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Forum Post: You're On Your Own, Kids

Posted 6 years ago on April 12, 2012, 1:07 p.m. EST by Demian (497) from San Francisco, CA
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

by Robert Scheer

Who will speak for the rights of the unborn now that Rick Santorum is gone from the race? Let me give it a whirl from the perspective of one whose own unwed mother had several abortions before yours truly was permitted to emerge. 4-year-old Nathan Hobbs, who lives in a homeless shelter with his mother, sits in a stroller with one dollar bills he received for his birthday pinned to his chest in Los Angeles. The ranks of the nation’s poor have swelled to a record 46.2 million — nearly 1 in 6 Americans, with little to no help from their government. (AP/Jae C. Hong)

My arrival came during the U.S. economy’s previous great crash, back in 1936. My father, who was already supporting an earlier family with two teenage children, had every intention of providing well for me, but he was laid off that very day and informed my mother of the unhappy fact within moments of setting eyes on me in a Bronx hospital. My father held on to part-time jobs in garment industry sweatshops (where my mother, too, worked), but it would be four years before he had a full-time paycheck again. He stood by both families during that dark period, seizing every opportunity to work, mostly in government-sponsored employment. And yes, we lived in part on government welfare—or home relief, as it was then called. All of which made President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the New Deal he fashioned to save tens of millions of impoverished folks just like us throughout the country, objects of veneration.

So why am I bringing all this ancient history up now? Because I was dumbfounded by a headline Saturday in The New York Times that reminded me of how far we have gone wrong: “Welfare Limits Left Poor Adrift as Recession Hit.” And by “we” I mean not only the heartless Republicans who love the fetus and then shun the child but also the “progressives” who dare not use the word “liberal” because concern for the poor conflicts with the opportunism that defines their politics.

The death of American liberalism as a significant moral force can be traced to the point in 1996 when President Bill Clinton signed legislation that effectively ended the main federal anti-poverty program and turned the fate of welfare recipients, 70 percent of whom were children, over to the tender mercies of the states. With a stroke of the pen, Clinton eliminated what remained of New Deal-era compassion for the poor and codified into law the “tough love” callousness that his Republican allies in the Congress, led by Newt Gingrich, had long embraced.

The ensuing wave of state-imposed eligibility restrictions was designed to replace the war on poverty with a war on welfare recipients, with the result that in this time of economic crisis the poor have nowhere to turn. It also allowed states to play in a meanness derby, cutting the welfare rolls and forcing many of the desperate to cross state lines to locales where they might survive. “My take on it was the states would push people off [the assistance lists] and not let them back on, and that’s just what they did,” said Peter B. Edelman, who resigned from the Clinton administration over this issue and who told the Times for the recent article, “It’s been even worse than I thought it would be."

Edelman, now a law professor at Georgetown University, was a close friend of the Clintons. His principled resignation was a rare exception to the cheerleading by Democrats who celebrated President Clinton’s betrayal of the poor as shrewd triangulation. Clinton himself had to be fully aware of the depth of that betrayal because he had governed one of the poorest states. In an interview I did with him for the Los Angeles Times when he was still the governor of Arkansas, he was very clear on two points concerning socially responsible welfare reform: It required federal standards, and it would cost more money because the well-being of children was at stake. “To do it, you need more money … for education, training, transportation, and child care.”

Calling the shots on spending for the most vulnerable since the Clinton revisions went into effect, the states have diverted funds for the poor to filling other holes in state budgets. Consequently, as the New York Times piece noted last week, “Just one in five poor children now receive cash aid, the lowest level in nearly 50 years.”

The response of the right-to-life Republicans has been typical—indifference to the fate of the fetus once it’s born. Paul Ryan, House budget leader and rumored to be Mitt Romney’s pick for vice president, judges the current welfare program “an unprecedented success,” and Romney himself wants to extend the welfare-cut model to “all these federal programs,” including Medicaid and food stamps.

During his campaign, Santorum, who on Tuesday dropped out as the standard-bearer for pro-life family values, turned to Clinton’s draconian welfare law as a source of deep spiritual guidance: “It didn’t just cut the rolls, but it saved lives” and granted the poor “something dependency doesn’t give: hope.”

Well, glory be, hope is on the rise. A recent and well-documented Indiana University study concludes that the number of Americans living beneath the poverty line has risen 27 percent during the recession, leaving 46 million former fetuses living large on a new hope diet.




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[-] 0 points by XenuLives (1645) from Charlotte, NC 6 years ago

Let me guess what the trolls would say to this author:

"Its your parents' own faults for being retards with no skills! They should have went to Ivy League schools instead of having sex or doing whatever sinful things the bible told us to condemn."

