December 12, 2000
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The New York Times demonstrates once again this morning that, when it comes to the question of welfare, its own views are determinedly unreformed.
The Times runs in its national section today an article under the headline "Studies Dispute Some Assumptions on Welfare Overhaul."
The article quotes a law professor, Matthew Diller, as saying, "The public is notoriously ambivalent about issues relating to poverty and welfare. Americans both want people to leave the welfare rolls and want to prevent hardship, particularly among children."
Then the Times goes on to say, in its own voice, in a news article: "And because welfare polices are compromises that try to accommodate these conflicting goals, researchers agree that an economic downturn will change the politics of welfare anew."
There you have it, the Times view of welfare and poverty encapsulated in one succinct turn of phrase: the idea that wanting people to leave the welfare rolls and wanting to prevent hardship are "conflicting goals." That, of course, is nonsense. It is a failed idea that has ruined the lives of millions of poor people and wrecked dozens of inner cities, an idea that has been abandoned even by the Democratic Party's standard-bearer, President Bill "End Welfare As We Know It" Clinton.
As should be obvious to anyone who has ever talked to someone trapped in the perverse incentives of welfare, or who has ever thought seriously about it, or who has been paying attention to the policy debate surrounding welfare reform, getting persons off welfare and preventing hardship are not conflicting goals. Being on welfare is a hardship. Getting a job and getting off welfare is the path out of hardship.
It wouldn't bother Smartertimes.com so much if the Times disagreed with this, or if the Times quoted experts who disagreed with it. What is frustrating, and inconsistent with journalistic conventions, is the newspaper's refusal to even air the opinions of those who disagree with the Times' failed Great Society vision of the welfare state. Today's Times article quotes not a single expert who questions the party line that getting people off welfare equals creating hardship.
Professor Diller, by the way, once sued Governor Mario Cuomo of New York for being too supposedly stingy with aid to the poor. That's the mindset of the Times' go-to experts on welfare reform. Not even the bleeding-heart liberal Democrat Mr. Cuomo was generous enough for them.
The Times article also quotes an Urban Institute study purporting to show that "About one-third of the women who are no longer on welfare say they have had to cut the size of meals or skip meals in the past year because they did not have enough food, and about half report that either often, or sometimes, they do not have money for more food when it runs out." This suggests that persons in America are starving because of welfare reform. In fact, the welfare reform left the food stamps program mostly unaffected. And an Urban Institute study by the scholar quoted in the Times blames the food problems mainly on a lack of budgeting skills by single mothers and on the single-parent family structure, not on a lack of resources or on welfare reform itself. The Times article leaves out these findings, leaving readers with the false impression that persons are starving because of welfare reform.
'Blow to Minorities': An article on the front page of the business section of today's New York Times runs under the headline "Deregulation Called Blow to Minorities." The headline is almost humorous; the Times manages to detect a "blow to minorities" in almost any news development.
The other day, the newspaper detected discrimination against minorities in the fact that public schools are cutting back on physical education classes.
"These studies confirm that small minority and women-owned businesses are encountering difficulties in participating in the new economy," the article quotes the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission as saying.
The Times article and the studies document the supposed damage to minorities as a result of deregulation, but they say nothing about the benefits that minorities, and all Americans, have reaped in the form of cheaper cellular phones, better reception and greater choice. It's enough to make a reader suspect that the Times opposes deregulation.
And it's just patronizing -- and false -- to claim that women or minorities or small businessmen are having difficulty participating in the "new economy." Has the FCC chairman ever heard of Jerry Yang of Yahoo? Or of Cedric Muhammad at Blackelectorate.com? Or of the president of Time Warner? Or of the Oxygen network?
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