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February 2, 2009 2:39 PM   Subscribe

When welfare benefits the rich, and starves the poor: Despite soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis in decades, 18 states cut their welfare rolls last year, and nationally the number of people receiving cash assistance remained at or near the lowest in more than 40 years.

The American tradition of guaranteeing cash assistance to the poor came to an end with the signing of legislation in August 1996. Since then, states get block grants, and state and local governments decide how to spend the money.

For example; fewer than 2,500 Georgia adults now receive benefits, down from 28,000 in 2004—a 90 percent decline. Louisiana, Texas, and Illinois have each dropped 80 percent of adult recipients since January 2001. Nationally, the number of recipients fell more than 40 percent between then and June 2008, the most recent month for which data are available. In Georgia last year, only 18 percent of children living below 50 percent of the poverty line—that is, on less than $733 a month for a family of three—were receiving aid.

States are spending the TANF block grants to plug budget holes[PDF], fund property tax rebates, [google book excerpt] and other discretionary spending. Because there is no federal oversight anymore, it's become a real challenge to find out where all the money goes, once it leaves the feds hands.

One thing is for sure though...it sure doesn't seem to be getting to the poor.
posted by dejah420 (68 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
That Bill Clinton was a great Republican president. (And yes, that is why I wouldn't vote for his wife in the Democratic primary.)
posted by orthogonality at 2:46 PM on February 2, 2009 [23 favorites]


Well duh! We need to cut back. We have bankers and CEOs to support!
posted by DU at 2:51 PM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Obviously if less people are collecting welfare it means there are less poor people. QED.
posted by GuyZero at 2:55 PM on February 2, 2009


Thanks for this post. I'm all for Obama's plan to restore the middle class, but part of that project requires ensuring that the temporary setbacks don't permanently resituate a family in intractable poverty. Without a social safety net, middle class is the new low class: failure means homelessness, malnutrition, and depending on the charity of strangers, which actually stifles innovation by exacerbating the risks of entrepreneurship. Funny that.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:56 PM on February 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Those $15,000 umbrella stands ain't going to sell themselves, you know.
posted by Caduceus at 2:56 PM on February 2, 2009


You guys are missing the point. Now that all these people no longer depend on the government, they'll have the motivation to become CEOs. Most of them will probably be millionaires within the next couple of years.
posted by heathkit at 3:02 PM on February 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


That Bill Clinton was a great Republican president.

I can't favorite that enough.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:02 PM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


As an anarchist, I fully support the defunding of assistance for the poor. We're never going to have violent uprising if all the proles are comfortable.
posted by mullingitover at 3:03 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


As an anarchist, I fully support the defunding of assistance for the poor. We're never going to have violent uprising if all the proles are comfortable.

One might argue that that was the 'problem' in the '60s: The economy was good enough that pissed-off young people, black people could afford to go kick up a fuss.
Today, everyone's worried about missing car payments or mortgage payments. Sure, you have your crusty punks who live in squats and dumpster dive, but they're shooting themselves in the foot because they're so gross that a lot of people write themselves off instead of joining the cause.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:07 PM on February 2, 2009


As a poor person, I look forward to making sure mullingitover gets his turn against the wall.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:08 PM on February 2, 2009 [11 favorites]


Here in Indiana, the state privatized welfare, contracting it out to IBM and an IBM affiliate. The result was a much more opaque, inflexible, and labyrinthine process through which citizens had to navigate in order to simply continue getting assistance.

The biggest change was that recipients were "encouraged" (driven) to navigate an automated system to acquire continuation of benefits. Essentially, their human case workers were taken completely out of the loop. The upshot has been that many people (especially the elderly and mentally handicapped) have lost their benefits due to their having difficulties navigating the new automated systems. Not-for-profit advocacy groups have managed to help some recipients get their benefits reinstated, but many more are still falling through the cracks.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:11 PM on February 2, 2009


Sure, you have your crusty punks who live in squats and dumpster dive, but they're shooting themselves in the foot because they're so gross that a lot of people write themselves off instead of joining the cause. just making a fashion statement.
posted by shmegegge at 3:12 PM on February 2, 2009


Bill Clinton was the first black President to not give a shit about his own people.
posted by gman at 3:16 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, I forgot to link in this previous post on UK Workhouses, which, and this is sad to say, might be a step up for many poor Americans.
posted by dejah420 at 3:16 PM on February 2, 2009


Ah, I forgot to link in this previous post on UK Workhouses, which, and this is sad to say, might be a step up for many poor Americans.

