“Welfare reform” was all about mothers and their children.
It was mothers and their children — only mothers and their children — who received the assistance that was “reformed” and restricted. And it was those mothers and their children who were left helpless when the recession hit.
Jason DeParle had a must-read report on those mothers and their children in Sunday’s New York Times, “Welfare Limits Left Poor Adrift as Recession Hit.” I’ve excerpted a few select quotes from that article below the jump. And, for comparison’s sake, I’ve interspersed some recent quotes from our friend Rick Warren.
Faced with flat federal financing and rising need, Arizona is one of 16 states that have cut their welfare caseloads further since the start of the recession — in its case, by half. …
The poor people who were dropped from cash assistance here, mostly single mothers, talk with surprising openness about the desperate, and sometimes illegal, ways they make ends meet. They have sold food stamps, sold blood, skipped meals, shoplifted, doubled up with friends, scavenged trash bins for bottles and cans and returned to relationships with violent partners — all with children in tow.
Esmeralda Murillo, a 21-year-old mother of two, lost her welfare check, landed in a shelter and then returned to a boyfriend whose violent temper had driven her away. “You don’t know who to turn to,” she said.
Maria Thomas, 29, with four daughters, helps friends sell piles of brand-name clothes, taking pains not to ask if they are stolen. “I don’t know where they come from,” she said. “I’m just helping get rid of them.”
To keep her lights on, Rosa Pena, 24, sold the groceries she bought with food stamps and then kept her children fed with school lunches and help from neighbors. Her post-welfare credo is widely shared: “I’ll do what I have to do.”
Does fairness mean everybody makes the same amount of money? Or does fairness mean everybody gets the opportunity to make the same amount of money? I do not believe in wealth redistribution, I believe in wealth creation.
While data on the very poor is limited and subject to challenge, recent studies have found that as many as one in every four low-income single mothers is jobless and without cash aid — roughly four million women and children. Many of the mothers have problems like addiction or depression, which can make assisting them politically unpopular, and they have received little attention in a downturn that has produced an outpouring of concern for the middle class.
Poor families can turn to other programs, like food stamps or Medicaid, or rely on family and charity. But the absence of a steady source of cash, however modest, can bring new instability to troubled lives.
When you subsidize people, you create the dependency. You — you rob them of dignity.
Among the Arizonans who lost their checks was Tamika Shelby, who first sought cash aid at 29 after fast-food jobs and a stint as a waitress in a Phoenix strip club. The state gave her $176 a month and sent her to work part time at a food bank. Though she was effectively working for $2 an hour, she scarcely missed a day in more than a year.
… Then the reduced time limit left Ms. Shelby with neither welfare nor work. She still gets about $250 a month in food stamps for herself and her 3-year-old son, Dejon. She counts herself fortunate, she said, because a male friend lets her stay in a spare room, with no expectations of sex. Still, after feeding her roommate and her child, she said, “there are plenty of days I don’t eat.”
… “If I could, I’d still be working for those two dollars an hour.”
The Church has helped the poor far more than any govt, & for 2000 yrs longer!
The mother, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, could not get aid for herself but received $164 a month for her four American-born children until their time limit expired. Distraught at losing her only steady source of cash, she asked the children if they would be ashamed to help her collect discarded cans.
“I told her I would be embarrassed to steal from someone — not to pick up cans,” her teenage daughter said.
Weekly park patrols ensued, and recycling money replaced about half of the welfare check.