Former President Bill Clinton is regarded with warmth and respect by Americans of both political leanings. The Democrats fondly remember the 1990's as a time of balanced budgets and relative peace in the land. Republicans fondly remember Mr. Clinton not for his Democratic ideals, but because just before the 1996 Presidential election, and in order to garner some of the Republican vote, he completely decimated the AFDC program under the guise of 'welfare reform.'
The most visible victims of this callous policy of blaming everything on the poor were obviously single women and children. With the change over to what is known as TANF, or Temporary Aid To Needy Families, states were given much more latitude over how they managed their programs. Some states took that as an excuse to lower their welfare rolls by simply making the application process so hard that eligible recipients would just give up. In other states, the demands made of recipients became more of a burden than a hand up.
In order to understand why Clinton did what he did, one must first also understand that this blame it all on the poor attitude started with Ronald Reagan, who ran his first campaign for President with the theme of reforming welfare, espousing the lie that the poor were bankrupting the nation. Being just what the neo-cons wanted to hear, Reagan was elected and re-elected, but could not implement any of his so called reforms due to the balance of a Democratically controlled Congress.
During the Clinton first term, although he also ran on a platform of welfare reform, he did little to actually change the system. But being the savvy politico that he is, he saw the writing on the wall for the 1996 elections and the Gingrich 'revolution', and in order to save his re-election chances, adopted the right wing dogma in August of 1996. Because of this, and with the states having a free hand to experiment with their 'reform' plans, many an American woman and child has been allowed to slip through the cracks, with an untold number having been forced into homelessness and abject poverty, because many states adopted such grueling regimens for recipients that they were virtually impossible to keep up with.
Take the case of New York City. Under the tyrannical rule of Rudy Giuliani, the good mayor decreed a new welfare policy for the city. He put in place rules that said that everyone receiving in any form, including food stamps had to work a minimum of 35 hours per week in order to keep getting the aid. This may sound all well and good to the right winger who would begrudge a child a meal, but when one considers the 140 hours per month and compares it against the $547.00 per month payment to a family of four, the math says that people were toiling for Rudy at the rate of $3.90 per hour. That pittance and slave wage was exacerbated by the unspoken policy of giving out job assignments to single mothers as far from home as possible. If a mom lived in Queens, her assignment would end up being in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn. No allotments were made for child care expenses, nor were any centers set up for the 300,000 children whose mothers would now be forced to work full time, and so many a mother simply brought their children with them. Finding out that this was not allowed, the mothers could not simply leave the children home alone, therefore neither could they get to the job sites.
Rudy had a solution for all of these mothers and children who didn't show up for slave work. He kicked them all off of the welfare rolls for 'non compliance'. It was almost comical to hear Rudy tout his welfare to work program as such a great success during his Presidential bid, with his claims of getting almost 600,000 people off of the rolls. Yes, by kicking them off for no good reason in order to further his political standing. Many mothers were forced into homeless shelters, others left for nearby states. So much for a fair approach to reform.
Some states went as far as to issue directives that said if a woman were to become pregnant while receiving aid, she would not get one dime for the child. These directives came mostly from Bible Belt states like Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The very same states that were fighting against a woman's right to an abortion were also the ones that said if she did have her baby, she wasn't getting one cent in aid to help her feed the child. With maximum benefit amounts in Oklahoma hovering at $308.00 per month for a family of three, Arkansas at $204.00, and Louisiana at $190.00, one would think an extra couple of bucks could have been afforded.
But this has been the game for some 28 years in this country. Blame the woman for getting pregnant in the first place, never mind that it takes two to tango. Give her that has three children the barest minimum possible, while condemning her if she gets an abortion. Blame the poor for everything that's wrong with the nation, while spending a trillion dollars on military hardware and pork barrel bridges to nowhere. Single mothers that have no choice but to rely on assistance in order to feed her children are the most downtrodden segment of American society, and will remain so unless and until we as a people can shake off the lies and distortions of fanatics who told us that it was their fault the country was going broke.
They didn't want you or I looking into their offshore bank accounts. They didn't want us paying attention to the C-Span channel and hearing the idiotic bills being passed in our names.Bills that take an entire day deciding which of their sponsor corporations will get the biggest chunk of a spending bill. They don't want you to realize that in order to pay back political donations from the insurance industry, they privatized Medicaid, and that's the reason costs are rising through the roof. That's right. Didn't know that did you? In almost every state, there is now an HMO as a middle man between the Medicaid recipient and the state.
So don't run off complaining about the easy life of the welfare mothers or their kids. The vast majority of them are nothing more than political footballs being punted all over the playing fields of America's great race for the throne. Footballs with almost no chance for a better education or a good paying job, thanks to almost three decades of shifting the blame for the ills of our nation from the politicians who are as corrupt as can be, and onto the backs of the most burdened citizens of our country.
With oil reaching for the record mark again, with the unemployment rate at the highest point since 1986, with soaring food prices, and the outsourcing of all good paying jobs, don't be surprised if you or someone you know ends up having to turn to the state for assistance. That's when those who begrudge a little food for the poor will realize just how wrong they were, and how badly they've been hoodwinked. And lastly, as welfare opponents spout nonsense about CEO's making hundreds of millions while children starve being perfectly acceptable, they'd better come to the understanding that when push comes to shove, there are many many more poor people than there are rich, and when people are hungry they'll eat anything, including the rich.....................................