But, despite occasional mentions, there's been little focus on what was probably the worst domestic crime of that presidency: the 1996 "welfare reform" which ended the federal promise of cash assistance to women and children (AFDC) if they became too poor to survive. The Depression era program was racist from the start, effectively limited "deserving" white mothers who fell on hard times, but was gradually agitators extended its coverage to most women and children who desperately needed a hand up. The "reform" ended the promise with a blizzard of regulations and exclusions and a new state run offering (TANF) which cheapskate (read Republican-governed) states could cut back as they chose. And they did.
You don't have to take my word for it. Here's Robert Pear in the Times.
As Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer have exhaustively documented, for most of the truly destitute, "they just don't give welfare anymore."
Instead, the U.S. responds to the "deep" poverty of 6.6% of us (up from 4.5% before "reform) with bureaucratic fiddling: the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, food stamps (SNAP) etc., all of which benefit people who are less poor more than the very poor!
That's too bad. There is no reason that a country this rich needs to immiserate poor women, their children, and too far many physically and mentally challenged individuals.
Here's Jonathan Chait back in February bemoaning the cowardice of our Democratic champions:
We know how to combat poverty: poor people need money. Apparently that simple truth is more than anyone in the political arena dares utter.