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Here we will look at the policies affecting Ohio women during Clinton's administration.

But first this..

Hillary Clinton was no spectator at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Hillary was the first presidential spouse to have an office in the West Wing. She had no official position or specified duties, yet the WH staff called her "the Supreme Court"..
http://www.newsweek.com/...

& this..

In 1996 she pressed her husband to veto two Republican welfare reform bills for being too punitive. She then helped persuade him to sign a slightly modified third version when she recognized that the public overwhelmingly favored welfare reform in an election year.

"It was pure politics over substance," recalled Donna Shalala, Clinton's secretary of Health and Human Services. "Hillary was not torn. She saw the political reality without the human dimension. If Hillary had opposed the bill, we would have gotten another veto."

Make the jump to see why Hillary is not "The Women's Candidate" you might think she is.

A lot has been said about the Clinton co-presidency and her role as First Lady.  If you have read Newsweek Magazine's "Hillary’s Hidden Hand" by Sally Bedell Smith, you might say that she was not the co-president but actually the decision maker during Bill's stay in the White House.

Hillary enjoyed operating as a hidden hand. While giving instructions as First Lady, she was known to tell her staff, "Don't leave any fingerprints."
...
She would routinely turn up at West Wing meetings, and her confrontational style "had a real chilling effect," said a senior presidential aide who—like several other officials and friends quoted in this article—spoke freely about private matters on condition of anonymity. "People were scared of her," said Clinton aide Robert Boorstin. "You did not cross Hillary. Even the president "would try to avoid fighting with her if he could, deflecting her if he could," said (Bernard) Nussbaum."

The Worst Thing
Bill (and Hillary) Clinton Ever Did

"Today, we are ending welfare as we know it." Bill Clinton

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996--gutted the mainstay of welfare, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).  The law also set a federal five-year time limit for recipients to leave welfare over a lifetime, and many families have lost ancillary benefits such as food stamps and Medicaid due to such factors as confusion over continued eligibility and inability to visit benefits offices during business hours.

The "safety net" that Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband worked so hard to get into law has been torn apart by William Jefferson Clinton—to the applause of his wife.
Nat Hentoff March 15 - 21, 2000

Within weeks three high-ranking officials in the Department of Health and Human Services had resigned: Mary Jo Bane, Walter Primus and Peter Edelman

Peter Edelman, who  resigned (with 2 others) as the assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services said the the Clintons ignored a study that showed, the bill would move 2.6 million people, including 1.1 million children, into poverty.  

snip-
The new study showed that a total of 11 million families -- 10 percent of all American families -- would lose income under the bill.
Source: The Atlantic Online

The Clintons clearly caved to the Republicans in '96 to insure his re-election for a 2nd term.
 
Face it, cutting social programs is not what we Democrats do.  It's what "Conservative Republicans" do.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan opposed the Clintons' Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act—their "welfare reform" law. When it was passed, Moynihan called it "the most brutal act of social policy since Reconstruction."

In the "brutal" attempt to further purge the welfare rolls, the Clinton welfare bill also included a provision that allowed states to begin drug testing welfare recipients. . A federal judge ruled in 1999 that the policy was unconstitutional.

So, they settled for removing welfare benefits for drug felons.

A revised version of the amendment, limiting the punishment to people convicted of a drug felony, was incorporated into the welfare bill signed by President Clinton during the presidential campaign. Possessing a few ounces of marijuana is a felony in most states, as is growing a single marijuana plant. As a result, Americans convicted of a marijuana felony, even if they are disabled, may no longer receive federal welfare or food stamps. Convicted murderers, rapists, and child molesters, however, will continue to receive these benefits.

The results of The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 didn't start showing up until the imposed benefit time limits lapsed.  (2 years and 5 years).

As Senator Paul Wellstone predicted on the Senate floor:

"Over two-thirds of a million low-income persons lost Medicaid coverage and became uninsured due to welfare reform. Sixty-two percent were children. Moreover, the number of people who lose health coverage due to welfare reform is certain to grow rather substantially in the years ahead. In every state there is a drop-dead certain date when families are going to be eliminated from all assistance."

Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who did support Wellstone on the floor on May 25, told his colleagues that according to recent studies by the Children's Defense Fund and the National Coalition on the Homeless, "most former welfare recipients earn below-poverty wages and do not receive the essential services that would enable them to hold jobs and care for their children."
Nat Hentoff March 15 - 21, 2000

So, where do women turn when their government fails them?

Research by psychologists and others shows that women on welfare are more likely to be depressed and to face substance abuse problems--
Marsha Jenakovich, formerly APA's urban initiatives officer.

... most post-welfare jobs pay poverty wages, are unstable, lack health benefits and are concentrated in low-paying service industries such as restaurants, bars and home child care. Such conditions are likely to lead women back onto welfare.

..."Jobs that cannot lift you out of poverty are likely to lead to a revolving door of welfare to work and back."

...Data from recent studies show that about a third of the women who leave welfare return within a year, and about 40 to 50 percent return within two years.

...poor single mothers are more likely than the general population to suffer from depression and other mental health problems--problems that may manifest in the workplace as irritability or interpersonal problems, she adds, making these women vulnerable to losing their jobs.

... the team found that single mothers on welfare were more likely to be alcohol-dependent, depressed, agoraphobic and smokers than single mothers not on welfare and that they're more likely to report using illegal substances, including marijuana and cocaine."

Source: American Psychological Association
"Welfare reform and women, five years later"

But due to welfare reform,  there was no revolving door of welfare to work and back, only a one-way exit.   Unemployed or under-employed, left with little or no benefits, women of America were left in despair, which all too often led to substance abuse and into the clutches of predatory men in many cases. To add insult to injury, these women were then often targeted by the DEA and law enforcement officials as pawns in "The War on Drugs".

Once women were off the roles, they were invisible.
Or they were in prison.

...The most serious offense for 65% of women in federal prisons and 29.1% of women in state prisons is violation of drug laws.

Source:  Bureau of Justice Statistics, Compendium of Federal Justice Statistics, 2003

...Women are now the fastest growing segment of the Ohio prison population.

Number of women prisoners climbs in Ohio, bucking downward trend among men

Between 1999 and 2004 the Ohio's male prison population fell by 5.4 percent while the number of women behind state prison bars shot up by 12 percent. The growth in Ohio's female prison population should be cause for particular concern because of the unique strains on children or families that can result from the incarceration of mothers.
...other states
Source: Justice Strategies

Nationally, there are almost eight times the number of women in prison than there were just 30 years ago. This dramatic increase in the number of women serving time is not the result of a sudden female crime wave.

The increase in the US prison female population has nothing to do with an increase in violent crime: homicide, rape, robbery, and assault have all declined steadily since 1993. Its source is the so-called "War on Drugs," which costs taxpayers 50 billion per year, and has done nothing to reduce illegal drug use or availability.

Once in the system women have little choice but to accept plea bargains and then face mandatory minimum sentences that restrict judges from mitigating the impact of the sentencing decision in consideration of their family situation or their  need for substance abuse treatment.

Women arrested for involvement in the drug trade tend to play peripheral or minimal roles. Some are just in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong man.

According to the ACLU,

This little known side effect is often called the "girlfriend problem" - the propensity of arrest and prosecution of low-level, minimally or unknowingly involved individuals for crimes associated with drug trafficking operations.

Panelists in today's briefing said that without meaningful information to trade with prosecutors for more lenient sentences, these minimally involved girlfriends and wives often suffer some of the longest and harshest prison sentences under current drug sentencing laws.
Jesselyn McCurdy, an ACLU Legislative Counsel.

Once arrested, women face intense pressure to plea bargain but are likely to have little or no information about larger market operations to use as bargaining chips.

