It's win-win for the opponents of welfare reform. If welfare rolls had gone up during the last three years, they would have said, "See, the caseload drop that reformers have bragged about was all due to the economy." But, contrary to their predictions, rolls haven't gone up despite the recession and slow economy. No problem! They instead complain that the failure of the caseload to rise shows that welfare isn't helping those in need.
[S]hawn Fremstad, a policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning research and advocacy group, said, "Falling caseloads amid rising poverty should be a cause for concern."
Wendell E. Primus, a welfare official in the Clinton administration who resigned to protest signing of the 1996 law, amplified that concern: "It's an indictment of the welfare law, the welfare system, that it has not been more responsive to economic conditions."
It's certainly possible that poor people are suffering because in some states "the application process is so difficult or complex" that it discourages them from applying. But it's also possible that, as the reformers and officials cited in Robert Pear's article claim, once poor single mothers were in the workforce they stayed in the workforce and thus weathered the recession (which hit hardest farther up in the labor market) fairly well, without resorting to welfare.
In order to make the anti-reform case, Primus and Fremstad need to show, not just that welfare rolls haven't risen, but that people are actually suffering more than in previous recessions--something that's hard to show by just pointing at charts with numbers in Washington, even child poverty numbers (which in fact have not risen as much as in prior recessions). Surely the Center on Budget and Policy priorities doesn't consider rising welfare caseloads in themselves an inherently good thing! But in effect, Fremstad and Primus' argument treats them as a good thing.
They're not. American society is much better off today--and not just in economistic terms--because millions of mothers who used to be isolated in the welfare culture are now integrated into the labor market. We've only begun to see the positive long term effects--on the number of African-American children raised by married parents, for example. As one former Clinton welfare official, Wendell E. Primus, told the New York Times back in 2001, after noting the favorable marriage trends: "The sky isn't falling anymore. Whatever we have been doing over the last five years, we ought to keep going." That Wendell Primus makes sense. ...
Saturday, March 20, 2004
In a matter of hours, Spain's conservative government had mishandled the presentation of its investigation into the terror bombings and helped turn an expected Socialist defeat into a clear victory for the leftists. The startling velocity and savagery of the media-induced back-and-forth in Spain is textbook material for the new volatility -- and vulnerability -- of democratic politics in the 21st century.
Very true. The same thing--not necessarily the bombing, but the startling velocity and savagery of the back-and-forth--could characterize the end-hours of the U.S. election. ...P.S.: I've always assumed the Faster Principle, when it pertains, is essentially benign. So voters comfortably process information more quickly? All we need to do is adjust (i.e. shorten) campaigns and terms in office to reflect this new processing capability. But Hoagland adds the worry that, in the hours right before an election, voters might comfortably process information in a way they later conclude is wrong. ... Of course, that's all the more reason to shorten terms in office, and to add second-guessing mechanisms (like California's recall provisions). Who wants to be stuck with a mistake for years (which now, thanks to the Faster Principle, seem like decades). ... [Thanks to M. P., a.k.a. Scrutineer] 11:07 P.M.