Tag: Social Safety Net

Pity about That Legacy, Paul Ryan

Bummer of Birthmark, Paul

House Speaker Paul Ryan is leaving, and on the way out, he wanted a legacy.

Seeing as how the soon to be former Congressman, AKA the zombie eyed granny starver, IS the zombie eyed granny starver, he sees his legacy as finding some new and inventive way to inflict cruelty on the helpless.

So, in contravention of more than 50 years of bipartisan consensus, Paul Ryan decided to gut food stamps (SNAP) in the latest farm bill, and so he had to pass the bill without Democratic votes, and the right wing nut-jobs of the Freedom Caucus refused to back the bill, because they wanted to vote on persecuting brown people first:

A sweeping farm bill failed in the House on Friday in a blow to GOP leaders who were unable to placate conservative lawmakers demanding commitments on immigration.

The House leadership put the bill on the floor gambling it would pass despite unanimous Democratic opposition. They negotiated with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus up to the last minutes.

But their gamble failed. The vote was 213 to 198, with 30 Republicans joining 183 Democrats in defeating the bill.

The outcome exposed what is becoming an all-out war within the House GOP over immigration, a divisive fight the Republicans did not want to have heading into midterm elections in November that will decide control of Congress.

The bill’s collapse also highlight the splits within the GOP conference that have bedeviled House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and will be certain to dog the top lieutenants in line to replace him, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

With moderate Republicans maneuvering to force a vote on legislation offering citizenship to some younger immigrants who arrived in the country as children, conservatives revolted. The farm bill became a bargaining chip as they lobbied leadership for a vote on a hard-line immigration bill.


The Washington Post
Democracy Dies in Darkness


Accessibility for screenreader

In blow to GOP, House fails to pass massive farm bill in face of conservative Republican showdown
by Erica Werner and Mike DeBonis May 18 Email the author

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday expresses support for the House Agriculture Committee’s work on the farm bill. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

A sweeping farm bill failed in the House on Friday in a blow to GOP leaders who were unable to placate conservative lawmakers demanding commitments on immigration.

The House leadership put the bill on the floor gambling it would pass despite unanimous Democratic opposition. They negotiated with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus up to the last minutes.

But their gamble failed. The vote was 213 to 198, with 30 Republicans joining 183 Democrats in defeating the bill.

The outcome exposed what is becoming an all-out war within the House GOP over immigration, a divisive fight the Republicans did not want to have heading into midterm elections in November that will decide control of Congress.

The bill’s collapse also highlight the splits within the GOP conference that have bedeviled House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and will be certain to dog the top lieutenants in line to replace him, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

With moderate Republicans maneuvering to force a vote on legislation offering citizenship to some younger immigrants who arrived in the country as children, conservatives revolted. The farm bill became a bargaining chip as they lobbied leadership for a vote on a hard-line immigration bill.

Leaders tried to come up with a compromise, but 11th-hour negotiations, offers and counteroffers failed. McCarthy and Scalise will face a share of the blame for the failure, and their fortunes in the race to replace Ryan next year could suffer accordingly.

The farm bill itself became practically a sideshow, despite its importance to agriculture and the significant changes it would institute to food stamp programs.


The farm bill itself broke open partisan House divisions as Democrats abandoned negotiations with Republicans over the food stamp changes, which would require adults to spend 20 hours per week working or participating in a state-run training program as a condition to receive benefits. Democrats argue that a million or more people would end up losing benefits, because most states do not have the capacity to set up the training programs required.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) described the legislation as “cruel” and argued that with the proposed changes to food stamps, “Republicans are taking food out of the mouths of families struggling to make ends meet.”

This outcome was eminently predictable, and it could not happen to a more deserving guy.

What Duncan Black Said

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has proposed a tax on employers whose employees are still forced to rely of food-stamps, medicaid, and other social welfare programs.

Black, better known as Atrios observes, that Democrats have a penchant for byzantine solutions, that these turn out to be sub-optimal policies and worse politics.

He believes that this bias against simple and universal is stupid, or has he pithily states, “Raise The Damn Minimum Wage:

This is a constant maddening Dem approach to policy. Basically there’s meaningful opposition (and probably some intellectual agreement with this opposition) to a very simple idea. So someone comes up with a much more complicated solution to achieve essentially the same thing (but not really because it’s really complicated) premised on the idea that maybe they can sneak that idea through because the lobbyists won’t notice. Then you still don’t get your complicated solution – or at least by the time it does get through the lobbyists it’s even sh%$tier – and you don’t even get credit for campaigning on a simple idea.

