Annie Lowrey, New York Magazine:
So here is my humble suggestion for the Clinton and Sanders campaigns: If you really want to help low-income families, bring back welfare. Make it easier to get and easier to keep. Rename it, rework it, and destigmatize it. Use it as a vital, instrumental tool to help all very low-income families with children, not just a last resort for some. Make reform about helping kids and ending extreme poverty rather than punishing parents.
Recognize that the economy of 2016 is not the economy of 1996. There are not enough jobs, and too many of the ones we have are not enough to get out of poverty, let alone into the middle class. If the problem was ever cultural, if the problem was ever that some adults just lack intrinsic motivation — and was that ever true? — we know that it is not today’s problem. People are desperate to work, but the jobs are not always there for them, and the system does not always work for them.
If need be, bolster the current system by providing it with additional funding and requiring states to use it better, as President Obama proposes in a little-noticed provision in his most recent budget. Or, better yet, tear down the current system entirely. Create a federal entitlement for families along with a strong jobs initiative, perhaps one modeled on the successful recession-era TANF Emergency Fund. “There should be a real safety net, and a serious job-placement effort, including child care,” says Peter Edelman, who quit the Bill Clinton administration over welfare reform and is supporting Hillary now. “Do all of that with the proper investment.”