Friday, April 11, 2008


PETER S. GOODMAN, NY TIMES In the summer of 1996, President Bill Clinton delivered on his pledge to “end welfare as we know it.” Despite howls of protest from some liberals, he signed into law a bill forcing recipients to work and imposing a five-year limit on cash assistance.

As first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton supported her husband’s decision, drawing the wrath of old friends from her days as an advocate for poor children. Some accused the Clintons of throwing vulnerable families to the winds in pursuit of centrist votes as Mr. Clinton headed into the final stages of his re-election campaign. . .

Mrs. Clinton’s opponent in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Barack Obama, said in an interview that the welfare overhaul had been greatly beneficial in eliminating a divisive force in American politics.

Mrs. Clinton, now a senator from New York, rarely mentions the issue as she battles for the nomination, despite the emphasis she has placed on her experience in her husband’s White House.

But now the issue is back, pulled to the fore by an economy turning down more sharply than at any other time since the welfare changes were imposed. With low-income people especially threatened by a weakening labor market, some advocates for poor families are raising concerns about the adequacy of the remaining social safety net. . .

Mrs. Clinton expressed no misgivings about the 1996 legislation, saying that it was a needed - and enormously successful - first step toward making poor families self-sufficient.

“Welfare should have been a temporary way station for people who needed immediate assistance,” she said. “It should not be considered an anti-poverty program. It simply did not work.”. . .

Mr. Obama called the resulting law “an imperfect reform.” Like Mrs. Clinton, he called for an expansion of government-provided health care, child care and job training to assist women making the transition from welfare to work - programs he says he helped expand in Illinois as a state senator.

Asked if he would have vetoed the 1996 law, Mr. Obama said, “I won’t second guess President Clinton for signing.”. . .

“If there is no national controversy about welfare reform, we paid an awfully high price,” said Peter Edelman, a law professor at Georgetown University who has known Mrs. Clinton since her college days, and who quit his post as assistant secretary of social services at the Department of Health and Human Services in protest after Mr. Clinton signed the measure. “They don’t acknowledge the number of people who were hurt,” Mr. Edelman said. “It’s just not in their lens. It was predictably bad public policy.”

Forcing families to rely on work instead of government money went well from 1996 to 2000, when the economy was booming and paychecks were plentiful, economists say. Since then, however, job creation has slowed and poverty has risen. The current downturn could be the first serious test of how well the changes brought about by the 1996 law hold up under sharp economic stress. . .

Marian Wright Edelman, the founder of Children’s Defense Fund, an activist group that had given Mrs. Clinton her first job, blasted the Clintons as betraying the poor, opening a rift that Mrs. Clinton called “sad and painful.” Mrs. Edelman’s husband, Peter, quit his administration post.

In the years that followed, the number of those on welfare rolls plummeted by more than 60 percent. . . In recent years, however, low-skilled women have struggled. The percentage of poor single mothers neither working nor drawing cash assistance surged from under 20 percent before the welfare overhaul to more than 30 percent in 2005, according to the Congressional Research Service. During the same period, the number of children in poverty rose to 12.8 million from 11.6 million, according to census data


At April 11, 2008 6:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my God, recipients were FORCED TO WORK. How horrible. WTF, the rest of us work as a frickin' hobby, not because we HAVE to?

I'm sorry, it's liberal shit like this that makes me tend to switch off to the whole "oh, the pitiful poor people" issue.

At April 11, 2008 10:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of people on this site aren't gonna like that comment, but I'll tell you what--I agree.

I work a fifty-hour work week. I make 11.50 an hour, am single, have no dependents, and most months, I get to make a choice whether to pay the rent, the utilities, or eat decently for a while. There's no rational excuse for that.

I don't use credit cards. As for gratuitous personal expenses on 'luxuries'--forget it. I also have no insurance, and no savings, because by the time taxes are taken, and the bills are paid, there's nothing left to save.

Unlike the majority of welfare recipients, I can't get food stamps. I don't qualify for help on my utility bills, so sometimes it gets a little cold around the place in the winter. I don't qualify for medical assistance, or Section 8, where a sizeable portion of my rent gets paid by Uncle Sam every month.

But my working-class ass can damn sure afford to pay for these benefits for others.

I, and many others like me are beinsg systematically penalized for not having illegitimate children, not being dropouts, and for being chumps enough to try to be responsible for ourselves, and earn our own way, rather than live off of someone else's sweat. And I can guareantee you, looking at the welfare apparatus in this nation, those of us who choose the above path are just that--CHUMPS, and we are going to continue to be chumps who are continually milked to pay for everyone else.

That is, until the day finally comes when we really do get mad as hell, and decide not to take it any more.

And for those of you out there who dislike what I've just said--tough. I could not care less. My answer to you is that the majority of Americans who work for a lousy (barely) living wage in this country will start to care a lot more once they start getting screwed a lot less. And once they get to share equally in some of those benefits that right now they are only underwriting for others. And none of your smart, condescending remarks are ever going to change that.

At April 11, 2008 11:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Overwork and destitution are two sides of the same coin. Until morons that work like hell for a living realize that we're all in this together, and that humanities productive capabilities could provide for all to work as much or little as they want, then we're going to have to hear them bitch.

