welfare reform +10

Thanks to those of you who made suggestions in response to last week’s post about whether welfare reform reduced the stigma of poverty.  I think my conclusions are:

  • The stigma of welfare, if anything, has increased over the past 10 years.  That’s one of the reasons that less than half of those who are eligible for welfare benefits now receive them.
  • Clinton hoped that welfare reform would destigmatize poverty, but it’s not at all clear that it happened.  One of my colleagues argues that the stigma of poverty is declining, but it’s because middle-class people are feeling more insecure and that it could happen to them.

Bill Clinton had a self-congratulatory op-ed in the NY Times yesterday, in honor of the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, better known as the welfare reform law.  I had to shake my head at his defense of recipients’ opportunity to go to school, since a battle over that was probably the single most frustrating moment of my federal career.  (It was more depressing to work on welfare under the Bush administration, but it was more frustrating under Clinton, because I had higher expectations.) 

All in all, it was a lot more pleasant to commemorate the 10th anniversary of welfare reform now that I’m no longer a fed and don’t have to toe the party line.  (Oddly enough, the article that quoted me emphasized that I joined HHS just before the bill was signed, and didn’t list my current affiliation.  I hope no one called my former boss up screaming about how could they have let me talk to the press.)

For an assortment of progressive takes on welfare reform, check out inclusionist.org.  I’m not quite sure why they have it set up as a Drupal site, since they’re not opening it up for others to post, but they’ve got enough links to keep a wonk like me busy for weeks.

2 Responses to “welfare reform +10”

  1. jackie Says:

    Thanks for these links, they’ve been a great help for an article I’m working on for Mothers Movement Online.
    A question for you: what do people inside the government think about the activist efforts led by poor women concerning welfare reform, like the former National Welfare Rights Organization and current National Welfare Rights Union? Do their positions ever get taken into account when thinking about welfare policies or legislation?

  2. Shawn Fremstad Says:

    Great blog-I think you’re definitely right about the stigma issue.
    And thanks for your mention of inclusionist.org. Re: you point about not being sure why we use Drupal, our vague plan at this point is to create a variety of ways for users, beyond the small group of us who started the site, to contribute content. Also, Drupal is just a great open-source CMS. Even if I was running an organizational site that allowed no public comment or posting, I’d probably use it.

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