There is a sort of myopia among Democratic Party legislators that grasps for half measures when a full measure is better policy that has more of a political upside.

Like the bite of a dog into a stone, it is a stupidity.

Do Not Make the Torah into a Crown with Which to Aggrandize Yourself or a Spade with Which to Dig*

The state of affairs in New York Yeshivas is scandalous, with many children not receiving even the most basic secular education.

In a New York Times OP/ED Shulem Deen talks about the real world consequences of this:

Last Friday, as observant Jews hurried with last-minute preparations for Passover, one Orthodox Jew was in Albany, holding up the New York State budget. He was insisting that this roughly $168 billion package include a special provision that would allow religious schools to meet the state’s educational requirements by using their long hours of religious instruction.

In recent years, education activists, among them former Hasidic yeshiva graduates, have pushed aggressively to bring the yeshivas into compliance with the state’s education laws. Simcha Felder, the state senator from Brooklyn who represents the heavily ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Borough Park and Midwood, was on a mission to get legal permission for the state to turn a blind eye to the near-absence of secular instruction in many yeshivas. The upshot? Tens of thousands of children would continue to graduate without the most basic skills.

I know about the cost. I was one of those kids.


During my senior year of high school, a common sight in our study hall was of students learning to sign their names in English, practicing for their marriage license. For many, it was the first time writing their names in anything but Yiddish or Hebrew.

When I was in my 20s, already a father of three, I had no marketable skills, despite 18 years of schooling. I could rely only on an ill-paid position as a teacher of religious studies at the local boys’ yeshiva, which required no special training or certification. As our family grew steadily — birth control, or even basic sexual education, wasn’t part of the curriculum — my then-wife and I struggled, even with food stamps, Medicaid and Section 8 housing vouchers, which are officially factored into the budgets of many of New York’s Hasidic families.

I remember feeling both shame and anger. Shame for being unable to provide for those who relied on me. Anger at those responsible for educating me who had failed me so colossally.

A woman I know works as a physician at Maimonides Medical Center, in heavily Hasidic Borough Park in Brooklyn, and often sees adult male patients who can barely communicate to her what ails them. “It’s not just that they’re like immigrants, barely able to speak the language,” she told me. “It’s also a lack of knowledge of basic physiology. They can barely name their own body parts.”


According to New York State law, nonpublic schools are required to offer a curriculum that is “substantially equivalent” to that of public schools. But when it comes to Hasidic yeshivas, this law has gone unenforced for decades. The result is a community crippled by poverty and a systemic reliance on government funding for virtually all aspects of life.


According to a report by Yaffed, or Young Advocates for Fair Education, an organization that advocates for improved general studies in Hasidic yeshivas, an estimated 59 percent of Hasidic households are poor or near-poor. According to United States Census figures, the all-Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel, an hour north of New York City, is the poorest in the country, with median family income less than $18,000.


Knowing all of this, it takes a special kind of audacity on Mr. Felder’s part to successfully strong-arm the state’s highest legislative body to legally deprive his own constituents’ children of an education and a future. Some might call this chutzpah. In Borough Park, it would be more properly called a Chillul Hashem: a desecration of God’s name.

I think that Deen does a fantastic job of describing the real world consequences that salutary neglect has had on the Orthodox Jewish community, but, unsurprisingly given that it is an editorial in the
Times, he does not go into the deeper theological issues beyond calling this state of affairs a Chillul Hashem.

I would argue that the current state of affairs in places like Kiryas Joel is more than a disservice to the members of the community and the taxpayers of New York, I would argue that it is in direct opposition to the basic tenets of Judaism.

The scriptural quote in the title of this post, is just one such example, and the behavior of these leaders constitutes both self-aggrandizement and an attempt to make the study of Torah remunerative, largely by gaming the state welfare system, which is clearly prohibited.

There is more to it than that though:  A Jew is REQUIRED to engage the world in order to make it a better place, to be, “A light unto the nations.” (Or LaGoyim)

More generally, we as Jews are placed on this broken world to mend it. This is frequently called Tikkun Olam.