Get a geoscope and some sympathy, jackass.

At April 12, 2008 10:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, how much do you earn, "jackass"? (8:48)--or possibly more to the point, how much do your parents earn? How many employees does your Daddy have?

I didn't post either of the statements above, but the poster at 7:24 at least has the balls to lay his/her cards on the table and identify their income and situation. Looks like the best you can do is sit there bangin' away on your laptop treating us to the profound insights--otherwise known as snide remarks that amply display your level of 'sympathy'--that this person referred to.

When you have the nuts enough to identify your place on the socio-economic ladder, 8:48, c'mon back for a chat. Til then, try STFU until you get some experience of what its like to try and survive on the average wage earner's salary. I'm guessing you don't know a hell of a lot about it right now.

At April 12, 2008 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The most viable and longest lasting of the European and Latin American socialized welfare plans provide on a completely equal basis for all their citizens, wealthy or poor (or in the middle). The same systems that US corporate interests are doing their damndest meddling best to dismantle. The United Staes, on the other hand, the supposed cradle of equality, has the worst, and most unequal, distribution of public welfare monies in the Western world. And of course, no such thing as universal health care, or rent controls that could help prevent a fair amount of economically created homelessness, when people who work find that their income is no longer sufficient to meet their housing costs. Until there are huge changes made in the system of wealth distribution in this country, those who labor the hardest to provide the revenues to fund welfare, and often times derive the least benefit from it, are going to remain justifiably angry. Pretty natterings about some vague utopia where "humanity's productive capabilities could provide for all to work as much or little as they want" don't cut it, Anon 848. The only thing that will cut it is ceaseless agitation for a progressive governmental system that provides for equal care to all its citizens. It works elsewhere, and the only thing that has stopped it from working here is a greed-crazed laissez faire capitalist fascism run amok, strangling the life out of the people it employs to keep its engines running.

At April 13, 2008 12:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The U.S government just provided a $30 billion dollar bailout in corporate welfare for Bear Stearns. The war in Iraq is providing trillions of dollars in corporate welfare for Halliburton, Blackwater, and weapons manufacturers. And critics of welfare for the poor come here and sound off about the crumbs of aid needy families receive, while the politicians and Wall Street CEOs laugh all the way to the bank, eating lobster and drinking martinis, smirking at how easily you are divided against your fellow citizen.

Nearly everyone receiving social services or social security, except for children, have paid into the system's safety net at one point or another. And children have already paid into it, because they will inherit the responsibility of paying off the national debt our corrupt governing officials have racked up. These people deserve to collect the benefits they have helped fund when times get rough.

This cliche scapegoating of welfare recipients is predicatble, and as always, pathetic.

At April 13, 2008 8:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You clearly are failing, either deliberately or otherwise to get the gist of the above comments, 912. Not one of these posters has defended corporate welfare, nor the morally reprehensible Bear Stearns bailout. I have no doubt that they, like me, would agree that moves like that are a huge part of the problem.

But "nearly everyone" is NOT receiving social security or social services, 912, and you are deluding yourself if you believe that to be the case. That is a major issue here. The welfare system has been twisted to the point that only a small, specialised fraction of those who need aid, however temporary, are able to get it. Since all are expected to pay into these programs, via their taxes, that is wrong. A state of affairs such as this would not be tolerated in countries that have social welfare programs that cover ALL, fairly and equally. That is not blaming or scapegoating the recipients, that is blaming the SYSTEM. In any attempt to discuss welfare policies sanely and rationally, that is invariably the stumbling block people such as yourself put in the way. You cannot or will not differentiate between the two ideas; there is nothing at all 'progressive' in your attitude--you would seem to be in line with the ideas behind socialized welfare, and yet the idea of people who work or don't otherwise fit the picture of the (stereo)-typical welfare recipient, but who might require aid such as food stamps, health care, or help with their utilities or rent (all basic necessities of life for the working class just as much as for the poor 912, in case you hadn't noticed) seems to outrage your type of 'progressive' as much or more than it would the most dyed-in-the-wool Buckleyite conservative. I don't get you at all. Rather than being for social justice and social welfare for all people who need it, you seem to be primarily about using the welfare system as some kind of leverage in your ongoing attempt to create polarizations between the 'poor', and the low-end wage earners of America--and the huge gap that you apparently think exists between them is not nearly so huge as you might think. But I've found that blind adherence to ideology very often causes its sufferers to become incaple of applying simple commonsense thought, observation, and action to any issue in which their ideological zeal plays a part. And that attitude, nearly as much as megacorporate malfeasance is what aids in keeping America from going the far more enlightened path of her Socialist neighbors. Certainly the corporations, and the political right-wingers have been able to make endless hay out of these attitudes to their ongoing benefit.

At April 13, 2008 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent points, 5:49. It's too bad your attitudes regarding welfare and social justice for EVERYBODY in Amerika who needs help aren't more widespread. You make good, sound arguments that aren't 'scapegoating' anybody except the real culprits here, as far as I can tell. Too bad those points can't be put out there before the public without a lot of 'special interest' static getting in the way.


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