Continued from page 1

The only possible purpose for waivers is to undermine work requirements, and the administration’s memorandum basically concedes as much. It calls on states to weaken or abandon work requirements in favor of fuzzy metrics that do not actually require welfare recipients to “work,” in a way that word is normally understood.

Preparation for work and “career pathways,” which the new policy emphasize, are most assuredly not the same thing as work. This is a pathway to the past, when states credited personal journaling, motivational reading, exercise at home, and helping friends run errands as “work.” And that’s also how the administration can claim that loosening work requirements would actually result in more persons working — simply by contriving new “definitions of work activities and engagement.”

And it’s all blatantly illegal. With 21 uses of the word “shall,” the language of Section 407 is not open to much interpretation. Elsewhere, the law allows some waivers, but Section 407 is not on the waiver list.

So, yes, it’s safe to say the attempt to waive work requirements “guts” welfare reform. What’s “over the top” is minimizing the significance of this new policy.

Andrew M. Grossman is a visiting legal fellow in the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.