Sunday, May 7, 2017

On The Other Hand, If There Are Elections ...

... then one central issue, along with fighting the Republican attacks on health care by advancing single-payer health insurance for all, should and must be to reform so-called "welfare reform."

The 1996 joint attack on the poor by then-President Clinton and then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, intended by Clinton to ensure his re-election (which it did) and guarantee that he would not be impeached (which it didn't), has now provided twenty years of evidence to support its success or failure.  That evidence, sadly, supports the latter.  "Welfare reform" has proved to be an unmitigated disaster, one that helped pull the consumption floor out from underneath the economy in the George W. Bush years and deepened the despair of the Great Recession.  Equally bad is the power it gave to state governments to afflict the afflicted and pour money into helping themselves, rather than helping their most vulnerable citizens.

Under the 1996 law, guaranteed payments to families with dependent children were replaced with block grants of money to state governments, to be used as those government saw fit, complete with lifetime financial "caps" on direct cash payments to citizens and work requirements.  During the relatively flush Clinton years, few people noticed the hardships that these changes began to create. The Bush years, and the Republican-dominated later years of the Obama Administration, changed all of that, as newly-elected GOP governors and legislators competed with each other to impose the harshest possible cash and time limits on the poor, regardless of whether there was work available for them on not.

And, very often, the money went instead into programs allegedly designed to help the poor, but actually designed to help conservative constituencies such as the Christian right (e.g., abstinence programs.  Now, in an all-Republican age, the states are beginning an assault on Medicaid, something that Clinton pride himself on saving during the lead-up to the passage of "welfare reform."  They are beginning to attach work requirements to it, even though doing so was never the intention of either Medicaid or "welfare reform."

But buried in this list of letters to the editor of the New York Times, all critical of the welfare status quo is a valuable suggestion for Democrats looking to both energize their base and woo Trump voters: a return to a Carter-era proposal to guarantee work for all.  Perhaps the so-called party of working men and women could find a way to get behind this in 2018.  If the Republicans give them
--and the rest of us--a chance.

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