In order to fix this world, one has to understand it on some level beyond that of signing one’s name on a wedding license or application for food stamps.

One needs to do more that take from society, one has to give back to society.

This is more than a Chillul Hashem, is is a Shanda fur die Goyim.  Their behavior shames the whole Jewish community.

*Perkei Avote, Ch. 4:3.
“I the LORD have called unto you in righteousness, and have taken hold of your hand, and submitted you as the people’s covenant, as a light unto the nations” Isaiah 42:6, among others.

Talk about Mixed Emotions

Do you know what I hate? Open carry protests, where a bunch of followers of the ammosexual life style engage in a protest while visibly packing heat.

It’s clearly an attempt to intimidate the local populace.

Do you know what I also hate, cities that pass ordinances criminalizing the homeless, particularly those that criminalize feeding the homeless. (In some cases even giving the homeless cash is illegal.)

So, what am I to think about a  group in Dallas, that, as a protest against draconian restrictions against feeding the homeless, had publicly fed the homeless while carrying assault weapons:

Feeding and clothing the homeless in the land of the free has now become a revolutionary act. Luckily, however, there are still good people willing to carry out that act.

In December 2014, the Dallas city council enacted Ordinance No. 29595, which makes it illegal to serve food to the homeless without jumping through a statist myriad of bureaucratic hoops, including a fee, training classes, and written notices.

One should not need to file multiple forms and pay a fee to obtain a permit to give food to those in need who are willingly ready to accept it. The folks at Don’t Comply know this.

Matthew Short, with the aptly named organization, Don’t Comply, and dozens of volunteers from children to adults alike took to the streets of Dallas this week to hand out food, sleeping bags, clothing, and tents to the area’s less fortunate.

As TFTP has reported on numerous occasions, often times, police will swoop in and shut down those who would dare defy the authority of the state and conduct charity without a permit. However, most organizations aren’t like Don’t Comply.

As they took to the streets this week, many of the members of the organization open carried their weapons. This was done—not out of an act of intimidation—but merely to assert rights as well as protect them.

No,  it was an attempt to intimidate law enforcement, period, full stop.  Calling it anything else is a lie.

It might be justifiable, but it is still an attempt to intimidate and taunt the local constabulary, which can have unfortunate results, just ask Fred Hampton.

The resultant heavily armed group of do-gooders effectively staved off any attempts by police to shut down the charitable efforts.

In talking with TFTP, Short tells us that although police drove by fairly often, they never stopped and never attempted to intervene.


Dubbed “Feed the Need 5,” this was the fifth year in a row the group has conducted the event.

You can see why I feel conflicted here.

A Feature, Not a Bug

The Senate Republican tax plan gives substantial tax cuts and benefits to Americans earning more than $100,000 a year, while the nation’s poorest would be worse off, according to a report released Sunday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Republicans are aiming to have the full Senate vote on the tax plan as early as this week, but the new CBO analysis showing large, harmful effects on the poor may complicate those plans. The CBO also said the bill would add $1.4 trillion to the deficit over the next decade, a potential problem for Republican lawmakers worried about America’s growing debt.

Democrats have repeatedly slammed the bill as a giveaway to the rich at the expense of the poor. In addition to lowering taxes for businesses and many individuals, the Senate bill also makes a major change to health insurance that the CBO projects would have a harsh impact on lower-income families.

By 2019, Americans earning less than $30,000 a year would be worse off under the Senate bill, CBO found. By 2021, Americans earning $40,000 or less would be net losers, and by 2027, most people earning less than $75,000 a year would be worse off. On the flip side, millionaires and those earning $100,000 to $500,000 would be big beneficiaries, according to the CBO’s calculations. (In the CBO table below, negative signs mean people in those income brackets pay less in taxes).

Silly rabbit.  Republicans think that people are poor because they are evil, and that people are rich because they are virtuous.

Just ask the Kochs.

Trolling Becomes Reality

A week ago, I wrote admiringly of Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal to house people displaced by the fire at the Grenfell in empty luxury flats in the area.

Though I did not describe it as such, I felt that this proposal was a world class, and well deserved, troll, but that this would never happen.

I was wrong. The troll has become reality:

Sixty-eight flats in a luxury apartment complex where prices start at £1.6m are being made available to families displaced by the Grenfell Tower fire.

