Bill Clinton: Remarks on Signing the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act

(1996)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

Welfare reform was one of Clinton's campaign promises in 1992, but most of his first year in office was spent in a futile effort to revamp the nation's health-care system. Following the Democratic losses in the 1994 midterm elections, welfare reform resurfaced as an important agenda item. Increasingly conservative, most American voters believed that it was time to limit government spending on social programs. Popularized by President Ronald Reagan, the image of the “welfare queen,” the single mother who abused the system, symbolized the perceived corruption and inefficiencies of public assistance.

In his remarks Clinton points out that the profile of a welfare aid recipient has changed since the program's inception. In 1935 Franklin Delano Roosevelt created Aid to Dependent Children, which covered mostly children of families headed by widows. By the 1960s the typical welfare recipient was a divorced, unwed, or deserted single mother....

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Bill Clinton (Library of Congress)

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