Marc Ambinder is now onto the stimulus' "get-more-people-on-welfare" provisions, even if nobody else is. He offers a summary of the issue and then a Dem response (even though his summary included Dem responses). A few points.
1) Ambinder writes
a number of conservatives and even liberals have written to me wondering why the GOP isn't making more of a fuss about this . The answers are fairly simple: they want to avoid being seen as poor-people bashers , they know that Americans still associate welfare with minorities, and there are different sensitivities they must consider when making political claims about the priorities of the first black president. [E.A.]
If Republicans are unwilling to defend work over welfare because we have a black president(!), they might as well all retire en masse now. Hard to believe even GOP consultants are dumb enough to give this advice.
2) See, the MSM doesn't care! Ambinder's anonymous Dem responder argues
A pretty clear lesson of the four-year long welfare reauthorization debate was that there wasn't much political juice left in the issue -- didn't exactly see it on page one much, did you? [E.A.]
Hmm. Maybe that's because the reauthorization debate didn't threaten to roll back reform, and the caseloads were down. Now a) the Dems are starting to roll back reform, in order to encourage states to b) get caseloads back up. ... And there's something fallacious (i.e. circular) about a liberal Dem citing MSM coverage as if the New York Times was an infallible oracle of the people, as opposed to an infallible oracle of liberal Dems . This is what you see when you look up "cocooning" in the dictionary! ...
3) Ambinder's anonymous Democrat says his party has always been suspicious of the "caseload reduction credit," fearing that states will just push people off the rolls in order to get the credit (whether or not those recipients find jobs).
Why exactly should a state get credit towards the work participation standards just because they have fewer people on the caseload? The evidence is pretty clear that it's not like 100% of people who leave welfare get jobs
A fair point--except that in this case it's the Dems who are preserving the caseload reduction credit. They don't want states to have to meet the "work participation standards" (i.e. make recipients work or train) so they've written the bill to let them to wriggle out of them using the "reduction" credit even when, as Dems intend, their caseloads start expanding . ... P.S.: As with "card check," Ambinder is a bit off on the details, in a spun-by-Dem-sources direction. He writes, confusingly,
States get "casework reduction credits" for the number of people they move off of the rolls; these credits help states meet a mandated 50% threshold for their TANF recipients to perform some type of work-related activity. The idea here -- if I'm reading the bill correctly -- is that the caseload reduction credit would effectively be "updated" to account for economic emergencies. State would get more welfare funds without letting their threshold dip below 50%.
But the effect of the Dem stimulus' "caseload reduction" finagling is precisely to let the mandated "work participation" standards dip below 50% of the caseload. Example: Suppose a state's caseload was 100 in 2005. Then it dropped to 85 in 2007 and 80 in 2008 before rising to 90 in 2009 and (thanks to the stimulus' new federal incentives for caseload expansion) 110 in 2010. The stimulus bill lets states pretend that the caseload has stayed at 80 , giving them a "reduction credit" of 20% from the 2005 baseline. This credit is deducted, point by point, from the 50% "work participation" requirement--meaning that our hypothetical state would only have to get 30% of its recipients into work or training activities . For the other 70%, it's "come on down and get your cash--and stick around since the feds are now paying most of the bill."
4) Ambinder says
Democrats respond, forcefully, that in ordinary recessions, unemployment benefits might tide families over, but during a mini-depression, there are no jobs to push welfare recipients into.
That's true, in at least some cases--though DeParle reports that some state administrators say there are still jobs of the type welfare recipients typically take. But lack of jobs isn't a reason to loosen work requirements. It's a reason for the government to provide the jobs. Have the Dems never heard of "workfare"? Give recipients useful community service work, and if they do the work then they get the cash. Simple. They can hold their heads up.
Of course, Dems have heard of workfare--and they know that AFSCME hates workfare (fearing ex-recipients will do their jobs for less). But AFSCME is pushing on an open door. Money Liberals don't really need to be pressured into relaxing work requirements. They've never liked work requirements, including "workfare," and are always looking for an excuse to say "It's OK to come back on the dole."
And the "mini-depression" is certainly no reason recipients can't be required to train (or if necessary go to school and get their GEDs).
P.P.S.: Stimulus welfare provisions a potential issue in the fight over Gillibrand's seat ? We'll see about that juice. .. 12:58 P.M.