This very brief story from today’s Herald-Leader caught my eye.
New welfare rules make it harder for states to move people from public assistance to self-sufficiency, state officials told Congress yesterday. Stricter work requirements limit opportunities for education programs or vocational training, leaving many welfare recipients stuck in low-paying jobs, they said. Also, the requirements are difficult to meet for people with disabilities or substance-abuse problems. “I urge you to take steps to return greater flexibility to the states,” said Robin Arnold-Williams, Washington state’s secretary of social and health services.
This is just another in a string of stories about the increasing disparity between the haves and have-nots. Administrative rule changes, such as those mentioned in the article, are like indirect legislation. This governance tool makes the federal government work by dealing with details that would hopelessly bog down Congress. However, it also circumvents the accountability to the public of our representative form of government. Substantial welfare “reform” can occur in relative obscurity through rule-making.
In this circumstance, the federal rule-making appears to be hamstringing states ability to deal with welfare to work issues in flexible and creative ways.