Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Spivak & Bice: Trying To Make Welfare Reform Look Bad

Great catch from The World According to Nick:

. . . Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnists Cary Spivak and Dan Bice ran the following blurb on their blog:

A new study finds that Wisconsin welfare reforms initially instituted by then-Gov. Tommy Thompson didn’t work as well as advertised.

The changes did reduce welfare rolls by putting more single parents in jobs, but the programs came up short in helping the neediest of the needy. It also found that a large number of welfare applicants, particularly in Milwaukee, ended up being investigated for abusing or neglecting their children.

The New York Times reports today:

Experts said they were startled by the high proportion of welfare applicants in Milwaukee who had come to the attention of child welfare officials: in a five-year period, 40 percent of the parents were investigated for the possibility of abuse or neglect, and a child had been removed from the homes of 16 percent.

Maybe it’s a good thing for Thompson that he didn’t run for governor this time.

Blogger Nick Schweitzer checked the New York Times article that Spivak and Bice referenced, and found that immediately following the paragraph they quoted was this:
Since most of these parents had already been investigated, the study did not indicate that the welfare program itself, with its required work or training efforts, was causing child abuse. But at the least, Dr. Courtney said, the findings show that many parents seeking welfare are having “a profound difficulty balancing the demands of work and parenting.”
So . . . instead of welfare reform making otherwise good mothers into abusers, it seems that mothers who were already abusers before welfare reform continued to be abusers.

We have always been a bit puzzled by the fact that a fair number of liberals (not all by any means) don’t like welfare reform. What it has achieved is what the Great Society in the 60s claimed to want to achieve: independence and employment for women on welfare.

The problem, beyond the fact that it has been pushed by Republicans, is this: if the welfare rolls can be cut by about 60% (and they have been) without increasing poverty (and poverty has actually declined since welfare reform took effect) that clearly implies that a very large number of women were on welfare who did not need to be.

That’s what conservatives have long said. And that’s what liberals, for an entire generation, strongly denied.

Which is why the success of welfare reform has been such an embarrassment to liberals.


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