Clinton attacks the victims

June 22, 1994

Clinton attacks the victims

US President Bill Clinton has just announced draconian welfare "reforms" which are clearly racist and which reinforce reactionary attitudes in the area of social policy.

In a polemic against single mothers, Clinton announced a plan to restrict single mothers' welfare payments to a maximum of two years in their entire lifetime. Job "training programs" are to be implemented to cater for the fact that after two years, single mothers must find a job or accept a government "subsidised job".

The training programs are to be implemented by making cuts to other areas. Benefits for immigrants will be cut, and the costs of new arrivals will have to be paid by their relatives or sponsors. Programs for the homeless are to be cut, as are emergency welfare services and services for drug addicts.

In a blatant grab for "middle American" votes, Clinton is catering to the worst prejudices of "Reagan Democrats" — conservatives who helped vote Clinton in and who believe solidly in law and order campaigns and family values, who are anti-immigration and resent their taxes being used to provide welfare for the poor.

Launching the proposal, Clinton said, "We must ... send a powerful message that it is wrong to continue this trend; that children should not be born until parents are married and fully capable of taking care of them".

The proposals include a $US300 million campaign against teenage pregnancy — given the moralist rhetoric surrounding the entire proposal, this is likely to be a conservative and ineffectual "say no" campaign, not the provision of free condoms in schools and ensuring access to free and safe abortion.

Hospitals will be required to establish the paternity of newborn babies in order that maintenance collection can be enforced against absent fathers. Provisions to ensure collection are draconian and include the withholding of wages and the suspension of professional, occupational and drivers' licences to force compliance.

What the proposal doesn't include is a job creation program. Perhaps these single mothers are expected to compete with illegal workers for non-unionised, dangerous sweatshop piecework, or perhaps they will become workers in the sex industry.

Nor is there provision for the creation of more child-care places, although these are already lacking. Employed single mothers' mother, sister or other friend or relative will have to take responsibility for their child while they work.

This proposal is aimed at black women, who are the majority of single mothers dependent on the welfare system in the US. It is racist in intent — it targets black, poor women and further victimises them in a system that already leaves them disenfranchised and caught in a poverty trap.

The solution to this poverty trap is not to blame the victim — it's to blame, and change, the system.

By Kath Gelber

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