Bill Clinton: Radio Address on the Welfare Reform Act

(1996)

Impact

Clinton's welfare reform speech illustrates one of the most important results of his administration: the shift of the Democratic Party away from its traditional stance on social policy toward a more conservative position. While many embraced this new moderate outlook, others decried Clinton's centrism; the historian Robin D. G. Kelley referred to the PRWORA as “the most draconian measure of the late twentieth century … signed not by a Republican president but by a self-proclaimed liberal Democrat” (p. 82). Three officials in Health and Human Services resigned in protest over the president's decision to sign the bill. Clinton's welfare reform may have won him reelection, but it also cost him political capital with many in his own party.

The public reaction was somewhat muted. Most polls indicated strong support in general for welfare reform, although one poll showed that almost half of all Americans had not heard about the reform bill or had no opinion. However, the...

Image for: Bill Clinton: Radio Address on the Welfare Reform Act

Bill Clinton (Library of Congress)

View Full Size