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04/01/2004

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SqueakyRat

With just two million families on welfare, it's time to focus instead on the fact that life at the low end of the wage scale is a pretty hellish existence. You're least likely to have employer-provided health care, so that as your wages go up, you face the likelihood of losing Medicaid. You have the least job security, risk losing the job if you take a week off with a sick child, and if you do lose the job, there's nothing. No unemployment insurance, no welfare. Forget about pension coverage.

You might add, as the NYTimes just reported, that your employer is likely to be stealing the miserable wages you do get.

paperwight

Good piece. I'm actually curious about the statistics on the direct general assistance burden that state and county governments have picked up following the 1996 welfare reform.

One can say that Federal welfare programs only support 2 million households, but I know anecdotally that state and county governments pick up more than that, through a variety of programs. and I'm curious about how much.

I'll do some of my own looking on this point, but any resources would be welcome.

The Navigator

Mark,
I try to avoid "ditto" comments, but since only two others have left comments so far, I hope you won't mind if I say:
Yes. Excellent post. Spot on. I'm rather more skeptical about welfare reform's successes than you are - and we should still be outraged that Clinton gave states the Kaus-applauded authority to impose an unconscionable, strict 5-year lifetime limit, even if most states haven't yet gone to that extreme - but there are plenty of larger issues that Kaus and his GOP allies blithely ignore. Where, for instance, is the money for job creation? It's nice to see some bipartisan support for some additional child care funding, but I suspect that it won't be enough. I have clients who are being made to wait for four or five months for a child care subsidy to become available - while they toil in low-wage jobs that make it nearly impossible to afford child care on their own.

Issa

Patriots didn't cover the spread. Just sayin'.
(http://www.bodog.com/articles/2004/Covers-0202.jsp)

Great post.

Frank Wilhoit

The welfare debate has always been about one thing: the steam engine.

Two hundred years on, the economic consequences of Mr. Watt have yet to be squarely faced.

The effect of his lovely invention is that it no longer takes a thousand people's effort to support a thousand people. In other words, there isn't enough work to go round, and there never will be again.

"Welfare"--or "relief", or "the dole", or any of its other situational names--is one of several distinct approaches to palliating this problem without acknowledging it. Another is the creation of huge numbers of pseudo-jobs.

It would be preferable to face up to the problem and acknowledge that the invention of the steam engine (followed by many other inventions whose effect has been cumulative) demands a *complete* re-think of the definition of work, and of the relationships between work, human dignity, and memership-in-good-standing of society.

You may cross your fingers but I cannot recommend that you hold your breath.

a lesser mongbat

It would be preferable to face up to the problem and acknowledge that the invention of the steam engine (followed by many other inventions whose effect has been cumulative) demands a *complete* re-think of the definition of work, and of the relationships between work, human dignity, and memership-in-good-standing of society.

How do you suggest that we re-think it? Are you suggesting a "citizen's dividend"? Do you just want us to scrap the whole thing altogether and say "oh well, if you're in you're in and if you're out you're out!"

Clarify, if you would.

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