There’s a long article in the times about welfare. I took a snippet from it for This is America, Dude because it had a really This is America, Dude snippet in it. But there’s a bunch of pieces that are, though not the one-note-at-a-time required by TIA,D, clearly songs from our savage symphony.
As the downturn wreaked havoc on budgets, some states took new steps to keep the needy away. They shortened time limits, tightened eligibility rules and reduced benefits (to an average of about $350 a month for a family of three).
Since 2007, 11 states have cut the rolls by 10 percent or more. They include centers of unemployment like Georgia, Indiana and Rhode Island, as well as Michigan, where the welfare director justified cuts by telling legislators, “We have a fair number of people gaming the system.” Arizona cut benefits by 20 percent and shortened time limits twice — to two years, from five.
Many people already found the underlying system more hassle than help, a gantlet of job-search classes where absences can be punished by a complete loss of aid. Some states explicitly pursue a policy of deterrence to make sure people use the program only as a last resort.
Since the states get fixed federal grants, any caseload growth comes at their own expense. By contrast, the federal government pays the entire food stamp bill no matter how many people enroll; states encourage applications, and the rolls have reached record highs.
So the take-away is that despite the recession, welfare rolls haven’t really gone up. There are several reasons for this, but a big one has to do with welfare reform. Welfare reform handed welfare over to the states in the form of block grants. Here’s a bunch of money, distribute how you see fit. How many states see fit to distribute that money is (a) in very strictly limited ways and (b) not in the form of helping people who need help. Please keep this in mind next time Paul Ryan talks about handing Medicare over to the states as block grants.
Clarence H. Carter, Arizona’s director of economic security, says finances forced officials to cut the rolls. But the state gets the same base funding from the federal government, $200 million, that it received in the mid-1990s when caseloads were five times as high. (The law also requires it to spend $86 million in state funds.)
Arizona spends most of the federal money on other human services programs, especially foster care and adoption services, while using just one-third for cash benefits and work programs — the core purposes of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. If it did not use the federal welfare money, the state would have to finance more of those programs itself.
“Yes, we divert — divert’s a bad word,” said State Representative John Kavanagh, a Republican and chairman of the Arizona House Appropriations Committee. “It helps the state.”
Arizona, am I rite
“We have reduced our caseload, and we don’t have people dying in the street,” Mr. Kavanagh said. “There were an awful lot of people who didn’t need it.”
who wants to bet that mr kavanagh’s definition of “awful lot” “need” and “people” are really weird
Several women acknowledged that they had resorted to shoplifting, including one who took orders for brand-name clothes and sold them for half-price. Asked how she got cash, one woman said flatly, “We rob wetbacks” — illegal immigrants, who tend to carry cash and avoid the police. At least nine times, she said, she has flirted with men and led them toward her home, where accomplices robbed them.
“I felt bad afterwards,” she said. But she added, “There were times when we didn’t have nothing to eat.”
Arizona: We don’t have people dying in the street.