Saturday, February 14, 2009

Clinton's legacy--welfare reform of 1996

The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 was more successful than anyone hoped. Even Democrats acknowledged it while in the next breath noting it didn't end poverty or illegitimacy or hang the moon. The new Obama plan will undo most of what's left of it. The old programs and expenses crept back over the years under new names and acronyms without the stigma of welfare--SCHIP, EITC, TANF expanded child care, more money for school feeding programs. I think even food stamps got a new name.

We "imported" more poor people through the sieve of our borders and broadened the definition of poverty. Too many well paid jobs depend on the poor--poverty will never go away. Although the welfare case loads went down, it's still really tough for a single mom with limited education and few skills to compete economically with two income, college educated married couples. Do the math. It's easy for her children to slip back into "let the government take care of me" mentality ala Henrietta the Homeless in Florida. Even so, my 1996 letter to Ellen Goodman, the columnist, who was extremely negative then about the Act, shows Democrats differed. At that time I was still a Democrat, therefore my criticism of her column is a criticism of the programs I myself had supported and even then viewed as failures. (I supported the PRWORA, however, with reservations about where former welfare recipients would work.)

You may have a point, childhood or children, have indeed become expendable. But wasn't it we, the Democrats, who put that all in place long before the welfare reform? Who is it that first made unborn children less than human--when we undercut (chopped up might be a better term) the weakest and most vulnerable in our society at the rate of a million a year? We made an inconvenient pregnancy a tragedy and labeled it the "right to choose." Did we really think that this concept wouldn't start creeping up the age charts? And remember when we liberals thought the mentally ill and retarded should be out on the streets enjoying all those civil rights the rest of us have and we closed all their safe havens? And what about the tax structure that clobbers families with children and makes it more advantageous for men and women to just live together? And who was it that made it more financially viable for a woman to be married to Uncle Sam than to a man? Who was it that made being totally unproductive an entitlement? Wasn't it you and me?

I'm older than you, Ms. Goodman, and I remember when the "War on Poverty" began. I've seen 30+ years of billions of dollars being thrown at a problem, dollars that often go to pay the salaries of social workers, government bureaucrats and careerist do-gooders just so we can feel like we're doing something. I myself once worked for the JTPA--and I worked very hard, but I fear most of the money didn't really make it to the people who needed the help. Many have left poverty behind and for that I am grateful--but I doubt that public assistance helped as much as their families' assistance, or their churches' assistance, or the tremendous economic growth of the 1980s, the years we Democrats love to lie about. The problem with poverty graph lines and figures is it doesn't show what happens to individuals. Even with the horrors of welfare, my guess is the chances of moving up are still far better in the USA than anywhere else in the world.

Frankly, I'm concerned about where these folks currently on welfare are going to find this "work opportunity." Do I really want someone who has never had a parental example of working for a living serving my food, plumbing my pipes or inserting my IVs? Can you think of any jobs for someone trained in a 6 or 8 week program who dropped out of high school or doesn't have transportation? We all know that initially it will be more expensive to put people to work than to let them live on subsistence.

We encouraged women to get abortions; we encouraged them to go to work leaving the childcare to poor women; we encouraged them to ignore marriage vows. We shouldn't be surprised if the children are "sold and eaten."

And to think I remained a Democrat for another four years! The Democrats are now Socialists and the Republicans are now what the Democrats were in the 1970s and 1980s. Anyone for a new party?


Anonymous said...

Murray sez:
Put me down for a new party! Where is Ross Perot when we need him? Only trouble with that is his platform was run the country like a business. That may have worked back then but now businesses have learned to operate like the federal government. Screw the masses, take their money and run!

Norma said...

I didn't care for Perot--he's the guy who got Clinton elected by Republicans bolting for the door, but surely there must be someone out there with character, charisma, a business degree and the ability to read the constitution who can put together a Conservative Party.

Anonymous said...

Murray sez:
I didn't like him either but at least he wasn't a recycle. I think if he would have picked a solid running mate things may have been different. Couldn't have been worse no way, no how, no sir!