And infrastructure. But welfare reform, I see it, and I’ve talked to people.
I know people that work three jobs and they live next to somebody who
doesn’t work at all. And the person who is not working at all and has no
intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than
the person that’s working his or her ass off. And it’s not going to happen.
Not going to happen.
President Donald Trump, St. Charles Family Arena, November 29, 2017
[ www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1711/29/cnr.08.html ]
A hit country song from the early 1970’s by Guy Drake: Welfare Cadillac …
I know the place isn’t much but
I don’t pay no rent
I get the check the first of every month
From this federal government
Every Wednesday, I get commodities
Sometimes, four or five sacks
Pick em up at the welfare office
Driving that new Cadillac
[ http://www.lyricsfreak.com/g/guy+drake/welfare+cadillac_20847412.html ]
Back in 1981 one of the first accomplishments of Ronald Reagan’s first term collapsed 77 different targeted benefit programs into nine “block grants.” The stated reason: to give states the power to better direct anti-poverty money to programs the states felt they needed most. For example, the Community Services Block Grant funded Community Action Agencies, replacing a handful of targeted, federally administered programs. [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Services_Block_Grant (sorry, I was in a hurry)]
Missouri’s Division of Family Services oversaw the distribution of money to this state’s score of CAAs. Or, more accurately, they pretended to supervise.
I worked at Metroplex, the CAA for St. Louis County, from late 1982 till early 1989. The agency got little money for actually helping families, no, the big bucks – $20.00 per person per year – came from registering low-income families. That meant getting the date of birth, Social Security Number, address and some useless info on a three-part form covering every family member which the Head of Household signed.
Okay, to register more people employees like me were sent to food pantries and other sites to snare poor people. The “carrot?” Metroplex also controlled the flow of USDA commodities – which back then got distributed literally by the semi-trailer load.
Oh, we actually did help many families. I ran pantries in Meacham Park and Valley Park feeding a lot of people. We scrounged money for utility bills. We scored fans and air conditioners. Before Christmas we gave out toys, including, one December, van loads of stuffed animals Famous-Barr traded with the Hudson Company.
The state didn’t care. That lone DFS supervisor spent most of his infrequent visits verifying the records by measuring the number of files in each cabinet with his trusty ruler.
Guess what happened?
In 1988 Metroplex became an early adopter of a networked computer system. The staff got slashed (but us lucky survivors did get raises). And, instead of that three-part carbonless form people were registered using a computer screen. We printed-out their summary and they signed the print-out. Then, well, temp workers spent most summer entering all the data from those old forms into the new system.
The boss made sure that only one person, a good friend of hers, had what we now call administrator status.
Amazingly, the few of us left were registering more people than ever before!
The boss did a lot of other bad things, including having a stove donated for a homeless client installed at her house. Then it got worse.
A co-worker and I got fired for sending a letter requesting a state audit. Despite extensive coverage by Dennis Riggs (a very good TV reporter) and several front page stories in the Suburban Journals (which used to be a thing) nothing happened.
You see, the Republican Governor (John Ashcroft) and the Republican auditor (Margaret Kelly) were in on what I call the Soviet scheme: you pretend to work, we pretend to pay you. You can’t have fraud in pretend programs.
Go back to the creation of the Community Services Block Grant. Yes, the stated reason was to give states more control. The reality was that funding got cut by 25% at first and never again tracked with need or inflation. The Reagan administration didn’t give half a damn about poor people, they just needed a smoke screen.
Look again at what President Trump said last week in St. Charles – that old “welfare Cadillac” myth, that poor people doing nothing live better than good people “working his or her ass off.”
What happens next?
While the media highlights the new trillion to trillion and a half dollars added to the deficit, the fine print in the tax cut scheme and the accompanying budget reconciliation plan requires steep cuts to food stamps, heating assistance, disability payments, unemployment pay, Medicare, Medicaid…you get the idea.
Essentially, President Trump and the Republicans in Congress decimate programs helping struggling Americans so the very rich can get richer. And, just like 1981, the GOP promises to give more control to the states by block granting basic efforts such as food stamps and Medicaid.
Guess how this ends?
Of course, as stated by President Trump. the real goal of all these changes is to get more Americans working. I’ll look at that tomorrow in Part 3.
Submitted by Glenn Koenen, WCD Member