Election 2016

Bernie Sanders Slams Clinton for Having Supported Slashing of America's Safety Net

The Vermont senator takes aim at Bill Clinton's 1996 legislation.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 9, 2015:- U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent -Vermont) speaks at a luncheon at the National Press Club
Photo Credit: Albert H. Teich / Shutterstock.com

Bernie Sanders is criticizing Hillary Clinton for supporting the gutting of the welfare system under Bill Clinton's watch. In 1996, Bill Clinton passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, with the advertised intention of "ending welfare as we know it." Many critics believe that's exactly what it did. Three assistant secretaries at the Department of Health resigned in protest of the act, claiming that it shredded the existing safety net. In her 2003 book, Living History, Clinton writes that she supported the legislation.

Bloomberg's Josh Eidelson reports that Sanders is now taking aim at Clinton for this position. "I think that history will suggest that that legislation has not worked terribly well," Sanders told Bloomberg. "I mean, that’s what Ronald Reagan’s ‘welfare queen’ was all about. It was the illusion that we’re spending huge sums of money on people who are cheating, who are taking advantage of the welfare system and so forth."

In her book, Clinton insists welfare reform gave millions of parents jobs, but many see things quite differently.

In his Harper's essay on Hillary's campaign, economic analyst Doug Henwood writes about a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report that analyzed the long-term impact of welfare reform. "They found that [it's] serving fewer families despite increased demand, that the value of benefits has eroded to the point where beneficiaries can’t meet their basic needs, and that it does far less to reduce poverty than its predecessor, AFDC. In addition, the report noted that almost all of the early employment gains for single mothers have since been reversed."

Clinton's support of her husband's legislation briefly came up during the 2008 campaign as well. Then Senator Obama declared, "I won't second-guess President Clinton for signing."

Michael Arria is an associate editor at AlterNet and AlterNet's labor editorFollow @MichaelArria on Twitter.

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