I applauded welfare reform (Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act) when it was passed into law and signed by then President William Jefferson Clinton in 1996. We have just passed the 20th anniversary of this reform. Washington has many failings but it is very good at naming things. This is a particularly good naming job: Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity.
As you might guess from the name I chose for my blog site, The Rugged Individualist believes in “Personal Responsibility.” Apparently, President Obama disagrees with me.
[Source: Did Welfare Reform Really Throw 3.5 Million Children Into Third World Poverty? The Facts May Surprise You, by Robert Rector (Rector is a national authority on welfare – RF)]
The following is what rational people observed following passage of the law – even the Democrat Party bragged about the following. [From the Rector article] The highly popular reform cut welfare caseloads by over 50 percent, sharply boosted the employment of the least-skilled single mothers, and pushed the poverty rates of black children and single-parent families to historic lows.
But as the Democrat Party has shifted to the extreme socialist left, President Obama needed an alternative analysis. So they invented one! The extreme left now posits that the 1996 reform has thrown 3.5 million children into “extreme poverty.” What are they talking about when they say “extreme?” They are referring to the kind of poverty seen in the developing world, living in destitution on less than $2 per day. Holy smokes! How cruel! (You can read the full report if you need to vomit up today’s breakfast: Did Welfare Reform Increase Extreme Poverty in the United States?)
Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican it is remarkable that the “two-party-system” manages to say on the one hand that the reform pushed the poverty rates of black children and single-parent families to historic lows. But, on the other hand, it required these same individuals to live in destitution on less than $2 per day.
Is it any wonder that voters are confused?
Let’s seek the truth. [From the Rector article] CBS News asserts that, because of welfare reform, “ … America is joining the likes of Third World countries.” The New York Times proclaims “welfare reform has resulted in a layer of destitution that echoes poverty in countries like Bangladesh.” Bloomberg News gasps that millions of Americans now “live on less than the average GDP [gross domestic product] per capita of a low-income country such as Afghanistan, Mozambique, or Haiti.” It insists millions in America are poorer than the “disabled beggars of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.”
Where did they get these sensational headlines, ask you? They got them from a book by Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer entitled, “$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.”
[From the Rector article] Edin and Shaefer concoct their remarkable claim that 3.5 million children routinely live in “extreme destitution,” on $2 per day or less, through a combination of statistical sleight of hand and lousy data. In 2014, federal and state government spent $221 billion on cash, food, and housing for low-income families with children. That’s two and a half times the amount needed to eliminate all poverty among families with children.
But when Edin and Shaefer calculate “extreme poverty,” they exclude… welfare spending from… family income.
So the left’s position is that they do not count “free” money. Think about that. The parents of 3.5 million children make virtually no effort to support them other than to collect their welfare payment.
When one looks at the living conditions of “impoverished Americans” it is rather astonishing. The following data is from 2005:
[From the Rector article] What about hunger? Surely, hunger must be widespread among families in “extreme destitution.” But, according to the survey data, only 1 percent of families allegedly living in “extreme poverty” report that they “often” did not have “enough food to eat” over the previous four months… the remaining… report that they “always” had enough food to eat…
The average consumption of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children. In most cases, it is well above recommended norms. Poor children actually consume more meat than higher-income children consume, and their protein intake averages 100 percent above recommended levels.
In the 50 years since “The War on Poverty” was instituted by the Democrat Party, U.S. taxpayers have spent over $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs. Adjusted for inflation, this spending (which does not include Social Security or Medicare) is three times the cost of all U.S. military wars since the American Revolution.
Quite the war! But according to Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer we have lost in spectacular fashion, despite the fact that every penny of our enormous national debt (plus an extra few trillion dollars) can be attributed to the Democrat Party failed War on Poverty.