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Poor Mothers Don't Matter in Welfare Policy

Poor Mothers Don't Matter in Welfare Policy

Felicia Kornbluh, Gwendolyn Mink

This week marks the 19th anniversary of legislation that conditions income assistance for parents and children on participation in a disciplinary program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

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Maybe Michael Moore can wrap his satirical lens around a retake of the hilarious Eddie Murphy film, “Trading Places.”

In the new version, corporations accustomed to millions if not billions in subsidies get to trade places with welfare mothers who manage to live on the restricted allocations from the “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.”

Imagine all the fun… and surprises as the most enthusiastic devotees of corporate Calvinism find themselves in the shoes of those they gleefully help to impoverish.

Bonus popcorn provided for those who can actually demonstrate that rare quality known as empathy or its classy cousin, compassion.


“Although TANF is the primary national policy dedicated to impoverished families with children, TANF legislation did not include mitigating poverty, enhancing opportunity or attenuating inequality among its purposes.”

In the same way that the MIC’s adjuncts supply weapons to destabilized lands and then show up to inflame internecine conflicts that virtually ensure more wars, inner cities are defunded, jobs hardly exist and that forces youth to develop its own black market economy. Enter the War On Drugs to criminalize this all but fiscal necessity.

With so many Blacks and Latinos incarcerated or retained in the after-prison-pipeline (parole, probation and endless fees and/or court appearances), job options become further reduced. Plus, with those 2.2 million behind bars, plenty of women with children–from these men–are forced into the financial challenges of single motherhood.

This is not by accident.

The elites set up the conditions in the same way that they underfund public schools in poor areas so they can turn around and judge those schools as failures and take possession of their real estate.

Blaming the victims of engineered social policies was diabolical under Hitler and it’s just as diabolical when practiced by elite members of today’s Fourth Reich. The Nazis (via Project Paperclip) were invited into the ranks of covert military organizations and eventually–given their expertise in the Art of Massacre–amassed the clout to devise policy. THAT is what decent citizens are now up against, and what Nazis do in no way constitutes WE. The only people who would identify with those who show such hostility to human life are those sworn to the same bankrupt ideology.


When you are poor and receive from the government it is called welfare, but when you are wealthy and receive from the government it is called the euphemistic, subsidies.


Bernie Sanders voted against the 1996 welfare reform legislation as a member of the House of Representatives. This is how Bernie described it:

“The bill, which combines an assault on the poor, women and children, minorities, and immigrants is the grand slam of scapegoating legislation, and appeals to the frustrations and ignorance of the American people along a wide spectrum of prejudices.”

"Here’s how Hillary Clinton described welfare recipients in an 1999 op-ed:

Too many of those on welfare had known nothing but dependency all their lives, and many would have found it difficult to make the transition to work on their own.

Hillary Clinton also defended welfare reform in 2000 column:

Since we first asked mothers to move from welfare to work, millions of families have made the transition from dependency to dignity." Above quotes from: http://freebeacon.com/blog/analysis-bernie-sander-vs-hillary-clinton-on-welfare-reform/

And Bernie has a problem with the poor, with African Americans? The mind boggles.


TANF had one purpose and that purpose is driving àusterity`in countries the world over. It was a Corporate driven program just as austerity is with the intent of increasing the low wage labor pool so as to ensure wages would not rise.

The Governments the World over are very open about the desire to suppress wages as evidenced by their inflation measures. All central banks have as a goal the initiative to keep inflation below a certain level YET certain goods are excluded from the formula such as food and energy costs. Wages are at the core of the CPI and as wages go up so does this measured rate. This means that under the law many Social spending programs where amounts are to be increased based on the inflation rates would see higher payouts. This is contrary to the desires of that one percent who do NOT want to see greater wealth distribution. (They do not want a means to an income for the working class outside their labor)

It is the goal of Governments that buy into this doctrine for the 1 percent to ensure there remains a vast underclass of the poorly paid so as to ensure there that large labor pool of people desperate for work, any work and so that overall wages in the economy do not rise for the working class. This acts to lock in wealth for the already wealthy and ensures issues of inequality are never addressed.

That all said we have to also come to grips with what wealth really is. Among the working class it tends to be measured by wage income coupled with the perceived assets said worker might own like a home. Among the uber wealthy it is much more than that. It is the control of the means of production and over the money system. It is really a reflection of power via that extreme accumulation of assets into one individuals hands be they real like property and infrastructure or that paper wealth. That paper wealth unlike the working class who must LABOR to earn a wage and thus create a good or service with real tangible benefits , is created out of nothing as a means by which they will gain control over assets of real value which includes the peoples labor.