Y'know...Sometimes I put my foil hat on and look around at how bad things just might get for the middle and lower classes, and I think that this is exactly the plan. Lower their quality of life enough to where they will gladly accept developing-world wages and 12-hour work days. Then we can move manufacturing back to the US. Profit!
posted by Thorzdad at 3:27 PM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


That Bill Clinton was a great Republican president. (And yes, that is why I wouldn't vote for his wife in the Democratic primary.)

To his credit, Bill Clinton saw the data and tried to end the cash welfare-related crack epidemic, and the cash for babies epidemic, especially among crack addicts (but also among polygamists and poor single mothers generally). The last time I knew someone who had a baby in order to get welfare was so long ago I was getting my hopes up. (She got busted for scamming credit cards as a waitress and decided to get pregnant instead, without ever even having a boyfriend at the time, and yes, people actually made that choice on a regular basis before '96.)

There are tons of fake liberals out there who equate liberalism with charity, imagining people to eat out of their hand (rather than trying to avoid it). These will always keep the conservatives in business because they see poverty as something to maintain, and they are generally guilt-ridden types who make liberalism look incompetent or emotionally based. If people can't see better ways to provide housing and other necessities without giving an unemployable person with mental health or drug issues a cash benefit, then they shouldn't be in government.
posted by Brian B. at 3:32 PM on February 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


To his credit, Bill Clinton saw the data and tried to end the cash welfare-related crack epidemic, and the cash for babies epidemic, especially among crack addicts (but also among polygamists and poor single mothers generally). The last time I knew someone who had a baby in order to get welfare was so long ago I was getting my hopes up. (She got busted for scamming credit cards as a waitress and decided to get pregnant instead, without ever even having a boyfriend at the time, and yes, people actually made that choice on a regular basis before '96.)

Data, please!

*colbert gimmie-gimmie-grab*
posted by absalom at 3:36 PM on February 2, 2009


That Bill Clinton was a great Republican president

Oh come on, Bill did a ton of things Republicans hated. I think the mistake you're making is assuming that Democrats are liberal, which by many definitions they are not (certainly not all of them, and the party platform is much less tilted towards its liberal members than the Republican party's platform is tilted towards its conservative members). He was a centrist/conservative and a Democrat, which is VERY different than being a centrist/conservative Republican.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:41 PM on February 2, 2009


Lower their quality of life enough to where they will gladly accept developing-world wages and 12-hour work days.

Globalization is naturally leading us in that direction, though we can hope spreading the wealth around will give us an equilibrium higher than current developing-world standards, it will be nothing like our current standards.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:48 PM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are tons of fake liberals out there who equate liberalism with charity, imagining people to eat out of their hand (rather than trying to avoid it). These will always keep the conservatives in business because they see poverty as something to maintain, and they are generally guilt-ridden types who make liberalism look incompetent or emotionally based.

There are? Who are they? Which members of Congress would you say fall into this camp?
posted by heathkit at 3:56 PM on February 2, 2009


One might argue that that was the 'problem' in the '60s: The economy was good enough that pissed-off young people, black people could afford to go kick up a fuss.

Today, everyone's worried about missing car payments or mortgage payments.
If you have a car and mortgage payment to worry about, you've already got some wealth. Going from wealth and comfort to destitution is far more radicalizing then anything else. Just look at Iceland. Plus the idea that black people were better off in the 1960s then today is insane.
To his credit, Bill Clinton saw the data and tried to end the cash welfare-related crack epidemic,
That's about the most idiotic, and frankly racist thing I've read in, like, a couple hours at least.
Oh come on, Bill did a ton of things Republicans hated.
You mean aside from getting his dick sucked? Come on, their biggest gripe was that he "stole their issues."

Let's not forget that Rahm Emmanual was the point man on this. The same guy who wrote in a book a year ago that Universal Healthcare wasn't worth going for and that outraged letters to the editor accusing democrats of being "practically republicans" on FISA were great because made them look "bipartisan".