"If your parent didn't waste all of their money on flat-screen TVs, iPods, and video games they wouldn't be poor." (never mind that none of these things were available at this point in history, but shhhh...don't tell the trolls)

"Your parents shouldn't have had you either. People who don't have any money have no business in producing off spring. They don't deserve to have kids until they have more money."

I'm paraphrasing of course, but I have seen very close approximations of the above uttered on these forums time-and-time again.

We have lots of laws on the books preventing cruelty to animals, but when conservatives advocate cruelty to humans, it a-OK...


[-] 1 points by XenuLives (1645) from Charlotte, NC 6 years ago

Right on cue!

I know that you think that EVERY SINGLE poor person is there from their own decisions, because its impossible to imagine that people were thrown on the streets from unfair foreclosures thanks to out-of-control speculation, or that the price of food and gas rose to the point where people who were getting by now are not.

Or when people "decide" to get cancer, but oops, they couldn't afford that private health insurance plan so now their whole family is broke.

Or when people "decide" for their vehicles break down so that they have an extra $1000+ to spend on repairs out of the blue.

Or I guess they "decide" to go to a school that just hikes up tuition by 50%, so now they are that much more in debt for trying to work to better life. Oh, and only half of those credits are non-transferable, so nice waste of money if you want to switch to a cheaper school.

Or I guess people "decide" to get laid off, because obviously they didn't "decide" to live in cages like the Chinese workers who work for scraps "choose" to do.

Nope, its all their fault, all the time.

How is it an individual choice to pay $4 for a gallon of gas? I didn't decide that I wanted to pay $4 for gas. I have to drive to work every day. Its too far away to walk or bike, and there's nothing that pays the same that is within walking distance. So guess what, I'm forced to have a slightly lower quality of life thanks to oil speculators. That is completely out of my hands.

You like to think that the world is in black and white. Do this > get that. Cause A > Effect B. The real world doesn't work like that. Its a grey area. Nearly all of these people are not poor by their own choice, but the 1% policies, speculations, and constant drive for greed creates a plethora of "causes" that lead people down this road to poverty.

[-] -2 points by aflockofdoofi5 (-8) 6 years ago

Describe out of control speculation, please.

The truth lies somewhere in between. Certainly people run into bad luck. But also people waste a lot of money. http://www.hoffmanbrinker.com/credit-card-debt-statistics.html

$4 a gallon gasoline is dirt cheap. Bottled water, beer, milk costs more.

You have no idea whether:

"Nearly all of these people are not poor by their own choice, but the 1% policies, speculations, and constant drive for greed creates a plethora of "causes" that lead people down this road to poverty."

You are just guessing but you state the above as fact. It isnt. Many people in bankruptcy admit to being wasteful with money.

[-] 1 points by XenuLives (1645) from Charlotte, NC 6 years ago

I said nearly all. Not all. Of course there is some small percentage of people who make poor spending choices. There are going to be those people no matter what you do.

Yes, this guy is an idiot:


but we're not all Trekkies, and the Trekkies that I know draw the line at costumes.

I'm talking about the vast majority of people who DO make good decisions, went to school, work hard, and STILL get shafted by the system. This study concludes that over 60% of bankruptcies in 2007 were caused by medical bills:


There's not enough data. All I can find is the above study, and a study of Delaware's bankruptcies from 2003. The link to the Delaware study is dead, but the summaries have stated that debt in general caused the most bankruptcies in that state, with nominal percentages of bankruptcies also being attributed to mortgages or medical expenses. Even considering the Delaware data, which is four years behind the American Journal of Medicine's report, there's still a vast number of people who are filing through no fault of their own.

I want there to be more info available. Show me the credit card bills of these people. Are these bills full of charges for doctor's visits, auto repairs, and groceries, or are they full of charges for electronics and toys? It is frustrating to have all of these opinionated people claiming these things, but without enough data to back anything up.

[-] -1 points by aflockofdoofi5 (-8) 6 years ago

"I said nearly all. Not all. Of course there is some small percentage of people who make poor spending choices. There are going to be those people no matter what you do."

Again, please be honest. Its not a small percentage its a huge percentage of people overspend. America carries $15100 worth of credit card per household.

Here are the stats you need.


[-] -1 points by aflockofdoofi5 (-8) 6 years ago

Its says linked not caused. You are saying caused and that isnt being claimed in the study.

If you want accuracy, be accurate yourself.

[-] 1 points by XenuLives (1645) from Charlotte, NC 6 years ago

Typical troll tactic. When you run out of rebuttals, criticize something inconsequential in order to change the subject.

[-] -1 points by aflockofdoofi5 (-8) 6 years ago

I read the entire studies, actually a couple of them. They say directly in the studies, they cant prove absolute cause and effect. Be honest.

Link is way different than cause.