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Will The New York Times stop regurgitating the utter nonsense that welfare "reform" was a success? Erik Eckholm's article today on the plight of black men is disturbing, not just because of its central thesis that black men in America are in dire straights but because Eckholm, in virtually the same breathe, continues to give life to a political myth:

Black men in the United States face a far more dire situation than is portrayed by common employment and education statistics, a flurry of new scholarly studies warn, and it has worsened in recent years even as an economic boom and a welfare overhaul have brought gains to black women and other groups.

It's not hard to disagree with the first part of the paragraph. But, welfare overhaul has been a disaster for women. It has pushed tens of thousands of them into poverty. Here's what Fred Block points outabout the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) the 1996 welfare measure that ended the entitlement to benefits--promoted and signed into law by Bill Clinton.

In 1994, for example 63% of poor children received benefits from the earlier welfare program--AFDC. By 2004, the new program, TANF, provided smaller benefits to only 36% of poor children. Nationally, total annual assistance to the poor through TANF, food stamps, and the Earned Income Tax Credit dropped by more than $19 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars as a result of the new program.

Since TANF eliminated any legal right of poor families to get help, the changes were most dramatic in states that had historically been reluctant to provide assistance to the minority poor. In Louisiana, for example, $168 million in assistance was paid to 245,000 recipients in 1994. By 2004, there were only 42,000 recipients receiving benefits of only $57 million. (The change would be even greater if the dollars are adjusted for changes in price levels.)

But despite the decline of assistance, there was no exodus from poverty in Louisiana. Those who left the welfare rolls continued to be poor. It was just that fewer dollars of assistance flowed into impoverished neighborhoods, such as the 9th Ward. Whatever the intentions of policymakers, the results were disastrous for children whose parents had little income from work or from government assistance.

Similar problems existed in many other cities, but the storm briefly swept away the blinders that keep middle class Americans from witnessing the kind of concentrated poverty that exists all over this country. The crowds at the Superdome demonstrated the Administrations belated response to the emergency. However, they also revealed decades of indifference, years of neglect.

Or as Heather Boushey and Bethney Gundersen found:

Much has been made of the success of welfare reform in the past couple of years. The dramatic declines in caseloads and the relatively high employment rates among families who have left welfare have led researchers to call the reforms a success. The reforms are only a success, however, if families that have left welfare are better off than they were on welfare. Our research indicates that, overall, former welfare families experience relatively high rates of hardship. Former welfare families with a full-time
worker experience the lowest rate of hardship, but even among these "successful" families, work is not enough to ensure the family can meet its basic needs. Furthermore, not all former welfare families have a full-time worker, nor will all families be able to have one.

The second piece of nonsense is the idea of an "economic boom." What boom is Eckholm referring to? The boom that has left wages for workers in the lower and middle brackets stagnant or even lower in real terms? The boom that has seen any meager increase in wages eaten away by rising health care costs? The boom that has seen the elimination of pensions for tens of thousands of workers? The boom that has brought a worldwide global trading system based on the single concept of lowering wages?

Originally posted to Tasini on Mon Mar 20, 2006 at 08:34 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Welfare 'reform' . . . (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BobOak, poco

    . .   has been a complete joke. Thanks for bringing this issue up.

  •  This: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sweettp2063, BobOak

    But despite the decline of assistance, there was no exodus from poverty in Louisiana. Those who left the welfare rolls continued to be poor.

    is why I never want to see another Clinton in the White House.  Even he bought into the notion that if you are no longer counted on a government roll then you simply do not exist.  There are women who are forced to travel as much as three hours by bus for their welfare to work jobs. How can they take care of their children when they are away from their kids for 15 hours of a 24 hour day?  How can they afford child care on a minimum wage salary?

    Welfare Reform was a horrible scam based on political calculation perpetrated on the weakest and most vulnerable people in our society most of whom are known to be non-voters.  

    Clinton should have used his political capital and his powers of pursuasion to protect those people and help them get out of poverty, but he didn't.  

    The Welfare to Work program is a perfect example of why I cannot support DLC candidates.

    •  A side point (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      If Election Day was a national holiday, I bet a lot more people would vote.

