Tuesday, August 29, 2006
The poverty report also comes 10 years after the 1996 welfare overhaul, which required millions of poor single mothers to work and which set limits on how long recipients could get monthly checks.
Poverty rates didn't skyrocket as some had feared. But they didn't drop much, either, suggesting that many of those who left welfare didn't climb out of poverty. The poverty rate was 13.7 percent in 1996, when about 4.4 million families received welfare payments. About 1.9 million families receive payments today.
"Most of the people who leave welfare for work are leaving for jobs that pay $7 or $8 an hour," said Joan Entmacher, vice president of the National Women's Law Center, an advocacy group based in Washington. "Under the best of circumstances, they are just getting by."
Crude initial reaction:The purpose of welfare reform wasn't to lower the poverty rate. It was to move people from welfare to work--out of an isolated, non-working subculture that had all sorts of bad social effects (fatherless families, crime, segregation, etc.). If welfare reform could have done that with a small increase in the poverty rate, that would have been a price worth paying. If reform had accomplished this goal--a near-60% reduction in the families getting welfare**--with no increase in the poverty rate, that would be a victory.That the poverty rate has actually fallen a full point from 1996 (13.7% then to 12.6% now--an 8% reduction) is a significant success. ... P.S.: The black poverty rate has fallen from 28.4% in 1996 to 24.9% in 2005, a 12% drop. In 1993, when Clinton took office, it was 33.1%. Since then it has dropped by almost 25%. *** ... P.P.S.: And think what the poverty numbers might have looked like without the arrival of millions of hard-working, unskilled illegal immigrants bidding down the wages of those $7 and $8 an hour jobs....
**--Not everyone who left welfare went to work, of course. But there was a huge influx into the regular labor force. Even those who rely on families, boyfriends, etc. are likely to face pressure to get into the working mainstream that they never felt when they were getting a guaranteed check.
***--Correction: I originally had this as "more than a third." Don't know how I got that. 1:47 P.M. link
No last-minute script changes! Here's Chris Matthews last Saturday:
MATTHEWS: OK, let's talk about events. Events are important. Between now and Election Day, this time, between now and the election in 2008, events will occur. All signs point to a continued degradation of our situation in Iraq. More sectarian fighting between Sunni and Shia, less of an obvious role for us.
Is that right? All signs? Maybe Matthews should read the Marine's letter excerpted by David Weigel on Andrewsullivan.com. ("I don't want to paint any overly rosy picture of things here as I never have indulged in that practice before, but we have control everywhere now (up to a point).") One wonders if the Washington players are now so locked into the hell-in-a-handbasket Iraq story line--in large part because the polls support it--that they are incapable of grokking a promising trend in the news. ... See also Iggy 8/25 and 8/27 ("the sense of panic in the Washington debate just doesn't match the situation here. It's bad, but it's not hurtling out of control"). ... [I thought the press always needed a change of story-ed. Yes, but the biggest change of story is "GOPs out, Dems in." And it's also the story change most reporters want. Keep your eye on the prize!] ...12:55 A.M.
Everything's always good for the Republicans, isn't it?: More Democratic defeatism--
I just don't see Democratic campaigns doing well.