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The welfare state returns to radio

February 3, 2010

I love my local country music station, because they play long cycles of good music and I get to sing along to Sara Baxton. But today, I’m pissed. Driving home from work, I heard one of the Meg Whitman advertisements on the air. If you want to hear it, you can go here. Below is the transcript.

Meg Whitman: Some people worry that we’re creating a welfare state. The fact is, California is the welfare state.

Male voiceover: Meg Whitman talks about the California welfare system.

Meg Whitman: Did you know that California has twice the population of New York, but five times as many welfare cases? Thirty-two percent of all welfare case loads in America are here in California. We provide among the highest cash welfare checks of any state, but only twenty-two percent of our recipients work for their benefits. The system is broken, but we can fix it. Let’s cut the lifetime welfare benefit from five years to two, and let’s put able-bodied welfare recipients to work, looking for employment, performing community service, or working toward a GED. If they don’t, they lose their benefits. Welfare can’t be a way of life. We need to help those in need, but we need to do it in a way that’s accountable, sensible, and strengthens our communities.

Male voiceover: Paid for by Meg Whitman for Governor 2010.

Meg Whitman: It’s time for a new California. What do you think? Share your ideas and read my plan at talktomeg.com .

This may be a long post, or possibly the first of several posts, on why I think welfare reform should not be an issue for the 2010 gubernatorial race in California. For the sake of brevity, let me summarize my position on why Whitman’s radio ad is so wrong:

  • There is no us versus them in the welfare debate. A quick venture into demographic data points out that nearly 60% of Americans will live some part of their lives under the poverty line — see, for example, The Great Risk Shift, where I looked up that number. In other words, at least three in five Americans could potentially be affected by decisions to make welfare harder to obtain. Want to bet that you — and your loved ones — are all going to be in the lucky forty percent? I don’t.
  • There is no excuse for balancing your budget on the backs of the vulnerable. As many people know, California is currently in another year of trying to balance their budget without raising taxes. And when revenue can’t go up, the only thing to do is to cut spending, says Sacramento. California has lots of things it spends money on, including health care, welfare, prisons, education, and anything that gets voted into the budget from the ballot box. Somehow, Whitman and other politicians have decided that the paltry money the state tosses towards its low-income residents to keep them afloat, retrain them, and help them with education and vocational training is just too much. Low-income residents are less organized and more vulnerable than other populations, including K-12 educational advocates, transportation, and prison guards. It’s no surprise that the easiest targets will be the first to lose necessary support, but it is a disappointing statement about us and our priorities.
  • And there is really no excuse for factual inaccuracies. I could be wrong on this one, but I’m pretty sure that the welfare program Whitman is talking about is called CalWORKs, or California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids. It “provides education, employment, and training programs to help families get jobs and move towards self-sufficiency,” according to the California Department of Social Services, which manages the program. Funny — that sounds an awful lot like the program that Whitman is proposing as a replacement.

So yes — we have welfare cases. We may have a lot of welfare cases. The system may be broken. I’m not contesting any of those points, more because I simply don’t know than because I think that this radio spot is true. But guess what I’m left wondering after hearing that radio spot? Me, I’m wondering how much money was spent to produce and air an advertisement whose purpose seems to be hate mongering against the imagined ills of a welfare state in one minute or less. I hope that the next radio spot will be better thought out and include real solutions rather than shifting blame games.

But for now? I’m pissed. I expected better.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. AirChlo permalink
    February 5, 2010 12:47 am

    Right On! Of course this IS the problem. What this disconnected from the human race=money /power grubbing woman is doing is the way to go to keep the status quo. But not Good for us all in the long haul. Those poor families have a lot of kids. Its interesting that in Canada our “working poor” or “seasonal” workers mostly utilize what we call “UI” to supplement their low incomes -it used to be called “Unemployed insurance”, a few years ago it was renamed “Employment insurance” and simultaneously our welfare regulations were tightened to syphon more individuals thru the more pro active job search orientated EI.( a good idea, but not enough support for some ie: with addictions/mental health problems. Then with the funding cuts, even less re-education opportunities were available, and over month long delays in getting even emergency fiscal support for families, or friends hurt in accidents, becomes the norm. I thought to myself back then “Wow its getting more like the states here.” I myself got in just under the wire as my nursing program I had subsidized thru EI was not available in the very next year due to new “length of program” restraints. I am GED educated and I tell you it was a tricky thing getting that money for school. If you got a job, within the wrong phase of the program, to try to support your family, like others in my EI program session you disqualified yourself! This will all change. I have faith in the inherit goodness of us. It will just take some more time, we are slow to evolve lately. Perhaps not so much now that all is becoming absurd and blatant.

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