Clinton's True Welfare Reform Stance
The Contract On America, of late discredited and abandoned this election year by the right wingnuts who first proposed it, has pretty much run its course except for one major item -Ñ welfare reform.Politicians, however, must believe that that item still retains potent political appeal. Yesterday, President Clinton announced he will sign Congress' latest version of welfare reform, stating that when he ran in 1992 he pledged to "end welfare as we know it. I've worked very hard for four years to do just that.""Welfare as we know it..." What a difference a definition makes.I'd sure like to see someone end welfare as I know it: welfare as Ralph Nader knows it; welfare as millions of Americans know it who disagree with the definition used by politicians pandering for suburban swing votes.I don't recall seeing President Clinton lambaste the price supports and import quotas that helped one Florida sugar farmer make $60 million in one year. That was left to the conservative Cato institute, which also disclosed that those same sugar daddies contributed $350,000 to various political campaigns in 1992. The Institute claims that $80 billion in "corporate pork" is dolled out annually.Clinton worked plenty hard to pass NAFTA, but said not a peep about the 1872 Mining Law which enabled the Homestake Mining Co. to "buy" 62 acres in California for $310, when the land contained gold worth $700 million. Congressman George Miller estimates several billion dollars a year can easily be raised by simply charging the going rate to corporations which profit handsomely on the public's forests, grazing lands, and minerals.Did I miss the President's news conference where he vowed to stop the department of Agriculture from giving McDonald's Corp., Miller Brewing Co., Pillsbury Inc., and other multinationals $1.25 billion to encourage export of agricultural products?And surely, I must have been abroad the day he promised to change our tax policy which lets corporations pay only 20 percent of all federal income taxes today, according to Citizens for Tax Justice, compared to the 36 percent they paid 25 years ago. (Guess who makes up the difference?)No, it's an election year, and even though Clinton is drubbing Bob Dole's pitiable campaign, the poorest of the poor are offered up to the suburban swing voter.Congressman Miller was not alone when he said that even though the Clintons had dedicated their political lives to helping children, the President gave in to expediency by signing a bill which "...according to his own cabinet, according to the Urban institute, will put an additional one million more children into poverty."By signing this law, a National Public Reporter said, Clinton listened to the New Democrat and the Old Democrat in him, and the new one won out. "Even Republicans," she said, "breathed sighs of relief on Capital hill, because they could now say they made good on a campaign promise."By signing the welfare deform bill, Clinton agrees with those who carefully orchestrated a clamor for cuts by focusing our attention elsewhere. Instead of cutting the $80 billion in annual corporate welfare, their efforts went into cutting $10 billion a year from the hides of the poor, legal immigrants, and mostly, children. They used code words like "family values" and "personal responsibility" to tell the nation that teenagers (read black teenagers) have too many babies: that food stamp recipients don't know how to budget their daily allotment of $1.98.With patronizing indignation, those examplars of compassion loudly proclaimed we must think of the poorÑwelfare destroys their motivation to work. Were they not concerned about destroying the work ethic of the Florida sugar daddies or the CEOs of McDonalds, Miller Brewing, and Pillsbury?Was the "debate" we heard this past year really about deficits and reform? Or was it about who really runs our country?Ralph Nader, commenting on subsidies ignored by budget cutters, thundered: "While the corporate elite holds cap-in-hand for their annual entitlements from the poor and middle class taxpayers, millions of...people are left without the same economic opportunities provided to corporations."I could list columns of statistics about the categories of the poor who have been sacrificed this election year. I could tell you that Clinton's signature will allow states to use their new block grant authority to strip an additional $40 billion from income support and work programs over the next six years with no federal penalties But how many people really care about that? Robert Rector, of the conservative Heritage Foundation, last year recommended dropping 3 million children from AFDC because their fathers were unknown. He proclaimed that welfare cuts "reduce the subsidization of dysfunctional behavior." That's what Congress and the President and lots of us really care about -Ñ legislative morality.And the fat cats are laughing all the way to the bank.