The nation’s welfare rolls have been cut by 2.1 million people in four years with reductions - some dramatic - recorded in all but five states, President Clinton said Saturday.
“This is the biggest drop in the welfare rolls in history,” the president said in his weekly radio address. He called it important progress toward “making the permanent underclass a thing of the past.”
Clinton pointed to Wisconsin with a 41 percent reduction in people receiving welfare and to Indiana’s 38 percent decline. Both states were granted “landmark waivers” by his administration to launch their own welfare-reform experiments emphasizing work, he said.
But Clinton said much remains to do, including recruiting business and industry to provide a million more jobs to ease able-bodied people off the welfare roles and into jobs.
Now, he said, “Every organization which employs people should consider hiring someone off welfare, and every state ought to give these organizations the incentives to do so.”
The radio address delivered, Clinton flew to Philadelphia aboard Air Force One to attend the Army-Navy football game at Veterans Stadium and present the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to the winning team.
In his broadcast, the president said the next step toward solving the welfare problem is for the states to implement the new welfare overhaul by tailoring reform plans to their communities.
He said the reform plans of 14 states have already been certified and announced that those of four others - California, Nebraska, South Dakota and Alabama - are approved.
“All their plans will require and reward work, impose time limits, increase child-care payments and demand personal responsibility,” Clinton said.
“We’ll protect the guarantees of health care, nutrition and child care - all of which are critical to helping families move from welfare to work,” he said. “And we’ll continue to crack down on child support enforcement.”
But he said a serious hurdle remains.
“Now we have to create a million jobs for people on welfare by giving businesses incentives to hire people off welfare and enlisting the private sector in a national effort to bring all Americans into the economic mainstream,” Clinton said. “We have to have help from the private sector.”
Offering a Republican viewpoint in the GOP radio response, Sen. Dan Coats, of Indiana, urged Clinton to go beyond general calls for bipartisanship and to “get more specific.”
He asserted that most Americans believe that “cold, bureaucratic federal programs” will not help desperate people or lead to a better society, but private charitable efforts can help.
The senator urged Clinton to support his proposal for a $500 charity tax credit by which individuals could directly support effective neighborhood charities to help the poor.
He called the idea “common ground” between Republicans and Democrats and said it would promote “real, hands-on compassion as an alternative to the welfare state.”