      Just sayin'.

      OOOOOMMMMM . . . . .

      by MarkosNYC on Mon Mar 20, 2006 at 09:00:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No April Fools joke (0+ / 0-)

        All elections, local, state, federal, etc should be on April 15.

      •  working 3 jobs (0+ / 0-)

        That's the state of many of today's poor.  How can they possibly wait in line to vote for 9 hours, 15 hours when they work 3 jobs and have kids to take care of?

        The Oregon system is the only fair one for poor voters.  (mail in ballot, have two weeks to fill it out).

        by BobOak on Mon Mar 20, 2006 at 09:29:20 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You wrote..... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      How can they take care of their children when they are away from their kids for 15 hours of a 24 hour day?

      Don't you buy into the conservative rhetoric that claims the kids are better off away from their mothers since all poor women are bad parents?

      Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.--Dr. Seuss

      by sweettp2063 on Mon Mar 20, 2006 at 09:19:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yea because the Foster Child System (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        is whipping those kids into shape.  Literally. <snark>

        Worse is that they don't deserve children and maybe some don't, but man those conservatives definitely should not have access to young minds that they can poison and make into vessels of enduring hatred.

  •  Nobody Cares (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Oh they say all the right things, and wave all the right rhetorical flags -- and then proceed to ignore the truth when it comes to African-Americans.  IMO this is in no small part because no matter how much folks say they have overcome the 400 years of training that we Black folks are just "inferior" (not to mention the latest backhanded insult that we don't "work hard" - as opposed to everyone else), they simply have not.  They've just overcome conscious awareness of that fact.

    When I read the article this morning, I at first almost cried.  But then I realized that crying solves nothing.  I increasingly believe that for African-Americans, the day for begging, or waiting for, mainstream society to give us our rightful due that our ancestor's free labor earned from this country as a priority over all other groups making new claims to being a political priority is coming to an end.  I genuinely believe that.  And that is a sentiment I feel about both the right, and the left.  As do many many others.  And if I feel that largely with reason to be vested in the system, you can only imagine what folks are feeling in the hood.

    My separate place for mental meanderings: Political Sapphire

    by shanikka on Mon Mar 20, 2006 at 09:02:59 AM PST

  •  My thoughts on this- (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hotshotxi, hairspray, sweettp2063, BobOak

    "Welfare reform" was always about eliminating the costs of assistance programs, never about helping anyone.  Had they actually wanted to help those in need, they would strike at the programs themselves, see what works, in what states, look at pilot programs, and reward states for real success.

    Too much of our policies are based upon assumptions about those who need the help.  Rather than actually go into those neighborhoods and ask what the problems are, look at the underlying issues, target specific problems, they are doomed to a chronic politicization, and those recipients forced to play a ping pong to the political process.

    Sometimes simply having public transportation would reduce poverty in a neighborhood.  Sometimes it's a need for a local day care center.  One size does not fit all, and the suffering that goes on daily is ignored while the players take pot shots at each other.

    If progressives want to help they need to do it formally and form their own NGO's that can provide assistance and research for programs that are better than what we have.  They need to compete for the grants that faith-based programs are now getting, and continue to engage the political debate on social reform.  

    •  This needs to be repeated.... (0+ / 0-)

      Too much of our policies are based upon assumptions about those who need the help.  Rather than actually go into those neighborhoods and ask what the problems are, look at the underlying issues, target specific problems, they are doomed to a chronic politicization, and those recipients forced to play a ping pong to the political process.

      Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.--Dr. Seuss

      by sweettp2063 on Mon Mar 20, 2006 at 09:22:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  great comment (0+ / 0-)

      Progressives need to look beyond the public assistance programs created in the past to redistribute wealth and start looking for better ways to reduce poverty that actually address the problem rather than simply throwing money at it.

      In my opinion any program that simply doles out money indefinitely is flawed and morally wrong as well.  We should be trying to address why people can't find well paying jobs instead.

      A gaffe in Washington is when you tell the truth and people act surprised.

      by hotshotxi on Mon Mar 20, 2006 at 09:25:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  good paying jobs (0+ / 0-)

        People with Master degrees and no kids to worry about cannot find well paying jobs now.  

