Welfare, work and the bailout bonanza

The U.S. economy lost nearly 600,000 jobs in January, bringing total losses in the past three months over 1.5 million — more than the entire population of Philadelphia. If there ever was a good time to mend the tattered U.S. social safety net, it’s now. While unemployment benefits and food stamps remain relatively uncontroversial, basic welfare continues to be neglected by the general media and vilified by the right. And as of this moment, a responsible welfare program is needed more than at any point since the 1930s.

Seth Wessler has a great blog on RaceWire about retooling welfare so that it actually provides relief to people in need. The welfare reform Congress passed in 1996 tied benefits to employment, thereby excluding those who most need help, especially in an economy like this. The law’s popularity was fueled by false stereotypes about the disadvantaged.

“The punitive rules established after twenty years of racially coded frenzy to ‘end welfare as we know it’ have left Americans with no safety net during this deepening economic crisis,” Wessler writes, arguing that it is high time for this hateful chapter of American history to be over.


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