Work over Welfare: The Inside Story of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law

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Work over Welfare tells the inside story of the legislation that ended "welfare as we know it." As a key staffer on the House Ways and Means Committee, author Ron Haskins was one of the architects of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996. In this landmark book, he vividly portrays the political battles that produced the most dramatic overhaul of the welfare system since its creation as part of the New Deal.

Haskins starts his story in the early 1990s, as a small group of Republicans lays the groundwork for welfare reform by developing innovative policies to encourage work and fight illegitimacy. These ideas, which included such controversial provisions as mandatory work requirements and time limits for welfare recipients, later became part of the Republicans' Contract with America and were ultimately passed into law. But their success was hardly foreordained. Haskins brings to life the often bitter House and Senate debates the Republican proposals provoked, as well as the backroom negotiations that kept welfare reform alive through two presidential vetoes. In the process, he illuminates both the personalities and the processes that were crucial to the ultimate passage of the 1996 bill. He also analyzes the changes it has wrought on the social and political landscape over the past decade.

In Work over Welfare, Haskins has provided the most authoritative account of welfare reform to date. Anyone with an interest in social welfare or politics in general will learn a great deal from this insightful and revealing book.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In providing a lively account of the personalities, policies, and politics that shaped the landmakr welfare-reform legislation, Ron Haskins has produced an engaging primer on the complicated and arcane legislative process. In Work over Welfare, the account of how a bill becomes a law receives a remarkably entertaining treatment, and the book should find an appreciative audience well beyond his fellow academics." —Kate O'Beirne, National Review, 12/27/2006

"Ron Haskins, the House GOP staffer in charge of drafting the welfare-reform bill, has written an engrossing book about how this ambitious campaign proposal led to the most important domestic-policy requirements for welfare recipients.

This is both a terrific political-science text on how Congress functions (when it functions, that is) and an engrossing tale of a tense and dramatic political struggle." —E.J. McMahon, New York Post, 12/10/2006

"Haskins has done a superb job of telling the story of the landmark welfare reform legislation, providing wonderful insights about politics and policy-making as well as about welfare. Even for those who were less than enthusiastic about the substance of welfare reform, this is a fascinating and valuable read.

Haskins knows how to tell a good story, complete with laughs, suspense, empathy, novelistic details, memorable characters and a distinct point of view." —Frank Solomon, Policy & Practice, 12/1/2006

"This book offers a marvelously detailed and nuanced study of the reform, which few are better suited to write about than Haskins." —Peter R. Latusek, Library Journal, 11/1/2006

"Ron Haskins writes with humor and candor about the political process and the intrigue that brought the policy change. This insider's view, an accessible demonstration of how sausage (law) is made, is a 'must read' for those who want to make or change policy and need to know what it takes." —Eloise Anderson, senior fellow, Claremont Institute

"Ron Haskins has done a superb job of telling the story of the 1996 welfare reform legislation, with wonderful insights about politics and policymaking as well as about welfare. Even —or perhaps especially —for those of us who were and are less than enthusiastic about the substance of welfare reform, this is a fascinating and valuable book.
" —Mary Jo Bane, Harvard University

"In a new book, 'Work over Welfare,' Brookings Institution senior fellow Ron Haskins—a top Republican congressional staffer during the welfare debate—cites much evidence of success." —Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post and Newsweek, 8/3/2006

"This book will be of interest to all readers, and will be especially useful for upper-division and graduate policy process courses. Recommended." —S. Q. Kelly, Niagara University, CHOICE, 6/1/2007

"Well-written, well-documented (more than fifty pages of endnotes), and thought provoking. Haskins' understanding of history, social science research, policy, politics, research think tanks, and the legislative process is impressive....For policy experts and researchers interested in the history of welfare policy in the U.S., Haskins' Work over Welfare should be a must read." —Scott W. Allard, Brown University, Publius: The Journal of Federalism

"The real inside story of the historic 1996 welfare reform by the one man who could write it. Not only is Ron Haskins the rare political operative who's also a serious scholar; he also knows how to tell a good story, complete with laughs, suspense, empathy, novelistic details, memorable characters, and a distinct point of view. Welfare reform was a rare and wondrous event, and so is this book." —Mickey Kaus, author of The End of Equality

"WORK OVER WELFARE is THE inside account of the making of welfare reform. Ron Haskins tells the story marvelously. Reform reflected years of earlier Republican policy development and difficult statecraft within Congress. Even the critics of big government had to use it to transform welfare, and they did." —Lawrence M. Mead, Professor of Politics, New York University

"An excellent first-hand account of the landmark 1996 welfare reform law, written by a man whose steadfast determination and willingness to work across party lines helped make that law possible." —Bruce Reed, president, Democratic Leadership Council

"WORK OVER WELFARE is insightful, revealing, and fascinating throughout. If you're interested in either welfare policy or how the Republican Congress develops major legislation, you'll want to read this book, whether you concur with Haskins's policy views or not." —Bob Greenstein, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815735151
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2007
  • Pages: 450
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Ron Haskins is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a senior consultant at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. A former adviser to the President for welfare policy, he spent 14 years on the staff of the House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee, first as welfare counsel to the Republican staff, then as the subcommittee's staff director. He is the author of Work over Welfare: The Inside Story of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law (Brookings, 2006) and coeditor, with Rebecca Blank, of The New World of Welfare (Brookings, 2002).

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1.  Building the American Welfare State
Chapter 2.  Laying the Groundwork
Chapter 3.  House Republicans Unite behind Radical Reforms
Chapter 4.  The Contract with America
Chapter 5.  The House Initiates the Revolution
Chapter 6.  The Battle in the House, Part I: Hearings
Chapter 7.  The Battle in the House, Part II: Markups
Chapter 8.  The Battle in the House, Part III: The Floor
Chapter 9.  The Senate Joins the Revolution
Chapter 10.  Budget Issues Trump Welfare Reform
Chapter 11.  Clinton Vetoes Welfare Reform
Chapter 12.  The Governors Revive the Revolution
Chapter 13.  The Revolution Threatened
Chapter 14.  Triumph: Clinton Signs
Chapter 15.  Ten Years Later: The Triumph of Work
Appendix. The Welfare Reform Bill that Reshaped American Social Policy
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