        Our "trade" policy guarantees a race to the bottom on jobs.  

        by BobOak on Mon Mar 20, 2006 at 09:31:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You are so right (0+ / 0-)

      In Oakland California the citizens pressed the city council to provide money for 5 senior centers which supplied a physical plant and a paid director and one staff person who then recruited volunteers. Today, almost 20 years after the first one came into being, we have vibrant programs of everything from low cost or free breakfasts, dance classes, economic assitance, counseling, etc.  Oakland has one of the highest rates of poverty in the senior population.  The city also sets aside $300,000 per year from parking revenue for NGO's to write grants from agencies as Mercy brown bag lunches, organic farmers markets, legal aid, Seton Laotian center, etc.  Our area agency of aging has been instrumental in helping form a network of government, NGO and volunteer services that work to help elders whose incomes are anywhere from 3,000 to 11,000/yr on average in a city where rents are on average $1200./mo for 1 bedroom apt.  The feds have slowly (since Reagan) been pulling out and the locals must step up to the plate.

      Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities-Voltaire

      by hairspray on Mon Mar 20, 2006 at 09:40:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Como se dice 'boom'? (0+ / 0-)

    If you were starving to death in Michoacan and then you came up here & found a job paying $6 an hour, I guess that qualifies as a "boom".

    Especially if you are the one not starving to death any more.

  •  Social Mobility (0+ / 0-)

    is declining in the United States.

    The NYTimes had a huge article on this also, but NYTimes has a register requirement on their site.

    Basically Clinton did yet another sell out on welfare reform.  

    The Corporate interests and Neocons have been removing every program that is either a social safety net or a way to increase social mobility, such as educational grants for some time.

    What amazes me is how ungrateful and unaware the American people are about these programs.  For example, the people voting in the Neocons probably benefited from at least one of these programs.  Higher Educational grants being one of the biggest benefits.

    by BobOak on Mon Mar 20, 2006 at 09:27:18 AM PST

  •  Donde esta el Boom? (0+ / 0-)

    I can't imagine that the statistics have changed that much, but, yeah; there is a Boom going on for some people.

    Aqui esta el Boom

  •  Kudos to a politician who's interested in issues (0+ / 0-)

    more than self promotion.  The aftermath of "welfare Reform" is well behind the back burner on most political maps, even though millions of lives have been effected by it, too often adversely.  

    When a major change is made to any basic safety net program at the very least every effort should be made to study and understand all the ramnifications that flow from that change, it is the bare minimum that any government should do for the neediest among us. But "Welfare Reform" was treated like a task on a "New Democrats" to do list, right below "Sound tough about Saddam Hussein"; OK, done that, check it off, move on...

    I hope eveyone reading this blog knows that Jonathan Tasini, the writer of this Diary, is the progressive Democrat who stepped up to challange Hillary Clinton in the New York Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate.  I was suprised but appreciative to see that he failed to make a point of his own canidacy in his Diary.  Tasini was willing to advance this important issue discussion without drawing attention to himself, but I think New York kos readers should know that Tasini is indeed running for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in the primary.

  •  The statistics in that article are astounding. (0+ / 0-)

    I had no idea it was this bad:

    The share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the economic peak of the late 1990's. In 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless — that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20's were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000.

  •  What to do about it ... (0+ / 0-)

    Jonathan Tasini not only illuminates the problems with a clear eye, but he is committed to doing something about them.  

    One commenter pointed out that he has agreed to challenge Hillary for New York's Senate seat in this year's elections.  But it's not just that he's in the race - he's mounting an energetic and well-targeted campaign.  He's been appearing all over the State continually, and he's been delivering ideas to all sorts of constituencies within the State.  Makes me feel good to be a New Yorker - I'm going to be able to cast a vote not just against a problem, but for an entire array of solutions.  (They're detailed on the Jonathan Tasini for New York website.)  

    Everyone who's been complaining about mainstream Dem politics recently has been saying that we've got to get a spine and build momentum.  Now that's what we've got, and it's up to everyone to support it wherever we can.

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