Families who escaped the tower blaze will be able to take up permanent occupation in July and August in the apartments in the Kensington Row scheme about 1.5 miles south of Grenfell, where last Wednesday’s blaze left 79 people dead and missing and presumed dead.

The homes are within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea but in the more affluent south end of the borough. They have been purchased by the Corporation of London and will become part of its social housing stock.
Grenfell Tower fire: death toll raised to 79 as minute’s silence held
Read more

The most luxurious four-bedroom apartments are currently on sale in the development for £8.5m but the homes being released to Grenfell residents are part of the affordable quota being built and feature a more “straightforward” internal specification, but have the same build quality.

The complex includes a 24-hour concierge, swimming pool, sauna and spa and private cinema.

It is not yet clear if the Grenfell residents will have access to the facilities, which are normally not included for those in affordable housing.

“We’ve got to start by finding each of them a home,” said Tony Pidgley, chairman of the Berkeley Group, which built the homes. “Somewhere safe and supportive, close to their friends and the places they know, so they can start to rebuild their lives. We will work night and day to get these homes ready.”

The move follows calls by Jeremy Corbyn for luxury homes in the borough to be requisitioned.

Last week he said: “Kensington is a tale of two cities. The south part of Kensington is incredibly wealthy, it’s the wealthiest part of the whole country. The ward where this fire took place is, I think, the poorest ward in the whole country and properties must be found – requisitioned if necessary – to make sure those residents do get rehoused locally.”

My theory is that Coebyn’s proposal scared the hell out of the real estate community,  for whom empty buildings purchased by mobsters, despots, and other money launderers that is their bread and butter.

Had even one of these empty flats been requisitioned, the damage to the very high end London real estate market would have lasted for decades.

OK, This Is the Weirdest Political Development of the Week

Note that I’m not saying that this is the weirdest political development in the UK, nor am I saying that it is the weirdest political development if you excluding Donald Trump.

I am saying that this is the weirdest political development in the world this week.

In the past week or so, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has been seen as a dead man walking, has started to look like he’s actually going to give the Tories a run for their money:

It would be a severe overstatement to suggest that things are currently going well for Labour. There’s been a recent upturn in the polls, true, but the party is still lagging a good nine points behind the Tories. It’s only because things were looking so bleak before that a comparatively smaller defeat can be interpreted as some kind of success. On a uniform swing, current polling suggests they’ll lose 12 seats while the Conservatives will gain 16. And even that’s optimistic, as evidence suggests that vote losses have been heavier in crucial marginal constituencies.

Still, when you think about where they were a month ago it’s hard not to be somewhat impressed. This election was supposed to be May’s for the taking. Having insisted there would be no early election, she then changed her mind to boost her majority at a time when Labour seemed at its weakest. Since then, her poll lead has halved. In vote share terms, Labour is currently polling only a percentage point lower than its result in the 2005 election – which was enough to secure a significant majority. The reason the Tories are still so far ahead is because, post-EU referendum, they’ve swallowed up most of the Ukip vote by adopting the nationalist agenda.

The release of the parties’ respective manifestos was a pivotal moment. Even some of Corbyn’s harshest critics felt obliged to admit that, actually, the Labour one contains a lot of good stuff. Promises including free childcare for all two- to four-year-olds, a properly funded NHS, free hospital car parking, one million new homes, a cap on rent hikes, an increase in the carers’ allowance, an end to the 1 per cent public sector pay rise cap, an increase in carers’ allowance, the reintroduction of the education maintenance allowance and free higher education made sure there was plenty to appeal to a broad cross-section of society.

Plans to introduce a “fat-cat” tax on banks and a new 50p income tax band for earnings over £123,000 (but no tax rises for anyone earning under £80,000) allayed fears about how such measures will be funded. The whole document was costed in detail – an essential move for a party particularly vulnerable to accusations of economic incompetence.

In contrast, the Conservative manifesto has gone down like a lead balloon. Entirely uncosted (something the Tories find easier to get away with) and almost all punishment with few positive promises to sweeten the deal. Though the largest swing seems to have been amongst 25-49s, who are now 15 per cent more likely to say they’re planning to vote Labour than they were previously, the policy that has attracted most negative attention primarily affects the elderly. The so-called “dementia tax” is basically a levy on inheritance that only affects people unlucky enough to need social care. Critics on the left have pointed out that the policy may deter people for seeking the help they need because they worried about being to leave something for their children. There’s also a strong risk it will encourage suicide.