And hey, let's not forget Tom "♥ the Iraq war, plus I'm too important to pay taxes on the limo service I got for free for some reason from a financial services company" Daschel
posted by delmoi at 4:04 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]




Bill Clinton defeated the "Crack Epidemic" the same way Reagan defeated the Satanic Ritual Abuse epidemic that swept the nation in the '80s. In that it was a mass delusion that people just forgot about after a while. I'm not saying there weren't crackheads out there, but most of the talk about an "epidemic" was overblown nonsense with some pretty obvious racial overtones. Remember the stuff about crack babies growing up into "superpreadators"? It was a bunch of bullshit.
posted by delmoi at 4:13 PM on February 2, 2009 [9 favorites]


That's about the most idiotic, and frankly racist thing I've read in, like, a couple hours at least.

You are blatantly suggesting that race is a factor in drug addiction and/or welfare policy?
posted by Brian B. at 4:14 PM on February 2, 2009


Despite soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis in decades, 18 states cut their welfare rolls last year,...

What do you mean, "despite"?
posted by Avenger at 4:16 PM on February 2, 2009


but most of the talk about an "epidemic" was overblown nonsense with some pretty obvious racial overtones.

The crack epidemic according to Wikipedia.
posted by Brian B. at 4:17 PM on February 2, 2009


Ah, I forgot to link in this previous post on UK Workhouses, which, and this is sad to say, might be a step up for many poor Americans.

Workhouses were for the deserving poor. By virtue of their repeated votes for George W. Bush, most Americans wouldn't qualify.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:18 PM on February 2, 2009


This is patently racist, and only little wit can excuse you.

You are projecting your racism onto me.
posted by Brian B. at 4:19 PM on February 2, 2009


I completely misunderstood Mullingitover's comment there. This anarchist supports the defunding of assistance for the poor, as well as what You Can't Tip A Buick said.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:19 PM on February 2, 2009


Brian B.: are you saying that crack use did the most damage in urban minority areas? Well, now we have the meth epidemic, which is doing tons of damage white rural and suburban areas. Feel free to put either in your pipe and smoke it.

Oh, wait. Judging from your comments, you seem have already started. carry on.
posted by jonmc at 4:20 PM on February 2, 2009


Brian B.: are you saying that crack use did the most damage in urban minority areas? Well, now we have the meth epidemic, which is doing tons of damage white rural and suburban areas. Feel free to put either in your pipe and smoke it.

I think you must be the one on something. Read my comments again. No mention of urban, minorities, or anything you suggest.
posted by Brian B. at 4:23 PM on February 2, 2009


most of the talk about an "epidemic" was overblown nonsense

I've no idea what constitutes 'most of the talk about an epidemic'. However, if you're trying to say that the prevalence of crack use didn't rise dramatically during the 80's, and that it didn't have a disproportionate impact on poor and minority communities, then that's exactly the opposite of what the people in those communities have to say about those times.

Of course, Clinton didn't end it, and nor did anybody else. Crack is one of those drugs that takes a punishing toll on those who use it in a dependent manner. Most of the estimates that I've seen suggest that people will use it in heavily for an average of five years or so, before quitting, or moving to less intense patterns of use. Subsequent generations coming up in those communities see the heavy toll that it extracted from their parents, their neighbours, their elder brothers and sisters, and decide that they'd have to be pretty stupid to go there, but drug epidemics tend to come in cycles or waves, and so it's quite conceivable that in another few generations, when we're raising a bunch of kids who don't remember what it was like to see their momma sucking on a teenager slanger's dick for a five dollar rock might rediscover the delights of the drug and go there once again.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:30 PM on February 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


While I'm sure there were many who exploited welfare for their gain, I don't think that was anything close to the norm, even prior to 1996. I grew up poor, and my mom was getting welfare and foodstamps, and most of the time that was all that was allowed us to sleep in a bed instead of the car. (And it wasn't always enough either, so the car was our bed sometimes anyway.)

