Stossel: Did Obama water down welfare-work requirements?

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," September 25, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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O'REILLY: "Stossel Matters" segment, when President Obama took office, 32 million Americans were on food stamps. Now the number is 47 million. And there are charges that the Obama administration wants to get as many people as possible on the dole.


OBAMA: What I think will re-engage people in politics is if we're doing significant, serious policy work around what I will label "working poor", they are struggling. And to the extent that we are doing research figuring out what kinds of government action will successfully make their lives better, we are then putting together a potential majority of coalition to move those agendas forward.


O'REILLY: So we asked John Stossel to investigate whether or not welfare work requirements are being watered down by the Obama administration, perhaps for political reasons. Here is Stossel, the author of the big book "No they Can't".

So what did you find out?

JOHN STOSSEL, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Well, "No, they can't" cure poverty, but no, there is no real evidence that they're intentionally watering down the work standards.

O'REILLY: Why do conservatives feel that way? What is it about the dictum that the President gave the states that has upset the right?

STOSSEL: Well he did give this dictum which may or may not be constitutional that says you don't have to obey these earlier federal work requirements and before the law was passed, some states were sending people to hula classes and things like that and calling it work or calling --

O'REILLY: Ok so they tightened up the rules and it worked. Let me just read some stats here.


O'REILLY: Bill Clinton in `96, there were 25 million Americans on food stamps in the Clinton administration. After the welfare work rules were tightened up, 17 million. All right, so it dropped eight million; a 33 percent drop. And the case loads plummeted; 50 percent in the welfare arena after Congress, Newt Gingrich and -- and Bill Clinton --

STOSSEL: Yes they do. And it's wonderful. The case loads fell by half.

O'REILLY: Right so we all agree -- we all agree that what they did in `96 was good for the country, for the poor, for everybody. We all agree? Do you agree?

STOSSEL: Actually for poor people, yes.

O'REILLY: Ok, all right, so why on earth would he want to water that down? He being President Obama? Why would you want to do that?

STOSSEL: Because states want to experiment. They're asking for this --

O'REILLY: Wait, wait. Who cares whether states want to experiment? If the federal law is working for the good of the country? What do I care whether Delaware or California wants to do something differently? Why should I care?

STOSSEL: Because over time, none of these federal or state or local, either laws work well. I send an intern out to these job centers to see what kinds of help they gave. They all just directed her to handouts. She had to struggle to get help.

O'REILLY: But then how can you --

STOSSEL: -- says we can do it better.

O'REILLY: If you say the work welfare rules or law didn't work, how can stats say it did? How can you say it didn't?

STOSSEL: It helped for a while and we send a message. Five years, you're off. And you have to work. A lot of women said ok, I'm going to move back in with mom and find a job. And they found, gee, I like working. I feel good about myself not being dependent.

O'REILLY: All right.

STOSSEL: That helped for a while. Over time, the bureaucrats do what bureaucrats do. They just say here, more food stamps. More of this, more people --

O'REILLY: All right, you're not making the case to me. I think that the 1996 welfare work law was a good law that helped the country and that it is still in effect today, by the way. I don't think they revoked. All right, what's gone is this little dance that the President has signed an executive order allowing the states to mess with it. All right?

And I think that's a horrible mistake.

STOSSEL: What if they make it better? What if those (inaudible) has a good idea.

O'REILLY: You know, you don't experiment with the taxpayer money. You don't experiment with it. That's what he did with Solyndra. And $500 million disappeared. If the states can make it better, all right, then show me first. We'll do a pilot program. We'll do an experimental thing. And then if it works, we'll bring it to Congress and say, hey, this might be better.

But right now you have an explosion of entitlements all over in every area under this administration. Their excuse is there is a recession. Everybody would die if we didn't do it. All right. Now, there is something to that, but not to the extent they're making it.

But you seem to be enabling them, Stossel. You seem to be enabling them.

STOSSEL: Look, we're already enabling them. The feds are doing it. If -- if Utah says we can do it better, the law does say you pay for it and we'll give you a five year experiment --

O'REILLY: I don't mind that.

STOSSEL: And if you show an improvement we'll let you keep doing it.

O'REILLY: If you do a pilot program in Utah, they think you can do it better, that's fine with me.

O'REILLY: But the sneaky and that's what it was, executive order allowing across the board, you don't really have to pay it as you define the top of this segment, wrong.

John Stossel everybody, there he is.

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