The stock market on friday saw 200 billion dollars lost to investors. This might seem a large amount but means absolutely nothing to them as it came from nothing. It can instantly be replaced unlike the worker whose only means of makeup for lost wealth is working more hours.


“… unlike the worker whose only means of makeup for lost wealth is working more hours.”

Or organizing with other workers to reclaim their stolen wealth from the usurpers.

(Please don’t think i’m minimizing that monumental task in my brief answer.)

Indeed yet even an increased wage is still a wage based on hours worked, The working class does not have the luxury of sleeping and getting more wealth/income as they sleep.

They can work a 24 hour day at double their existing salary and still not get the same income as one of these vulture hedge fund managers will by buying up Puerto Rican debt and reselling it or using it to gain control over real assets.


The elites try to set things up to their advantage but no one less than God has sufficient intelligence to predict all the blowback effects of monkeying with a system like the global economy, which in its way as complicated as an undersea ecosystem. The way things are now, one wrong move in the “business” of currencies trading could send all earth currencies into free fall devaluation with the end result being all things currently believed to constitute “wealth” – currencies, bank balances, stocks, bonds, assessed property values, even gold bullion – becoming almost instantly worthless. Their only advantage would be they have more stuff than do the rest of us to barter for food.

Then WE would see where compassion lies and whether there really is an untapped reservoir of it waiting for circumstances to be called up for duty. Worst case scenario, hysterical murderous anarchy till the bullets are all used up and millions living like scrambling refugees being thought of as the “fortunate few.” Best case, the true dawning of the Age of Aquarius with sweeping widespread changes in hearts, minds, and behavior leading to a “let’s help each other through this and see if we can cooperatively work out some better ways.”

And let me again put it out there that, while the majority of single parents are women and as such are “Mother,” not all are. I was a single father who was not able to get TANF or, as it was known then, AFDC, probably because I was male, and I supported myself and my offspring with low paying jobs which proves that 1) it occasionally can be done — I was lucky that being able to type fast and accurately was then a skill that was in low grade demand, and 2) it ain’t easy so single parents of either gender or combination thereof need and deserve help.

It’s unfortunate…and a little weird… that Kornbluh and Mink, experienced educators and writers, do not provide links to support their assertions about evidence used to assess TANF performance.

Data on TANF from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) can be found here. Liz Schott discusses CBPP recommendations on steps Congress should take to improve TANF here. The fundamental problem with TANF is its block-grant structure that provides for little transparency and practically no accountability.

The study concerning cost and mortality assessments of AFDC versus TANF is discussed here.

Receiving TANF rather than AFDC led to premature death for some women. Averaged over all program recipients, mothers gained 0.44 years of life from AFDC.

Which isn’t exactly the same as "The new policy shortened recipients’ lives by nearly one-half a year (0.44 year). "

The authors conclude that the policy changes yielded mixed outcomes: “Welfare reform may have produced very large direct monetary savings, including returns for both individuals and for the US government. However, TANF may also harm women who could not subsequently work (whether as a result of young children at home, large family size, or mental or physical illness). Some may have ended up relying on weak financial networks or become homeless. Given that higher earnings and employment are thought to be beneficial for health, the observed adverse impacts on the mothers and their children likely occurred solely among these women who could not work and therefore lost their welfare benefits.”

In other words, TANF can often fail the neediest among us. The very people the program is supposed to be helping. And, looking at the CBPP data, it’s clear why. It’s also unfortunate that progressives like Kornbluh and Mink choose not to recognize the fact that a universal healthcare system, like that proposed in HR 676, would eliminate most, if not all, of the adverse health impacts associated with a lack of economic security that causes the reported variation in mortality rates between the two programs. Failure to include CBPP recommendations and universal healthcare in their laundry list of reforms, in my opinion, seriously damages the authors’ credibility and sincerity. There are solutions, before Congress, that can begin to repair TANF and resolve mortality problems associated with long-term poverty. We should start there.

I would like to hear what Senator Sanders proposes should be done to for the jobless poor—the truly poor who have NO INCOMES at all who can’t afford clothing, food, medical and dental care, basic utilities, or a modest roof over their heads.

NOBODY has been addressing the unmet needs and concerns of the long-term jobless poor. Even NPR barely acknowledges us. And when they did acknowledge us, NPR claimed that the majority of former welfare recipients who were NOT welcomed into jobs went on SSI. That is a claim that I loudly dispute.

One of the other components of Welfare Reform was deep cuts to the SSI program, and increasingly impossible hoops to jump through before being able to get on SSI. Many disabled Americans in absolute poverty can’t get it. For the few who do manage to eventually get SSI—a paltry $700/mo benefit—it takes YEARS of legal appeals to finally get that (after which the lawyers get more than a third of the back-due award).

