Some comments on yesterday’s post

I received several comments to yesterday’s post, one thread of which I’ll share with you here. This is from a guy I went to college with. He’s a well-meaning liberal, and although he works in the investment community, he has a higher than average social conscience. He brought up a point about Clinton’s Welfare to Work programs that I wanted to share. All of you well-meaning liberals out there, take note: Clinton was no saint when it came to social welfare. Much damage has been done. Read on.

READER WRITES:

Change Agent,

Glad you could get all of that off your chest. I’ve been following a lot of this, and have about a half completed LTE on the subject of poverty in america. I was astounded at some of the recent Census numbers from 2004, released this month. Remembering that none of these numbers take into account Katrina or Rita:

More than 1 million more Americans are living below the poverty line than in 2003. 37 million Americans, nearly a third of them children, live below the poverty line. For 2004, the poverty line was set at just below $20,000 for a family of four, just above $1200 for a family of two. Since Bush took office more than 6 million people have fallen below the poverty line, more in every year since he took office. Nearly a million more people in the US are living without health insurance, the total is now 45.8 million.

Don’t get me wrong, most of these people aren’t what we would call Bangledesh poor. But they aren’t paying Bangledesh housing and food prices either.

When Kennedy and LBJ put the “Great Society” into action in the late 60’s they managed to cut poverty in the country nearly in half in 10 years. They didn’t do it with welfare programs, but with WORK programs, educational assistance etc. Then Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush I gutted all of those programs, pushing the expenses off on the states, rather than the Federal budget. Since then, with a few exceptions during economic expansions, poverty has continued to rise in the country. Clinton didn’t/couldn’t do much during his 8 years given the opposition in Congress.

One of the things that killed me in his “speech” last week, was talking about giving the evacuees/refugees from Katrina land on which to rebuild. Of course 90% of those affected don’t have the resources to build, even given free land on which to build. But I’ll bet Trent Lott and a number of Bush’s construction buddies will be standing at the front of the line for this kind of assistance…

Its a shame, and crime that this is happening to our country right now. We can only hope that the damage from Rita is less than they are expecting. I really hope (and am actively working towards) a Democratic revolution in 2006, similar to the Republican revival in 1994. If you weren’t politically active in 2004, you have no excuses now….(not you, but the american people in general…)

CHANGE AGENT RESPONDS:

Clinton dealt the welfare state its final blows, doing more damage to it than Reagan or Bush I ever imagined doing.

All this to say, Nixon and Reagan look practically like Hippies compared to Bush II.

READER WRITES:

Change Agent,

I thought Clinton’s welfare to work programs were both reasonably effective and a step in the right direction. Reagan zeroed the federal funding the Job Corps and a number of other job education and training programs (which helped cut poverty in half over the preceding 15 years).

In either case the real help for the bottom strata of this country ended in the early 1970’s. There are some local programs picking up the slack and the faith based help is out there, but it is something that needs to be re-addressed by Federal Government sooner rather than later.

CHANGE AGENT RESPONDS:

Gentle reader,

The real welfare problem in the country right now is Corporate Welfare. Welfare To Work was a joke.

Welfare to Work was another “look over there!” strategy designed to take focus away from the corporate fatties getting fatter with the government’s help, deregulation, etc., just like in the 80s, when Reagan coined the “Welfare Queen” slogan.

You know what residents of my state get on public assistance get these days? Three hundred bucks a month. If you have more than one kid it goes up to four hundred. Trouble is, the other programs have been dismantled, too: section 8 housing is all but nonexistent (so you have to use your 300 bucks wisely, if you want a place to live), the drug abuse treatment programs are a gaunt version of their former selves, and there’s no job training. Welfare to Work’s core message is truly “Get a Job”. They government doesn’t help people get jobs or train them to have skills, it says “figure it out, this is America, the land of opportunity.” Many of these people grew up poor. They have no soft skills, no job skills, little education (which has also been brutally cut at the Federal level).

There is no social safety net anymore. There used to be one, and it used to catch people when they were falling. That net has been put away. The thing is, in order for the work programs and education programs to work, they need social programs that compliment them. It has to be more of a total solution. LBJ had it right when he envisioned a Great Society.

Not that the Dems have done that much social good in the last 15 years, but considering the alternative, I just hope the GOP gets crucified in the mid-terms.

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