exactly the kind of state-level experimentation Republicans claim to support. But false Republican attacks scared states off and none of them applied for the waivers.

Aside from the continued Republican roadblocks, Clinton’s admission is notable. Assuming Hillary Clinton is going to run for president, she will be continually pressed on the Bill Clinton record, especially where it is weak and where it causes rifts within the progressive movement. This is not simply because she is married to Bill, but she was a full fledged member of the administration.

Still, Hillary and Bill don’t share a brain, and she is free to have her positions and opinions. But Bill’s welfare reform admission offers an obvious path forward: just admit when you were wrong in the past, and offer a solution for the future.

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