But until then, the unemployable disabled poor whose age and health makes getting (and keeping) any kind of job impossible, are left struggling just to NOT die from absolute poverty and homelessness with NO INCOMES. And the rest of the American public is apparently fine with that.

A little walk through history:

Almost immediately after LBJ (who created anti-poverty and welfare programs which mostly helped poor women who’ve always suffered the most and the worst effects of sexism and discrimination) left office and Nixon got elected, there was an immediate backlash against LBJ’s Great Society social programs for the poor. In fact, it began even before that—resistance was mounted by well-heeled interests, and led by professional middle class academicians while Johnson was trying to get his poverty relief measures pushed through during his 1963-64 Poverty Tour.

In the early 1970’s, lawmakers in the state of Nevada where prostitution is legal and “regulated” and most of the brothels are owned by members of the Bonano crime family, passed a law forcing poor younger women who applied for welfare to first take “work” in the legal brothels (since prostitution is legal there, it is a “job just like any other”).

The National Welfare Rights Union, which was a grassroots org spearheaded by poor single mothers receiving a paltry welfare benefit under AFDC, launched a massive protest right out in front of Nevada’s infamous Mustang Ranch brothel to protest poor women being forced into prostitution by the state (which essentially made the state of Nevada guilty of human trafficking). Several feminists, including Gloria Steinem, joined in and protested with the National Welfare Rights Union.

The protests forced the state lawmakers (many whom were brothel owners themselves) to back down because the public outcry was tremendous.

As a poor older woman who is a survivor of child sex trafficking, I never got a chance for a job after escaping my traffickers 31 years ago no matter what/how hard I tried in order to be “worthy” of a chance for a job. I was shut out of any and all jobs my entire working age life due to an unfair prostitution record that held me back and rendered me unemployable—a record I incurred from when I was trafficked into prostitution as a homeless orphaned child from age 12/13 -17.

By the time I was finally able to get the pro bono legal help to get that record expunged last year, I was 47 years old—“too old” for any employers to want to hire, despite all I’ve had to overcome and suffer through while trying to get an education and build high tech skills as a software developer after finally being able to get a computer (a donated old one) while not having Internet half the time because of having NO INCOME to afford basic utilities.

I never got a chance for a job no matter what hoops I jumped through in order to be “worthy” of a chance for a job—while getting told by smug, arrogant middle classers that I “have it made compared to the poor in other countries”, and that “no one owes you a job” and that if I was poor and not making it, it was my own damn fault for “not trying hard enough.”

I never in my entire 48 years of life had access to adequate medical and dental care and any semblance of a minimally economically stable life.

Ever since I was trafficked, and throughout the past 31 years since escaping my traffickers, I have never known what it was like to be able to experience one full year of not having one or more basic utilities cut off for lack of any money or income to afford the bills.

I don’t know what it’s like to be able to afford three meals a day. I often can’t afford to eat even just one meal a day. I experienced and observed this classist, sexist, misogynous “Me First” male-dominated society in its shit-stained underwear—not its fancy lecture suit.

The very short-lived Great Society programs “failed” because they were sabotaged by the servants of privilege and power: privileged academicians from elite universities, policymakers, Congress and every president after LBJ. The sabotaging of anti-poverty programs began almost immediately after LBJ implemented them, thanks to the middle class/rich white male dominated political climate that has always been deeply entrenched in this country, which still thoroughly permeates society to this day.

Upper-middle class academicians deliberately stood on their privileges to lead the War on the Poor, particularly against poor women, starting with the Moynihan report.

The Moynihan report not only racialized poverty to the point of erasing both female poverty and white poverty, it also dehumanized ALL of the poor in general.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report was influenced heavily by Harvard urbanologist, Edward C. Banfield who was a “leading scholar of his generation.” Banfield was also one of Moynihan’s drinking buddies. According to Banfield, the poor “have no interest in the public good” and are "pre-occupied with having sex."

Banfield held that the only way to ensure that the poor got chances for jobs was to abolish the minimum wage. He also suggested that the only way to get rid of poverty was to get rid of the poor—preferably by “auctioning off poor women’s babies to the highest normal class bidder.”

Banfield not only influenced Moynihan’s report, he also served as an advisor to former presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan.

Since Ivy League academia as a bastion of privilege produced “scholarship” claiming that poor women couldn’t keep their legs shut because of the lower class’s “pre-occupation with having sex”, it’s no wonder that America’s privileged classes decided that prostitution was the only thing poor women were good for.

