Thursday, April 12, 2012

Can Welfare Reform be Re-reformed ?

Below I rant at Ed Kilgore and Steve Benen. Also I agree with Kilgore that it would be terrible strategy for progressive activists to try to reverse welfare reform. I am sure that this is one battle which we would lose (my complaint was that he seemed to apply his strategic caclulations to journalists who should report the facts and not consider political strategy -- also his key claim of fact was incorrect).

So what is to be done ? I think that it is possible to get some money for the desperately poor families tossed off of TANF. I think it is even possible to get something for homeless single adults. But I am absolutely sure that the love in question will have to be much tougher than optimal policy. I am sure that the majority of voters will insist that people be made to sweat for the aid their children need.

This is not reasonable. For one thing given the low demand for unskilled labor, it would probably be cheaper to just give people money. For another, taking care of young children without a spouse in the house is extremely hard and vitally important work. The idea that single mothers without jobs are not doing enough makes no sense. The idea that it is good for their children to grow up assuming that adults work for a wage makes some sense.

But political reality is real. So the only approach to fighting deep poverty which I think might actually be implemented is a massive program of workfare. I am sure this implies wasting public money and is pointlessly cruel, but I see no politically possible alternative.


TAH from SLC said...

You may be right. But when I used to analyze policy for a living and make budget recommendations to a former governor, one of my colleagues said the most effective thing would be for lots of folks to just stay home. So they could take care of their kids, as you say. If not, then the costs of daycare, transportation, work clothes, etc., have to be covered. Much cheaper just to pay at least one parent to stay home.
Not unlike home health care - much cheaper to send a home health aide to someone's home, rather than to put that someone in a rehab center or SNF - and, hey, that someone is almost certain to prefer staying at home too. Probably because many someones would prefer to just stay home is why our elites
can't possibly consider that as a policy option. Sigh.

This is not to say that such persons would live a life of luxury if such policies were adopted; so I am somewhat less concerned about the moral hazard. Rather, I think if you take very good care of children, they do tend to grow up eager to reach for more on their own. It is when you do not take good care of them that their lives may seem hopeless to them and they are doomed to repeat what they see around them.

Robert said...

I absolutely agree with every word in this comment but "But". I agree that taking care of young children is hard and vitally vitally important work. I think everyone who has run the numbers agrees that making all single mothers work is costly and the only way to spend even less than old AFDC is to just leave some families in severe poverty.

But political realities are what they are. Cruel costly pointless make work for mothers which is also bad for their children is what our countrypeople demand in exchange for an end to extreme severe poverty.

If you can't fight them, then at least give them what they demand in exchange for ceasing to inflict extreme poverty on children.