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Meanwhile, the president’s newly proposed 2011 budget adds a new “emergency fund” to TANF at a cost of $2.5 billion.

The unraveling of welfare reform shouldn’t be a surprise at a time when its adversaries have gathered power both in Congress and in the Oval Office. Many top Democrats in Congress voted against PRWORA, and in 1997 Mr. Obama, on the floor of the Illinois state Senate, said, “I probably would not have supported the federal [PRWORA] legislation.”

The liberal justification for all this welfare spending is, in essence, that desperate times call for desperate measures. Or as Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, famously put it: “Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is [the recession is] an opportunity to do things you couldn’t do before.”

There’s nothing wrong with enacting bold solutions to alleviate serious crises. But Mr. Obama and his allies are exploiting economic anxiety to destroy a successful law in pursuit of their goal of massively and permanently expanding the welfare state.

We know why. Big-government proponents embrace both the power of the federal government and the idea that millions of Americans ought to be dependent on its largesse. It’s time to return to our Founders’ love for small government. More is not always better.

Gary Bauer is a former domestic-policy adviser to President Reagan and currently is president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families.