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September 03, 2006

Little Willie Hutton


Bill Clinton is not the most obvious politician to become the darling of the conservatives, but recently, he has been luxuriating in praise from some improbable quarters. The reason? He's the man who really did end welfare as Americans knew it - the promise he made when he signed the Welfare Reform Act into law 10 years ago.

Benefit was to become a transitional, rather than a permanent, aspect of peoples' lives. The permanent feature would be work. Welfare recipients, mostly single mothers in the US system, could receive benefit from the Federal government for a maximum of five years in their lives. After that, nothing. Unless they worked, they would have no income. Many American liberals accused Clinton of meanness and legislative child abuse - and I remember having great reservations.

This is drivel. Wefare reform was not crafted by Bill Clinton he simply signed the bill crafted by the Republicans in Congress. He refused two times as well, had to be forced to sign it into law. Crediting Clinton is like honouring his services to internships everywhere.

There’s another rather more subtle point. Hutton fails to mention where the intellectual justification came from. From the UK in fact, from Richard Layard at the LSE. Based more on macro rather than micro considerations too.

You’d think he would mention it, wouldn’t you? After all, Wee Willie in in fact a Governor of the LSE.

September 3, 2006 in Economics | Permalink


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You're being picky. When even the old fashioned Left are seeing the light on welfare, we should rejoice not moan about who should take the blame.

The same is happening in Australia where the Labour Party is just waking up to the fact that one entire generation of Aboriginals has been lost forever to welfare.

Posted by: pommygranate | Sep 3, 2006 11:34:12 AM

The motivating principles for the welfare legislation of Clinton (or the Republican Congress) seem to be similar to the motivation for the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 in Britain:

The challenging question is whether there is a feasible alternative welfare model which doesn't cramp economic performance by destroying incentives to work. Gerhard Schroeder as Chancellor in Germany (1998-2005) surely believed that reforming Germany's welfare system was essential for improving the functioning of Germany's economy:

What happens in the EU presents an instructive laboratory. On the evidence, it depends on several factors as to whether countries with relatively high tax burdens - and supportive welfare systems - in the EU have better performing economies than those with lower tax burdens.

The recent study: Globalisation and the reform of the European social models, prepared by André Sapir for the think-tank Bruegel and presented at the ECOFIN Informal Meeting in Manchester on 9 September 2005 argued that there is not one European social model, but rather four - the Nordic, Anglo-Saxon, Mediterranean and the Continental:

• The Nordic model (welfare state, high level of social protection, high level of taxation, extensive intervention in the labour market, mostly in the form of job-seeking incentives)
• The Anglo-Saxon system (more limited collective provision of social protection merely to cushion the impact of events that would lead to poverty)
• The continental model (provision of social assistance through public insurance-based systems; limited role of the market in the provision of social assistance)
• The Mediterranean social welfare system (high legal employment protection; lower levels of unemployment benefits; spending concentrated on pensions)


Andre Sapir's paper on: Globalisation and the Reform of European Social Models, is here:

Posted by: Bob B | Sep 3, 2006 8:47:30 PM

Are you saying that Hutton has made the story up and that conservatives in America aren't praising Clinton for passing the legislation?

Or are you criticising Hutton for mot writing the story as you would like it? ("Slimeball Clinton took a break from his daily blowjob, and signed some legislation that the rightwingers forced him to. This makes it all the more ludicrous that some deluded wingnuts are now praising him for it and singing his virtues as a pioneer of welfare reform"......)

James C

Posted by: james C | Sep 4, 2006 2:51:27 PM