My mom worked 12-hour days, so it's not like she was a slacker. The problem was, she married young. She had a high school diploma but no college and no job skills, looks but no education. That was okay while she was raising kids and my dad was the bread-earner, but then they got divorced and my dad never paid a dime of child support. So my mom got a job as a switchboard operator at a hospital (she had a pleasant voice). But with 12-hour work days and no help from my dad, and kids to raise, there was no time in the day to acquire more marketable skills.

Cutting way down on welfare and food stamps disproportionately affects women and children, because of the large number of men who are glad to spray their sperm all over anybody that's willing, but not willing at all to raise children or take responsibility. Sometimes those deadbeat dads pay a price legally, but mostly they don't, and the women and children do.
posted by jamstigator at 4:33 PM on February 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


My family settled down in an area with awful year-round job prospects- I can't fault them for not trying, there just wasn't any work to support us five kids during off-season. The house fire when I was twelve didn't help, we lived in a burned-out house and our cars for the summer as we prepared to rebuild (no savings) and had plastic for windows until June. If it weren't for WIC checks and food stamps, we would not have made it through together.

Talk about 'Welfare Queens' and "cash-for-babies epidemics" makes my blood boil.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:42 PM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Where does this stereotype of the "welfare queen" even come from? Even when Reagan was throwing the term around, did they exist?
posted by Coffeemate at 4:59 PM on February 2, 2009


Where does this stereotype of the "welfare queen" even come from? Even when Reagan was throwing the term around, did they exist?

My theory: I'm sure there were probably some people commiting fraud (it's an imperfect world), and some Republican staffer found a particularly egregious case and milked it for all it was worth.
posted by jonmc at 5:10 PM on February 2, 2009


Where does this stereotype of the "welfare queen" even come from?

The GOP. See, a welfare queen was Female and Black, and getting money from the government

So, they could use that to get Poor White Males pissed off.

Hint: If you're wondering why the GOP is playing a card, the answer is almost always race.
posted by eriko at 5:18 PM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wikipedia really does have everything.
posted by heathkit at 5:47 PM on February 2, 2009


Actually, here's a much more informative article on the origin of Reagan's welfare queen.
posted by heathkit at 5:52 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Wikipedia, for letting me know that the word 'queen' often carries gendered connotations.
posted by box at 5:53 PM on February 2, 2009


A rising tide... [drowns the poor who can't afford boats].
posted by blue_beetle at 6:01 PM on February 2, 2009


I grew up in a building where 75% or more were on welfare, and the building itself was subsidized. Just about everyone I knew on welfare was a single parent, few or none receiving child support (mostly, but not all, female), and most working at something or other, but not making enough to get off welfare. My mother was receiving $2.50 of welfare a month by the time I was 12 or so, which meant that her wage for a 35-hour/week administrative job requiring good computer skills and self-direction paid $2.50 less a month than welfare.

There were those who didn't work: some had serious mental or drug problems (usually both, since one often leads to the other and vice versa), some lacked job skills and got into a rut. But none planned to be on welfare, none happy about being on welfare.

Just about all I knew were there because they were single parents, who had been divorced, or left by their partners, or had an unplanned pregnancy. Single wages just really aren't enough to support a family - one family I knew qualified for subsized housing even though he worked a great job as a bus driver, just because they had a disabled son who required a great deal of care and his wife could not work as well. And if you are a single parent, you have to factor in the costs of childcare; many single parents simply can't work, because the cost of childcare is more than their income. My mother, who has custody of my neice, pays almost 1/4 of her income in childcare for 7am to 6pm, which is how long her day is, and that's for one child and a good income (she's up to $40,000 a year as a bookkeeper - her admin job used to pay $24,000/year). If she had four children, it would just not compute.

I don't think welfare is a nice thing. It's not nice to receive - and when a whole community is on assistance, you can develop a culture where no one has a job, and kids don't learn those ineffable skills that middle class kids just learn - how to look for a job, how to write a resume, how to interview, what jobs there are...the list goes on. But it's necessary, unless we want to see our fellow citizens starve, or beg, or steal - and frankly jail costs us all more than welfare.

Welfare is an investment - it's an investment in families, and in children. Every family on welfare is a child with a more stable home, with fewer worries. They have a chance to succeed at school, a chance to get good job skills. The fact that some of us on here have been on welfare, but now many of us have good jobs (or in my case, an excess of education instead) because we had that helping hand when we were too young to even understand why we needed it.