The backlash was so strong that May was forced into an embarrassing U-turn, but her attempted “clarification” left voters with more questions than it answered. It seems she’s still planning to go ahead with the “dementia cap” but will introduce a cap on the total amount that can be taken. Of course, this only helps the richest who’ve got more than can be taken. Comparatively less wealthy dementia sufferers will be hit just as hard.

Some translation here:  What the Britons call a “Manifesto”, we in the States call a platform, and what they call, “Social care,” is what we would call “Assisted living”.

So, round the clock care for cancer monitoring is covered, but the same (probably less expensive) care for Alzheimers would not be covered.

This has been damaging to the Tories for a number of reasons:

  • Many of the proposals in the Tory manifesto show a sort of radicalism that runs counter to British political culture.
  • Theresa May is showing herself to be a bit of a social sadist.  (A true daughter of Thatcher)
  • May’s “U-turn” is transparent weaseling, which makes her appear weak. 

I still think that Labour’s chances of winning an election are somewhere near that of the Minnesota Vikings winning a Super Bowl, but they may significantly outperform expectations.

Quote of the Day

“The New Rules Hurting Retirement Security” [Democracy Journal]. “Fewer than one third of Americans aged 65 to 74 have any savings in a retirement account and the accounts that exist are inadequate to provide a secure retirement—the median balance is just $49,000. The situation for younger workers is even more dire.” So, in the face of this crisis, liberals have a complicated “nudge theory” Rube Goldberg device, which sucks, and conservatives have a simple machine (in this case, the screw). The unasked question: Why should people have to “save for retirement” at all?

—Lamberth Strether at Naked Capitalism

Except for calling the screw a simple machine, I think of it as a helical wedge, and think that the ancient Greeks were in error giving it status as a separate element, I agree completely.

Private retirement accounts are primarily about lining Wall Street’s pockets, which is why the Clinton/Obama wing of the Democratic Party has been Jonesing to privatize Social Security for decades.

Quote of the Day

We used to joke that conservatives say government sucks and then when they get in power they prove it. Now it seems that conservatives say that government sucks and liberals bend over backwards to make their case for them.


He’s making the point that these days, among Senior Democratic Party Leadership at least, any sort of social welfare provisions cannot be universal, but instead must be aggressively (and expensively) means tested, to ensure that “The Poors” get a big serving of dirt that they have to swallow down.

By spending money to require misery, these programs are effectively paying for misery.

Today’s Go F%$# Yourself Goes To………

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, better known as “Kos”:

Daily Kos publisher and Vox Media co-founder Markos “Kos” Moulitsas, an influential voice in liberal politics, published a blog post (Daily Kos, 12/12/16) that captures just how terribly leading Democratic pundits are taking Hillary Clinton’s unexpected defeat. In the wake of this loss, some of the more hardcore Clinton partisans have chosen, in lieu of self-examination and internal criticism, to simply lash out at the voters they failed to win over.

With the punitive glee of a medieval executioner, Moulitsas proclaimed: “Be Happy for Coal Miners Losing Their Health Insurance. They’re Getting Exactly What They Voted For”:

Mr. Moulitsas really needs to get over himself.

Another Right Wing Myth Demolished

One of the arguments for providing services and goods to people instead of money is that the direct provision of money leads to spending on bad things, think tobacco and alcohol.

It turns out that the opposite is true:

It is increasingly common for governments to give poor people money. Rather than grant services or particular goods to those in poverty, such as food or housing, governments have found that it is more effective and efficient to simply hand out cash. In some cases, these cash transfers are conditional on doing something the government deems good, like sending your children to school or getting vaccinated. In other cases, they’re entirely unconditional.

For decades, policymakers have been concerned that poor people will waste free money by using it on cigarettes and alcohol. A report on the perception of stakeholders in Kenya about such programs found a “widespread belief that cash transfers would either be abused or misdirected in alcohol consumption and other non-essential forms of consumption.”

The opposite is true.

A recently published research paper (paywall) by David Evans of the World Bank and Anna Popova of Stanford University shows that giving money to the poor has a negative effect on the consumption of tobacco and alcohol. Evans and Popova’s research is based on an examination of nineteen studies that assess the impact of cash transfers on expenditures of tobacco and alcohol. Not one of the 19 studies found that cash grants increase tobacco and alcohol consumption and many of them found that it leads to a reduction.