The vast majority of women’s arrests are for lower-level offenses, with 82 percent of women’s arrests falling into the less serious "non-index" category.  
This includes a large number of arrests for drug violations, as well as minor offenses typically thought to be "women’s crimes," such as shoplifting and welfare fraud.
Source:The Institute on Women and Criminal Justice of the Women’s Prison Assoc.


So, what do we do about this?
Build more women's prisons in Ohio of course.

The state will open its fourth prison for women in January because of rising drug convictions, reduced probation options and longer sentences. The State Department of Rehabilitation and Correction predicted that the number of women in prison would rise to 3,600 by the year 2012, a 28 percent increase from this year. The new prison will open in Trumbull County in northeastern Ohio.
Albert Salvato (NYT) September 18, 2004

Prison Moms

...84% of mothers in federal prisons and 64% of mothers in state prisons lived with their children before arrest.  When they are released, they face multiple barriers to reuniting their families, reintegrating into their communities, and obtaining stable employment and housing.
Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers

Arianna Huffington nails it in herLA Times Op/Ed.

As for Clinton, she flew into Selma, Ala., to reinforce her image as the wife of the black community's most beloved politician and has made much of her plan to attract female voters, but she has ignored the suffering of poor, black women right in her own backyard.

Located down the road from her Chappaqua, N.Y., home are two prisons housing female inmates, Taconic and Bedford.  Forty-eight percent of the women in Taconic are there for nonviolent drug offenses; 78% of those in the prison are African American or Latino.

And Bedford, the state's only maximum-security prison for women, is home to some of the worst victims of New York's draconian Rockefeller-era drug laws -- mothers and grandmothers whose first brush with the law resulted in their being locked away for 15 years or more on nonviolent drug charges.

Yet even though these prisons are so nearby, Clinton has turned a blind eye to the plight of the women locked away there, notably refusing to speak out on their behalf.
 

Conclusion:

In 1996, Hillary Clinton "persuaded" her husband, the elected President of the United States, to pass a harsh Welfare Reform Act in order to appease the Republican Majority in Congress in the run up to Clinton's re-election and attract voters because it polled well.

This weakened the safety net provided by our welfare system that had been in place since 1935 and the New Deal.

As a result 1,000's upon 1,000's of single moms were removed from the welfare rolls during the Clinton Administration.

Hailed initially as a success by some,  the real deal was that during the boom economy (4% unemployment) no one stopped to think what would happen if the economy soured.

Welfare rolls slashed across the U.S.
Aug. 1996 Ohio welfare families    204,240    
Dec. 2005 Ohio welfare families      81,425 -60.1%
       
Source: Department of Health and Human Services

The 5 year and out condition of welfare reform didn't rear it's ugly head until later when so many women were sent to prison that Ohio even had to build another women's prison.

Many women have been incarcerated for obscene lengths of time and then denied any benefits to re-enter society because they were felons and ineligible for welfare as Clinton's Act stipulated.

Fortunately, Ohio has opted out of the Federal Ban on TANF and Food Stamps for drug felons, but many states have not. A bill to revoke the ban recently cleared a Virginia Senate Committee on Feb. 1, 2008.
ACTION ITEM: If you live in Virginia you should call your representative and urge that this be passed.

States that adopted the Federal ban on benefits as of 2005:

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia (pending), West Virginia and Wyoming

The next time you are in the check out line at the grocery store and see a young mom paying for groceries  with Food Stamps, don't feel sorry for her.  She's one of the lucky ones.  It's better than 3 hots and a cot.

The number of women incarcerated in prisons and jails in the USA is approximately 10 times more than the number of women incarcerated in Western European countries, even though Western Europe's combined female population is about the same size as that of the USA.
Source: Amnesty International, "Not Part of My Sentence: Violations of the Human Rights of Women in Custody" (Washington, DC: Amnesty International, March 1999), p. 15.

The Clintons are not "God's Gift To Women", no matter what they think or say.

Originally posted to Z. Woof on Mon Feb 25, 2008 at 04:12 AM PST.

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