No one could have predicted…

… that Clinton’s welfare reform might come back to bite us in the ass someday.

The deepening recession offers a fresh challenge to the program, which was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 amid bitter protest and became one of the most closely watched social experiments in modern memory.

The program, which mostly serves single mothers, ended a 60-year-old entitlement to cash aid, replacing it with time limits and work requirements, and giving states latitude to discourage people from joining the welfare rolls. While it was widely praised in the boom years that followed, skeptics warned it would fail the needy when times turned tough.

Supporters of the program say the flat caseloads may reflect a lag between the loss of a job and the decision to seek help. They also say the recession may have initially spared the low-skilled jobs that many poor people take.

But critics argue that years of pressure to cut the welfare rolls has left an obstacle-ridden program that chases off the poor, even when times are difficult.

Even some of the program’s staunchest defenders are alarmed.

The last eight years have shown us the unbelievable depths to which an administration can sink, but it doesn’t change the fact that Clinton’s presidency was a case study in wasted opportunities, from the ongoing right-wing appeasement of nonsense like welfare reform (and signing off on the repeal of Glass-Steagal, another “nobody could have predicted” moment) to the health care debacle which set back the possibility of health care reform by an entire generation.