Why on earth would this be? Evans and Popova highlight several possibilities.

One, the cash transfers may change a poor household’s economic calculus. Before receiving the cash, any spending on education or health might have seemed futile, but afterwards, parents might decide that a serious investment in their children’s school was sensible. To make this happen, it might mean cutting back on booze and smoking.


Regardless of why, the idea that poor people will use any cash they get for cigarettes and alcohol has been laid to waste.

On a related note it turns out that cash transfers can be an order of magnitude more efficient than the direct provision of services:

Every year, wealthy countries spend billions of dollars to help the world’s poor, paying for cows, goats, seeds, beans, textbooks, business training, microloans, and much more. Such aid is designed to give poor people things they can’t afford or the tools and skills to earn more. Much of this aid undoubtedly works. But even when assistance programs accomplish things, they often do so in a tremendously expensive and inefficient way. Part of this is due to overhead, but overhead costs get far more attention than they deserve. More worrisome is the actual price of procuring and giving away goats, textbooks, sacks of beans, and the like.

Most development agencies either fail to track their costs precisely or keep their accounting books confidential, but a number of candid organizations have opened themselves up to scrutiny. Their experiences suggest that delivering stuff to the poor is a lot more expensive than one might expect.

Take cows. Many Western organizations give poor families livestock, along with training in how to raise and profit from the animals. Cows themselves usually cost no more than a few hundred dollars each, but delivering them — targeting recipients, administering the donations, transporting the animals — gets expensive. In West Bengal, India, for example, the nonprofit Bandhan spends $331 to get $166 worth of local livestock and other assets to the poor, according to a report by the rating agency Micro-Credit Ratings International. Yet even this program sounds like a bargain compared to others. In Rwanda, a study led by the economist Rosemary Rawlins found that the cost of donating a pregnant cow, with attendant training classes and support services, through the charity Heifer International can reach $3,000.


“Just give the poor cash” is an old refrain. What is new, however, is a burgeoning body of experimental evidence, produced by groups ranging from the nonprofit Innovations for Poverty Action to the World Bank, on how the effect of cash grants compares to that of in-kind donations. Recent studies have come to surprising conclusions, finding that typically lauded approaches to reducing poverty, such as educational and loan programs, are not so effective after all.

One of the best examples is microloans, small, short-term loans to poor entrepreneurs. By opening up credit to people who were too poor to borrow from banks, the logic went, microfinance would give the poor the jump-start they needed to escape their plight. Beginning in the 1990s, the microcredit movement took the development world by storm, leading to a Nobel Peace Prize for the Bangladesh-based Grameen Bank in 2006.

As you might guess, microloans don’t show the results that grants do.

Neither do training programs, etc.

This is yet another reason why the Clinton’s gleeful destruction of the US Welfare program is so deeply contemptible:  Not only did it make the poor worse off, it cost the rest of us more money to make the poor worse off.

I know a lot of people who hate this idea, and the studies that support it:  A lot of them have a job delivering cows to poor people.

The Clintons are a Cancer on the American Body Politic

I am not talking about Hillary Clinton losing the election, though that is where the buck stops for that debacle, I am talking about the legacy of pain and misery for the poor and minorities that they have left in their wake.

First, of course was the 1994 crime bill, the one that Hillary Clinton supported in racially charged terms when she said that we, “Have to bring them to heel.”

While we have the benefit of hindsight, the Clintons could not have known that Nixon’s removal of lead from gasoline would have crime falling 25 years hence, (see here, here, and here) and there was a national hysteria over crime.

Second and perhaps more significant, and more contemptible was, the Clinton’s systematic dismantling of Welfare, reducing it to little more than a block grant routinely used by states as a slush fund, while severe poverty in the United States has skyrocketed:

Twenty years ago today, President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, better known as the Welfare Reform Act. Clinton promised it would “end welfare as we know it.”

And it did. Because of the reform act, welfare funding now is called TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – with a strong emphasis on “temporary.” Unlike before, welfare recipients now have a clock ticking when they first start receiving benefits. They are cut off from receiving federal benefits after five years (and in some states, it’s less).

The bill also changed how the federal government manages welfare dollars. Now, states get the money first and decide how to distribute it. Before, needy families received cash benefits directly through the federal welfare program.