Also, the welfare limit of 5 years is insane. My respect for Clinton dropped through the floor when I heard he signed that bill. I was on welfare for at least 8 years as a child, if not longer (like I said, the check was only $2.50 by the end), and that was what allowed me to grow up safe and secure and finish highschool and get an education and do all the things my mother never had a chance to. And pay taxes too, dammit. And I want my taxes to support families.
posted by jb at 6:09 PM on February 2, 2009 [13 favorites]


By the way - before someone starts doing the math - I don't know how much my mum made when we were getting $2.50, so I don't know what welfare (1 adult, two children) was. All I remember is that later she had $24,000 and that was after some raises and we had left welfare.
posted by jb at 6:11 PM on February 2, 2009


The thing that got me started on this post was thinking that really...if there is no safety net, what the hell happens to people? I say this without hyperbole...really, what are they supposed to do?

If the current system is impossible to get assistance, even if you're starving and homeless, and the system is only set up to help single mothers, what is a family facing financial trouble supposed to do?

I've volunteered with a lot of shelters around town, and have done some stuff under the bridges where the homeless tend to congregate, and it's really getting scary out there. People that were nominally middle class are going hungry. People that were already on the border of serious 3rd world levels of poverty are being pushed over the line. The shelters are full, the food banks are empty, and charity dollars are drying up.

It frightens me that Dickensian solutions like workhouses are starting to seem like they might be a solution that's proposed and accepted because it's a fuck of a lot better than seeing toddlers under the bridges.

And it's scary to realize that if something happened, there's no safety net for us either. There's nothing to keep families together long enough to find new jobs. There's no jobs to find for a lot of people. Daycare costs more than minimum wage earners make. At some point, it's a zero sum game.

I don't know what the solution is, but I know that the solution is not starving poor Americans so rich ones can get property tax breaks. I know that that the solution is not sturdier boxes. The solution is not to make the system so degrading and impossible to use that 16% of American kids live below the poverty line.

The system is morally and ethically bankrupt, and something must be done. I just wish I knew what that "something" was, so I could do it.
posted by dejah420 at 7:06 PM on February 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


crack epidemic according to Wikipedia.

And if you'd read the link you posted, you'd see the "crack epidemic" was actually a "gang turf war" epidemic as rival gangs fought over new territory (at least according to Wikipedia) and it suddenly dissipated two years before Clinton took office and six years before welfare reform took place, which makes your first comment even stupider.
posted by delmoi at 7:38 PM on February 2, 2009


>and the cash for babies epidemic

Do you even know what an epidemic is? Let's accept the most general definition to be something like "the occurrence of cases in a region in excess of what is normally expected." (Note: that is not the actual definition.) Now, can you point to any data, anywhere, of this "cash for babies epidemic"? Or do you just get your talking points directly from Rush Limbaugh's asshole?

Welfare mothers make better lovers.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 11:53 PM on February 2, 2009


You are blatantly suggesting that race is a factor in drug addiction and/or welfare policy?

Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty.

If you're interested in reading about the connection between racism and reproductive policies, including welfare and drug addiction policy, you should read this book.

Everyone should read it, in my opinion, but particularly if you want to know how racism informs social policy in the United States.
posted by winna at 12:08 AM on February 3, 2009


As an anarchist, I fully support the defunding of assistance for the poor. We're never going to have violent uprising if all the proles are comfortable.

For the record, not all of us support the creation or perpetuation of suffering as a means to our political ends. I find mullingitover's comment horrifying beyond words.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:16 AM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


One might argue that that was the 'problem' in the '60s: The economy was good enough that pissed-off young people, black people could afford to go kick up a fuss.

And lots of wives and mothers had time to get involved in politics, because for many families, one income was enough. The trend since then has seen more and more women enter the workforce. I don't think it's a random trend. Many have wondered why the Iraq occupation has not seemed to generate the same levels of unrest that Vietnam did. I think that part of the reason is that so many more women have to work. It's harder to mobilize a protest when most of your day is used up putting food on your family.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:15 AM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hint: If you're wondering why the GOP is playing a card, the answer is almost always race.

