Thursday, September 27, 2012

This couldn't happen to a more deserving guy

A liberal lesbian, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, appears to be on her way to beating former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson in a race for an open U.S. Senate seat.

A recently released video shows Thompson making a revealing suggestion:

Republican Senate candidate Tommy G. Thompson told a tea party group in June that he wants to “do away with the Medicare and Medicaid”…

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Coming from Thompson, the suggestion to kill off programs providing health care for the old and poor seems plausible. After all, the guy has a record. It's time to remember it.

In his heyday, Thompson was the innovator who pioneered "welfare reform," the vicious (and often bi-partisan) effort in the 1990s to push poor mothers of very young children into low and no wage jobs, saving the state governments and the feds the expense of keeping these families alive. In the expanding economy of the late 1990s, the "reform" didn't reveal its full horrors; some states chose, and could afford to fund, versions of its welfare-to-work mandate that did help poor families. These more generous states treated adult education as a form of work and subsidized childcare for women who took low wage jobs and lost their benefits. But then the economy blew up after 2007. Jobs were gone and so was welfare. It's no wonder that the 2010 Census showed that of all the children in America age six or younger, one in four now live in poverty. That's a unimaginable well of misery living unseen among us.

In 2000, my partner wrote a study of "welfare reform" for the Applied Research Center based on surveys taken from people who were struggling to keep their heads above water in what was left of the safety net. Some findings:

  • Welfare reform has more than halved the welfare rolls, but it has done little to lift people out of poverty. 
  • The new law did away with existing federal guarantees of childcare and transportation subsidies for people whose benefits end when they get jobs.
  • Many people’s medical benefits have mistakenly been terminated when they stopped receiving welfare cash benefits.
  •  In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, respondents reported working in "training" programs counting hangers at thrift stores or flipping burgers – for considerably less than minimum wage.
  • One woman in six had experienced sexual harassment in her "work activity."
  • There was a significant language barrier for 62% of those whose first language is not English.
Judge the states’ performance by whether they end poverty, not just reduce welfare rolls.

The politician most prominently associated with judging the states by whether their welfare rolls had fallen rather that by what happened to the people was Governor Tommy Thompson.

You go, future Senator Baldwin!

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