This has meant welfare money has gone to some pretty surprising items, such as college scholarships for middle-class college students, and relationship counseling for married or seriously dating couples.


In the Reveal episode “A Welfare Check,” Marketplace reporter Krissy Clark digs into one of the biggest changes to come out of the reform: States get to manage their welfare dollars. This leaves them with a lot of freedom to choose how to spend the money, and they just have to state that the money is going to one of these four purposes:


And what they found was a stark change in how states use welfare dollars. Before reform, states were pretty much in the same place. The overwhelming majority of welfare dollars went to cash assistance. That share has gotten smaller and smaller since 1996, and in 2014, 26 percent of all TANF dollars in the country went to cash assistance. The rest has gone to other things entirely.

In Michigan, for example, the state spends nearly $100 million a year in TANF money on college scholarships. For more than a decade in Oklahoma, TANF dollars funded relationship classes for seriously dating and married couples of all income brackets.

In Indiana it goes to phony anti-abortion “Pregnancy Crisis Centers”, which are contractually bound not to inform women of all their health options, because, one way to reduce out of wedlock births, one of the goals of the bill, is to force women to carry their fetus to term.

This was foreseeable, and it was part of a pattern of the Clinton Presidency, turning things into block grants, farming out government functions to more expensive private contractors because it produced political advantage, aggressive deregulation (including repealing Glass-Steagall), etc.

While I have some small fondness for the Clinton Presidency, it is largely an artifact of the Republican’s attempted coup impeachment attempt, because the Clintons were bad for the country, and a disaster for the Democratic Party.

The radio show is embedded below:

The Answer Should be, “No”.

While I am not a big fan of Nancy Pelosi, she learned the lesson of the Social Security fight with George W. Bush in 2005, when her response was simply “no.”

No counter proposals, no deals, just, “No”.

It worked, and it did a lot of damage to the both Bush and the Republican Party.

Paul Ryan, the “zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin” is proposing to privatize Medicare.

Nancy Pelosi gets it, and once again, her strategy will be “No”, no counter proposals, no deals, just, “No”:

Democrats are wandering around in the wilderness once again, shut out of power in Washington after losing a close, hard-fought presidential battle. The last time this happened, after the 2004 elections, the newly reelected president, George W. Bush, over-read his mandate and launched an ill-fated effort to partially privatize Social Security, providing a rallying point for Democrats to begin turning things around.

In an interview with me, House Dem leader Nancy Pelosi argued that history might repeat itself, if House Speaker Paul Ryan — with Donald Trump’s blessing — makes good on his hints to press forward with his plans to privatize Medicare. Pelosi vowed that Democrats would remain united in the battle to stop Ryan’s plan, a goal she described as crucial to defeating it, just as unity enabled Dems to block Bush’s Social Security plan.

“At that time, we committed to each other that we would be unified and disciplined,” Pelosi said. “Bush had just been elected. He gave us an opportunity by saying he would partially privatize Social Security. Everybody stuck together. The opportunity that we have now is the equivalent of the opportunity we had in ’05.”

In that 2005 fight, Pelosi recalled, Democrats actively avoided developing an alternative plan to Bush’s. Instead, Democrats said their plan was to defend Social Security, a very popular government program. At the time, some Democratic strategists warned against uncompromising opposition. But the gamble paid off. Observers noted that Bush’s plan sank in popularity as Dems remained unified behind a refusal to budge in defense of Social Security, a move that was widely credited with helping to put Dems on track to winning back Congress in the 2006 elections.

Now is not the time to listen to the the professional political consulting class of the Democratic Party, who will advise a counter-offer, and compromise, and bipartisanship.

Their advice is horrific policy, and even worse politics, and Pelosi is right to eschew the inevitable calls to capitulation.

These consultants are, with the possible exception of Dick Cheney, the most excessively overemployed people on the eastern seaboard, and they should be fired ……… Out of a cannon ……… and into the sun.

Quote of the Day

Make benefits as universal as possible, and make rich people pay more in taxes. That’s how you means test things. The rest is needless complexity designed to suck the life out of people who have it hard already.

Duncan “Atrios” Black

He’s talking about how the Obama/Clinton wing of the party insists on people jumping through hoops to get social benefits.  **Cough** Obamacare **Cough**