Or class. Latinos as a separate "race" in the US has never made any kind of sense to me. They're a large ethnic grouping sure, but what's really going on is the rich GOP pitching the undecided "white" insecure middles against a working-poor, but aspirational, underclass. It has a "racial" (more properly ethnic) tone, but it's really just good old class warfare, baby.

But, since there are no social classes in America, this clearly isn't the case.
posted by bonehead at 10:18 AM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The thing that got me started on this post was thinking that really...if there is no safety net, what the hell happens to people? I say this without hyperbole...really, what are they supposed to do?

Die.

Seriously, I believe that is what a number of our wealthy, privileged politicians desire. It's evidenced all around us. In British Columbia, where we are supposed to have a good system for helping people in need, our dictatorship government has cut and slashed social programs to the point that people are dying from neglect. These cutbacks are directly responsible for people dying.

Now the government can say whatever they like in defense of their decisions, but talk is cheap. The only solid truth is in what actually happens. And what is actually happening is that their decisions are killing people. Actions speak louder than words.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:00 PM on February 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wikipedia really does have everything.

In fact, it has more than one.
posted by oaf at 12:05 PM on February 3, 2009


Bill Clinton defeated the "Crack Epidemic" the same way Reagan defeated the Satanic Ritual Abuse epidemic that swept the nation in the '80s. In that it was a mass delusion that people just forgot about after a while.

And if you'd read the link you posted, you'd see the "crack epidemic" was actually a "gang turf war" epidemic as rival gangs fought over new territory

So I guess the part about the doubling of the murder rate of African American men, drop in birthweight and rate of pregnancy out of wedlock was just made up too? Dude is clearly wrong about Clinton ending the crack epidemic, but don't go making up shit just so you can disagree. Crack ruined a lot of people's lives.
posted by electroboy at 2:04 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


It appears to me that disability benefits have been on the rise as welfare benefits have decreased over the past ten years. I would love to see a plot of the number of people claiming disability vs. welfare benefits over the past 10-20 years controlled for the aging of our population.

I think Brian B. does have a point though that long-term cash hand outs for welfare may not be the best thing for society in the long run. Things like subsidized housing, food stamps, free child care, free medical care, and free job-training / education would go a lot further than just handing over a check every month. This approach allows individuals to gradually return to the working world and requires them to take an active part in bettering their situation. Perhaps we could even go so far as to have these programs partially run by the individuals who use them (e.g. We'll give you these basic subsidies, as well as pay you a reasonable wage in exchange for working at the food bank / child care facility). Another possible example could be exchanging health care benefits for training new workers to keep families that are "on the edge" from falling off. A side effect of all of this would be that individuals that require welfare can broaden their support networks and meet positive role models that can help them make better financial and practical decisions.

The system as a whole is still underfunded and mismanaged; but I think there is a whole world of possibilities out there that accomplish the goals of keeping individuals and families out of poverty and improve their situation.
posted by kscottz at 2:14 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


and it suddenly dissipated two years before Clinton took office and six years before welfare reform took place, which makes your first comment even stupider.

I didn't find the word dissipate when I checked yesterday. No doubt you are referring to a high point, which it reached because it was so highly publicized, being discussed in news papers everyday. As I recall, it was just the thing to get people interested in welfare reform.

A link at the bottom of the aricle says a lot more on this:

The first startling result of our study is how crack use increases and stays high, says Levitt. Even at the end of our sample, crack use remains at 60 to 75 percent of the peak. That's surprising given that the attention paid to the crack epidemic has all but disappeared.

And then there are these facts (which don't mesh with your naive view of the great dissipation):


# In 1988, about 300,000 infants were born addicted to cocaine.
# Rates of cocaine use by college students over the previous 5 years has varied between 2.0% of all students in 1994 to 4.8% in 2000.
# In 2001, 2% of college students and 4.7% of young adults (ages 19.28) reported using crack cocaine at least once during their lifetimes. 0.9% of college students and 1.3% of young adults reported past year crack use, while 0.1% of college students and 0.4% of young adults reported using crack in the past month


Do you even know what an epidemic is? Let's accept the most general definition to be something like "the occurrence of cases in a region in excess of what is normally expected." (Note: that is not the actual definition.)

Why not just link a definition rather than make a fool out of yourself?