When Clinton “ended welfare as we know it” in 1996, nothing was done to ensure that this country’s poorest women would be welcomed into middle class jobs during those “better times” when there were a lot more jobs to go around than there are today
Nothing was done to remedy the problem of sex discrimination in hiring/firing promotion/pay.

Nothing was done to ensure that poor women being thrown off of their measly $4K annual welfare aid, which never was enough to live on, would have access to advanced educations, apprenticeships, and have any legally enforceable and protected right to a toehold onto even the lowest rung of the middle class jobs ladder.

Nothing was ever done to guarantee 100% full employment for all who are able to work so that nobody—regardless of age, race, gender or disability—would be socially and economically excluded and left unable to economically fend for themselves.

All of the funding cuts to welfare and the elimination of other social programs for the poor starting with Reagan leading up to Clinton’s Welfare Reform was a real boon for johns—men with middle class incomes who use their money to buy rape tickets, who are nothing but socially shielded child rapists if we’re going to be honest about it given that the average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 years old, and given that it is overwhelmingly poor women and girls, not middle class/rich women.

These same rape ticket buyers are also the most ardent opponents of equal opportunity employment laws with teeth and any legitimate welfare social safety net for the jobless poor—things that would greatly reduce (if not eliminate) the number one condition of vulnerability that forces poor women and girls into prostitution or puts them at high risk of being trafficked: Unrelieved absolute poverty due to structural oppression, systemic economic/job discrimination, and lack of any real decent economic safety net for the jobless poor and the economically excluded.

Our domestic sex trafficking crisis in The US is one of the most shameful, darkest legacies of America’s War on the Poor because poor women and girls were not merely collateral damage in these past 40+ years of the War on the Poor—we were the primary target.

Those with the most privileges in this country say “well why aren’t the poor dying in the streets like over in the slums of Mumbai?” without looking at the countless POOR WOMEN who died out on the streets of America that were written off as “No Human Involved” as official police procedure on official homicide reports because of being “only prostitutes” by cops—who often extort money and “free samples” from poor prostituted/trafficked women while these same fascist jackbooted thugs are enjoying middle class incomes, job security plus medical and dental benefits, paid vacations, and pension plans.

And of course, no one questioned how/why so many poor women and girls got pressed into the commercial rape trade in the first place, either—they already knew the answer to that. Society already decided that the gutter and an early grave was the only place poor women deserved and should be allowed to have.

I don’t know how many of my fallen trafficked/prostituted sisters’ bodies have gone unclaimed in morgues after their deaths didn’t even make a blip on the news. Nobody has been counting them. Nobody ever cared.

For those tiny few of us who managed to escape and survive, I don’t know of more than two who ever made it to even the lowest rung of the middle class. We’re all desperately poor with no way to economically fend for ourselves with just a little bit of human dignity.

Despite all the “anti-trafficking awareness” being promoted by well-funded non-profits, who never seem to cough up any money or paid sustainable jobs for poor trafficking survivors on whose backs the entire anti-trafficking movement was built, we’re still treated as sub-humans and denied jobs and looked down on as garbage by everybody else in society—even those of us who are accomplished self-published authors, even those of us who managed to get educations and built high tech skills around the obstacles of extreme, soul-crushing poverty of homelessness and eating from garbage cans.

You would not believe the degree of danger and the constant threats of harm that are aimed at the few of us who escaped and survived. For speaking our truths, we get doxxed, stalked, threatened, slandered and discredited—by very privileged people with upper-middle class jobs and the luxury of lots of free time to spend attacking poor trafficking survivors for “panhandling” via personal fundraisers, since that’s our only way of getting any money to be able TO survive.

Poor women with no safety net, no jobs, and no hope—especially those of us who are human trafficking survivors that wouldn’t have been trafficked in the first place if not for draconian policies hurting poor women—literally have NO support at all. Not socially, economically, or otherwise. Nobody cares about us. They never did.

And of course, not a single privileged middle class raindrop ever believed they were responsible for causing the flood.

Systems of oppression do not happen by accident in a fit of collective absent-mindedness; they’re upheld and perpetuated by deliberate intent. And that deliberate intent is all about preserving privileges for some at the expense of others—those without privilege.

Systemic oppression is a privilege transfer vehicle that serves up the human rights of consumable, disposable people in economies of scale. Privilege occupies the space where someone else’s human and social rights belong.

Lillie Harden—along with every poor dead trafficked and prostituted woman and teen who wouldn’t have been trafficked or forced into prostitution in the first place if not for a real lack of an adequate economic safety net and a real lack of access to the economy—are the dead albatrosses that the Left should hang around every middle class and rich pseudo-progressive’s necks, starting with both of the Clintons.