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You're on Your Own, Kids

Comment

Who will speak for the rights of the unborn now that Rick Santorum is gone from the race? Let me give it a whirl from the perspective of one whose own unwed mother had several abortions before yours truly was permitted to emerge.

My arrival came during the U.S. economy's previous great crash, back in 1936. My father, who was already supporting an earlier family with two teenage children, had every intention of providing well for me, but he was laid off that very day and informed my mother of the unhappy fact within moments of setting eyes on me in a Bronx hospital.

My father held on to part-time jobs in garment industry sweatshops (where my mother, too, worked), but it would be four years before he had a full-time paycheck again. He stood by both families during that dark period, seizing every opportunity to work, mostly in government-sponsored employment. And yes, we lived in part on government welfare — or home relief, as it was then called. All of which made President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the New Deal he fashioned to save tens of millions of impoverished folks just like us throughout the country, objects of veneration.

So why am I bringing all this ancient history up now? Because I was dumbfounded by a headline Saturday in The New York Times that reminded me of how far we have gone wrong: "Welfare Limits Left Poor Adrift as Recession Hit." And by "we" I mean not only the heartless Republicans who love the fetus and then shun the child but also the "progressives" who dare not use the word "liberal" because concern for the poor conflicts with the opportunism that defines their politics.

The death of American liberalism as a significant moral force can be traced to the point in 1996 when President Bill Clinton signed legislation that effectively ended the main federal anti-poverty program and turned the fate of welfare recipients, 70 percent of whom were children, over to the tender mercies of the states. With a stroke of the pen, Clinton eliminated what remained of New Deal-era compassion for the poor and codified into law the "tough love" callousness that his Republican allies in the Congress, led by Newt Gingrich, had long embraced.

The ensuing wave of state-imposed eligibility restrictions was designed to replace the war on poverty with a war on welfare recipients, with the result that in this time of economic crisis the poor have nowhere to turn.

It also allowed states to play in a meanness derby, cutting the welfare rolls and forcing many of the desperate to cross state lines to locales where they might survive. "My take on it was the states would push people off (the assistance lists) and not let them back on, and that's just what they did," said Peter B. Edelman, who resigned from the Clinton administration over this issue and who told the Times for the recent article, "It's been even worse than I thought it would be."

Edelman, now a law professor at Georgetown University, was a close friend of the Clintons. His principled resignation was a rare exception to the cheerleading by Democrats who celebrated President Clinton's betrayal of the poor as shrewd triangulation. Clinton himself had to be fully aware of the depth of that betrayal because he had governed one of the poorest states. In an interview I did with him for the Los Angeles Times when he was still the governor of Arkansas, he was very clear on two points concerning socially responsible welfare reform: It required federal standards, and it would cost more money because the well-being of children was at stake. "To do it, you need more money ... for education, training, transportation and child care."

Calling the shots on spending for the most vulnerable since the Clinton revisions went into effect, the states have diverted funds for the poor to filling other holes in state budgets. Consequently, as the New York Times piece noted last week, "just one in five poor children now receive cash aid, the lowest level in nearly 50 years."

The response of the right-to-life Republicans has been typical — indifference to the fate of the fetus once it's born. Paul Ryan, House budget leader and rumored to be Mitt Romney's pick for vice president, judges the current welfare program "an unprecedented success," and Romney himself wants to extend the welfare-cut model to "all these federal programs," including Medicaid and food stamps.

During his campaign, Santorum, who on Tuesday dropped out as the standard-bearer for pro-life family values, turned to Clinton's draconian welfare law as a source of deep spiritual guidance: "It didn't just cut the rolls, but it saved lives" and granted the poor "something dependency doesn't give: hope."

Well, glory be, hope is on the rise. A recent and well-documented Indiana University study concludes that the number of Americans living beneath the poverty line has risen 27 percent during the recession, leaving 46 million former fetuses living large on a new hope diet.

Robert Scheer is editor of TruthDig.com, where this column originally appeared. Email him at rscheer@truthdig.com. To find out more about Robert Scheer and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Webpage at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2012 CREATORS.COM



Comments

6 Comments | Post Comment
Mr. Scheer, I wholeheartedly support your every word in this column. You summed up my argument in one sentence....

"And by "we" I mean not only the heartless Republicans who love the fetus and then shun the child but also the "progressives" who dare not use the word "liberal" because concern for the poor conflicts with the opportunism that defines their politics."

As long as we continue to deny that we, young and old, rich and poor, and every race under the sun, are sexual beings, deny opportunities for birth control information and unfettered access to contraception for all, nothing will change. The "abstinence" form of birth control has a centuries old record of failure, yet even today the misguided and in denial pro lifers continue to expect doing the same thing the same way will have different results.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Steve
Tue Apr 17, 2012 6:49 AM
No one is being denied birth control. No one will stop you from going to the store and buying a pack on condoms. Liberals seem to think that "have access" means "get for free". You wanna have sex, go nuts. But don't make the rest of us pay for it.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:51 AM
Sorry, did I miss the medical breakthrough where condoms help correct hormonal imbalances and other female reproductive disorders? I don't think so.
Conservatives seem to think they can "have access" to the reproductive rights and sex lives of everyone in America. You want to be involved in my sex life, pay for it. Don't want to pay for it, butt out!
Comment: #3
Posted by: Steve
Thu Apr 19, 2012 9:08 AM
Re: Steve

Your right there is a big difference between a liberal and a social progressive. Liberals like liberty. In fact, at least communists, facists, and other types of socialists are honest about what outcome they advocate. Social progressives want to accomplish the same but over a few centuries and hope that people are to stupid to notice. After a couple hundred years of slow expansion of central government size and power America can be the Orwellian nightmare. Of course history will need to be occationally rewritten and our children indoctrinated to make sure this happens.
Comment: #4
Posted by: SCOTT
Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:36 PM
Re: Steve

Your right there is a big difference between a liberal and a social progressive. Liberals like liberty. In fact, at least communists, facists, and other types of socialists are honest about what outcome they advocate. Social progressives want to accomplish the same but over a few centuries and hope that people are to stupid to notice. After a couple hundred years of slow expansion of central government size and power America can be the Orwellian nightmare. Of course history will need to be occationally rewritten and our children indoctrinated to make sure this happens.
Comment: #5
Posted by: SCOTT
Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:37 PM
Steve who said anything about medical procedures and hormone imbalances? Tell me, without bringing up any nonsense, why women should get free birth control. Then tell me why stop at that. Why not free vitamins? Free dental work? Plastic surgery. Bicycles. Heck, the list goes on for the privliged and entitled social progressives.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Thu Apr 19, 2012 7:07 PM
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