Now, can you point to any data, anywhere, of this "cash for babies epidemic"? Or do you just get your talking points directly from Rush Limbaugh's asshole?

I now know more about you than you no doubt intended to convey. Regardless, you would want to know birth rates while on cash assistance prior to reform, versus the time when cash assistance was limited. I take it you can't find such a graph. I'm not surprised.

But, wait, there's one right here. (pdf)

For all you sociology majors, here's some background on the main issues, written around the time of reform.
posted by Brian B. at 5:05 PM on February 3, 2009


>But, wait, there's one right here.

Correlation does not imply causation.

Try again?
posted by McGuillicuddy at 7:26 PM on February 3, 2009


Correlation does not imply causation.

Try again for what? You asked for data. I show you data and then you tell me you don't want it because you don't agree with it. At this point you should be withdrawing your request to avoid becoming a major fool.
posted by Brian B. at 7:34 PM on February 3, 2009


Dude is clearly wrong about Clinton ending the crack epidemic,

That was Delmoi's strawman. If you learn anything today, then learn who to read for clarity and who to ignore, as this thread demonstrates.
posted by Brian B. at 7:46 PM on February 3, 2009


>I show you data and then you tell me you don't want it because you don't agree with it.

I do not disagree with the data. However, I see serious flaws in your interpretation of the data. To repeat a well known fact: Correlation does not imply causation.

Please quote from that study the evidence that the decline in birth rate was due to a decrease in the number of women who were having children for the purpose of welfare payments.

If you can point to evidence that the decline in birth rate was due to women having fewer children for the purpose of welfare payments, I'll concede the existence of a "cash for babies epidemic" in Washington State (though the "epidemic" proportion of the supposed phenomena would still be in question).

Otherwise, feel free to try again.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 8:21 PM on February 3, 2009


Please quote from that study the evidence that the decline in birth rate was due to a decrease in the number of women who were having children for the purpose of welfare payments.

Data doesn't interpret itself. It takes an educated person to understand it in context. You aren't one of them.
posted by Brian B. at 8:23 PM on February 3, 2009


>It takes an educated person to understand it in context.

I take it that you cannot support your argument from the data that you cite.

Whatever education you have had, it was obviously not in the sciences where interpretations without evidence are ridiculed mercilessly.

If you could show me evidence that the decrease in birth rate was caused by a decrease in women having babies for welfare payments, we would then address the fact that a correlation between welfare reform and a decrease in birth rates does not constitute evidence of a causative relationship.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 8:49 PM on February 3, 2009


If you learn anything today, then learn who to read for clarity and who to ignore, as this thread demonstrates.

I dunno about the clarity argument, but I'm getting a pretty clear picture of who's a douchebag and who isn't.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:54 PM on February 3, 2009


From the last study linked by Brian B.

Family planning is an essential component of programs designed to help welfare clients become self-sufficient. Washington’s Community Services Offices (CSOs) determine financial eligibility for entitlement programs such as federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid, and provide social services, including case management. In the early 1990s, Washington started a pilot program to bring family planning services into CSOs to increase access to these services for low-income clients. As of September 2001, the majority of CSOs have Family Planning Nurses co-located in the offices, and seven CSOs have full-exam family planning clinics located within their buildings.

WorkFirst (Washington’s public assistance-to-work program) has an explicit goal of zero additional births for women in the WorkFirst program. When clients apply for public assistance, they receive family planning information and referral as needed to the family planning nurse in the CSO. The Family Planning Nurse provides information, assistance, education, and limited reproductive health services to eligible clients.


This isn't just a matter of "correlation does not imply causation" or "It takes an educated person to understand it in context." The article really doesn't say anything about reduced welfare payments leading to a lower birthrate to individuals at all. I think what the article really says is that the combination of welfare plus adequate social services (like family planning) can dramatically reduce the number of children born to parents receiving welfare. This gets back to my original point that welfare in the form of lump sum monthly handouts isn't as useful as social services for improving the lives of the working poor. With respect to the "crack epidemic" and "welfare queens" one could make the argument that the reduction in general welfare payments to increase funding for drug treatment programs and family planning could have been a better investment than just reducing welfare payments in general ( I am not saying that is this was what really happened, just a thought).

