President Trump’s cluelessness about government was on full display during his Iowa rally, calling for legislation that was already passed 21 years ago.
While speaking to fans in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, President Trump told the crowd that he would introduce legislation that temporarily prevents immigrants from receiving welfare after they come to the United States.
“The time has come for new immigration rules which say that those seeking admission into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years,” Trump said, adding that he will be “putting in legislation to that effect very shortly.”
However, that bill was already passed and signed into law by former President Bill Clinton in 1996. The bill’s official title is the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, and is known as one of Clinton’s more controversial policies during his eight years in office due to its drastic cuts to social safety net programs, as well as the bill’s failure to reduce poverty or eliminate dependence on welfare.
Along with being wildly uncompassionate, Trump’s call for stringent welfare reform would do very little for Americans already suffering from crippling poverty. According to a Mother Jones analysis of a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities study breaking down the 1996 law, Clinton’s welfare overhaul — which replaced the old welfare system with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant program — was unable to keep people from sliding back into poverty due to block grants not being tied to rises in costs of living. This means TANF recipients get even less today than they did in 1996:
According to CBPP, there is not a state in the country whose welfare benefits are enough to lift a poor single mother with two kids above 50 percent of the poverty line, or about $9700 a year. In many southern states, TANF doesn’t provide enough money to get a poor family much above 10 percent of the poverty line.
Specific language limiting immigrants’ eligibility for welfare programs is among the reforms to the U.S. welfare system in the 1996 bill, which specifies that immigrants are deemed “not eligible for any Federal means-tested public benefit” for five years.
As of this writing, Trump has not yet acknowledged that his proposal was already passed by a Democratic president more than two decades ago.
Kevin Wallace is a journalist with five years’ experience in print and digital media, and covers politics, media, and culture for the Resistance Report. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida.