Selling Blood, Scavenging Trash With Children in Tow: "Welfare Reform" is Utterly Failing in the Face of Recession

 The New York Times has a devastating report on the way Bill Clinton's famed "welfare reform" has left women and children utterly unprotected from the ravages of the Great Recession. 

 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.”

Critics of the policy called this problem out way back in the 90s--Jason DeParle, the author of the article as well as the book American Dream: Three Women, 10 Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare, for which he won a Hillman prize in 1995, quotes Peter Edelman, a former Clinton Administration official who resigned over the policy, saying, "My take on it was the states would push people off and not let them back on, and that’s just what they did."

Meanwhile, Republicans want not just to keep the policy in place, but to "reform" other public assistance programs like food stamps and Medicaid, ones that are actually helping people survive the continuing rough economy. Yet it's brutally clear from this report--if it wasn't already--that welfare reform has done nothing but worsen the situations of poor people, so many of them women struggling to raise families on next to nothing in a country that continues to expect them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. 

Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, who helped create the law and still supports it, even admits, "[W]e have what appears to be a big problem at the bottom.”

AlterNet / By Sarah Jaffe

Posted at April 9, 2012, 11:30am