As an aside, can we please use metafilter to actually discuss the topic at hand rather than to shoot two line ad-hominems and zingers back and forth (or call each other fools)?
posted by kscottz at 9:55 PM on February 3, 2009


If you could show me evidence that the decrease in birth rate was caused by a decrease in women having babies for welfare payments, we would then address the fact that a correlation between welfare reform and a decrease in birth rates does not constitute evidence of a causative relationship.

This is jibberish. You changed your demand from wanting data to wanting proof so you can show that it can't be proven. I don't even have the burden here because I don't want the reversion back to a massively failed liberalism and crack poster children. Once was enough for me.
posted by Brian B. at 11:38 PM on February 3, 2009


This just in:

New riders to the Senate version of the stimulus bill provide that:

- Correlation will equal causation

- The plural of anecdote will be data

- Mentioning Hitler will mean nothing about the validity of an argument - however, failure to mention Jesus will earn two penalty points

- You favorite band will no longer suck (until FY 2011, when it will once again suck)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:39 AM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think Brian B. does have a point though that long-term cash hand outs for welfare may not be the best thing for society in the long run. Things like subsidized housing, food stamps, free child care, free medical care, and free job-training / education would go a lot further than just handing over a check every month. This approach allows individuals to gradually return to the working world and requires them to take an active part in bettering their situation.

I tend to agree, but look at the counter-argument: capitalist markets depend on putting ordinary folks in charge of their own money, so that markets accurately reflect their demand for goods and services. Markets supply efficiency at the cost of equality, so cash transfers are the best way to preserve efficiency while dealing with equality. While free services get overused, a cash payment treats the recipient as an autonomous being with their own preferences and economizing impulse.

If you give me food stamps, subsidized housing, and free legal services, I won't try to economize my usage at all, especially if you're not also giving me cash. If what I really want is a new sofa, I've got to find a way to exchange one of the things I have access to for the sofa, which results in inefficiencies as I stockpile items with which to barter. The same thing goes for free legal services: the argument goes that if I have a good case, I'll find a lawyer who can make money representing me. If everybody gets free lawyers, however, I'll just take every case I can to court, plead innocent every time, on the off chance that I'll win and receive a windfall or the prosecutor will drop the charges to deal with something else. That's also inefficient.

I see college kids all the time that shouldn't have come to college, but because it was free (paid for by their parents) they show up and party through two years before they have to drop out. If their parents had given them the cash, they could have been partying in Europe, or else started a business or learned a trade without stigma. But no: the parents would pay for books but not booze, so that's what the kids do. The difference is that they've got a private safety net, and many parents can't think of a better use for their wealth than protecting their spoiled children from the mistakes their incentives have promoted. With public money, that sort of thing stinks of paternalistic domination aimed at perpetuating the underclass.

I don't really agree with any of what I've just written, but I must admit it's a powerful argument. My hope is that some of those who would have chosen, at 18, to party, will have an experience (maybe in my classroom!) at 19 or 20 that puts them on the path to an education and useful life, just as I hope that the services supplied by the state will help their recipients survive long enough to escape whatever combination of addiction, mental illness, history of abuse, and societal prejudice it is that prevents them from flourishing.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:37 AM on February 4, 2009


That was Delmoi's strawman. If you learn anything today, then learn who to read for clarity and who to ignore, as this thread demonstrates.

Well, neither of you know what you're talking about. You're just googling until you find something that agrees with your assumption. In terms of clarity, you can't say

To his credit, Bill Clinton saw the data and tried to end the cash welfare-related crack epidemic, and then pretend it's a strawman to claim that Clinton tried to end the crack epidemic. Clarity. You need more of it.
posted by electroboy at 6:44 AM on February 4, 2009


you can't say "To his credit, Bill Clinton saw the data and tried to end the cash welfare-related crack epidemic," and then pretend it's a strawman to claim that Clinton tried to end the crack epidemic. Clarity. You need more of it.

That's exactly what a strawman often is. If you notice, it really took off early in the thread. The issue became the dissipation of a non-existent crack epidemic as you mentioned me for. Clarity indeed, I regret writing "you" as if to suggest you personally.
posted by Brian B. at 6:55 AM on February 4, 2009


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