Tuesday, August 22, 2006


The Moose commemorates a bi-partisan achievement.

It has been ten years since President Clinton signed welfare reform. At a time when Americans lament dysfunctional government, we should learn from the experience of that legislation accomplishment.

First, the law worked. Welfare caseloads are down. Employment of single mothers has increased. Child support collections are up. While it is not perfect, this law is as good as it gets when it comes to federal legislation.

The law was the product of divided government. Republicans initially offered legislation that was far too draconian. A Democratic President forced compromise. It was a textbook example of how government should work. It was a model of the vital center in action. Indeed, one of the primary reasons why Democrats may fare so well in November is the yearning for a return of the checks and balances of divided government.

Significantly, the passage of welfare reform significantly weakened the decades old conservative war against big government. For years, the welfare system was the symbol of the welfare state run amok. The Moose can attest to the fact that many conservatives recognized that welfare reform legitimized government again.

In this instance, the third way worked. It worked in policy terms. It worked politically. It was a big idea that was translated into law that positively transformed lives. Not bad.

New Democrats continue to produce innovative ideas while others throw fits. A must read is the entertaining and enlightening new book by Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Reed (an architect of welfare reform) - The Plan.

Much is made in the MSM about the rebellion of the nutroots. The nutrooters themselves fancy themselves as the equivalent on the left of the Reaganite insurgency. But, what is their agenda?

What are their ideas? If it is a insurgency, it is a nihilistic tantrum devoid of solutions or alternatives.

Matt Bai made this important point in Sunday's New York Times Magazine,

"Leaders of the Netroots, as the Internet activists have been named, will tell you that big ideas are way overrated in American politics - that you first have to master the business of getting elected before you can worry about how to govern. (Most powerful Democrats in Washington now believe this too.) But even with legions of outraged conservatives at his back, Reagan would not have taken over his party in 1980 - let alone the White House - had he not articulated an affirmative and bold argument against his party's status quo, vowing to devolve the federal government and roll back detente with the Soviets. Passion and fury started the revolution, but it took a leader with larger vision to finish the job."

Rage is not a vision.
-- Posted at 9:15 AM | Link to this post | Email this post