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April 2002 • Vol 2, No. 4 •


(Of giving birth while poor)


By Bonnie Weinstein

The Times

In three almost surreal proposals to further welfare “reform” in the United States, Bush wants to increase the work requirement for recipients, spend $300 million dollars a year on moralistic education campaigns advancing marriage, and an additional $135 million promoting abstinence until marriage. These proposals are offered as solutions to the current problem of poverty in America. In essence they portray welfare recipients as being lazy and having weak morals. The “reforms” condemn them to a life of poverty for having children “out-of-wedlock” and giving birth while poor.

None of these proposals offer solutions to the very real problems faced by the poor in our society, solutions such as a livable wage, affordable housing, free quality education, free quality childcare, and free medical care.

The new proposals by the Bush administration are a “Catch 22.” They dictate that by the year 2007, seventy percent of adult welfare recipients will be required to work 40 hours a week in order to receive cash benefits. But, according to a New York Times article entitled “Study by Governors Calls Bush Welfare Plan Unworkable”, by Robert Pear (April 4), “earning 40 hours a week at the minimum wage will render the recipient ineligible for benefits in 27 states. In five states a welfare recipient working 24 hours per week at minimum wage would become ineligible for benefits.” While these are proposals put forward by Bush and his administration, the objections raised by Democrats are ones of quantity, not quality.

Reporters Robin Toner and Robert Pear of the Times in their article “Bush’s Plan on Welfare Law Increases Work Requirement” (February 26), reported that the welfare overhaul of 1996, “…abolished entitlements for cash assistance for poor families, replacing them with block grants to states and new work requirements.” Most of the provisions in this overhaul are about to expire. The new Bush proposals will expand the work requirements of the 1996 legislation and maintain the abolition of entitlements for cash assistance.

But according to Pears’ article of April 4, even though currently “50 percent are required to work,” only 34 percent of welfare recipients are actually working,” because the law permits too many “exceptions.” Some of these so-called “exceptions” are parents with infants, individuals with substance abuse problems, lack of childcare or lack of jobs. These realities of life have rendered the requirement that 50 percent of recipients work unrealistic.


New requirements even more unrealistic

If this “Catch 22” passes, it will eventually kick 70 percent of welfare recipients off the rolls altogether. Since there are no increases proposed for the expansion of childcare, where will their children be while their parents are working full time? Will there be any attempt to make employers pay a living wage? That subject is taboo!

In another New York Times article by the same two reporters entitled, “Bush Urges Work and Marriage Programs in Welfare Plan,” (February 27) President Bush, in order to combat an “out-of-wedlock birth rate that has stabilized but remains a stubborn 33 percent of all births,” has proposed to spend “$300 million annually to promote marriage and strengthen families among the poor,” as part of his welfare reform package.

Bush is quoted in the article as saying, “Across America, no doubt about it, single mothers do heroic work. They have the toughest job in our country.” He adds, “In many cases, their lives and their children’s lives would be better if their fathers had lived up to their responsibilities.”


The “Abstinence” proposal

Bush proposes to spend this $300 million on “experimental programs in the states, like public education campaigns on the benefits of marriage and premarital counseling.”

Toner and Pear quote Bush as stating that, “Abstinence is the surest way and the only completely effective way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. When our children face a choice between self-restraint and self-destruction, the government should not be neutral.”

With this statement of his “holier than thou” moral beliefs placed on the table, Bush is proposing to spend an additional $135 million for “abstinence education” as part of his welfare plan. (I wonder if he ever had sex before marriage?)

In another Times article entitled, “Abstinence-Only Initiative Advancing,” (February 28), Sheryl Gay Stolberg points out that President Bush’s “abstinence” program encourages young people to say no to sex until marriage but will “avoid mentioning contraceptives, except to state their drawbacks.” Birth control and effective disease prevention is not a part of this program!

The whole welfare system is designed to keep people down and demonize the poor. To suggest that the way out of poverty is to work at a minimum wage job, abstain from sex until marriage, and have children only if you’re married and can afford it, is more than just simplistic. It serves to place the issue of poverty on a moral plane and blame the poor for their plight. This proposed legislation strengthens the isolation of the poor from the rest of society. It portrays them as morally and intellectually inferior human beings because they are poor.

The government totally ignores how the pressures of poverty tear families apart. It ignores the fact that even when young people remain together as a couple and as parents, many can’t afford to actually live together in a place of their own. Often a young mother and her child live with her parents, and the father with his. The “reform” proposals ignore the lack of jobs and imply that people just don’t want to work. They ignore the fact that the minimum wage is not a living wage. They ignore the failure of public education to bridge the performance gap between the affluent few and the poverty stricken many.

These proposals offer no way out of the cycle of poverty. Working 40 hours a week at a minimum wage job is no way out of poverty. The marriage of a poor mother to an equally poor father will not raise the family out of poverty. Saying no to sex before marriage clearly has nothing to do with poverty since plenty of wealthy people have had pre-marital sex. Sex is not a cause of poverty. Besides, despite the Ten Commandments, abstention didn’t even work in biblical times. The fact remains; people like sex and children are born to the young.

While hundreds of billions of our tax dollars could be used to solve human needs they are spent, instead, on war.

While the rulers label the poor as morally corrupt, lazy and having too many children, they create massive tax loopholes for themselves so that many pay no taxes at all. They admonish the poor for living, loving and reproducing, and at the same time their business policies make huge government bailouts for wealthy corporations the norm.

The only way to end the vicious cycle of poverty is to use all of our material and human resources to provide free and unlimited education, excellent childcare, and a living wage for all. Socialist revolution is the road to this end.





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