By Sheldon William Myrie MIT Black Students Union
At present the Republicans are working on a Welfare Reform Bill that eliminates federal involvement in welfare programs. This means that money allocated for specific programs such as AFDC, Food Stamps, and Medicaid, will now be turned into a lump-sum block grant. However the Federal allocation specifications that the states have at present, accounting for federal aid that goes to AFDC and Food Stamps, will not exist under the new plan. This action has its pros and cons. A purported pro is that there will be a decrease in the cost of monitoring the states to make sure that the money is allocated correctly. The cost of monitoring the state agencies is built into the welfare allocation package, which means that part of the $22 billion package is not even given to those on welfare. According to 1992 statistics, the median allocation per month for a family on AFDC was $388. There are 4.1 million families on AFDC. If we multiply the allocation by the number of families by 12 months we get a total of $19.1 billion. Therefore, the other $3 billion must go to administrative and operating costs, which includes monitoring. Cutting down on administrative monitoring could save the Federal Government approximately $3 billion per year. The con in this case is that the Federal government cannot ensure the American people that the grant is being used properly in individual states. Being no expert on the political economy of the welfare state, I can see that each governmental entity has one fundamental economic driving force. The federal government is driven by the military-industrial complex and the state governments are driven by the corporate-financial market. It is easier to pressure the government to decrease military spending and take care of their domestic responsibility, but it is difficult to tell the state to decrease business investment. For example, the U.S. government plans to increase the military budget for F-22 tactical fighters by $72 Billion. We can point at that and say that money can be used for something better than F-22's. That money can be put into better public education in underprivileged public schools. It is clear how and where the money is being spent. Corporate investment on the other hand is more of a nebulus issue. The states tend to focus more on making their financial districts more "ritzy" and tend to encourage businesses to enter their financial districts through tax incentives. In addition, the builders and renovators that get these contracts are not the ones that attract the unemployed population, minorities, or the lower-class population. This is the reason why New York's minority contractors have difficulty finding work for their employees. The money that could be used to better the inner-city is used to better the already rich institutions; the stark contrast between the Upper East Side of Manhattan and Spanish Harlem, which is about two blocks west from the outskirts, is a common example. The states can give "welfare" to businesses and hide behind the glamour of corporate modernization in their central cities. The states are able to get away with this also because the citizens of these states do not usually realize their state and local governments are using tax monies to bring in business. Also, since we are a consumer society, we tend to focus on where we can spend our money and look rich-the new mall that opens up in the garment districts-rather than where we can invest our money in more socially beneficial ways, such as in public schools. We must not be supporters of the glamour of the city unless we understand at whose expense that glamour is rendered. Thus, it can be more difficult to know whether the states are going to use tax monies to benefit the poor or the rich, than it can be to know whether the nation is using the money to benefit the poor or the rich. The Republicans' ideology is that they should not and will not support a system that creates dependency. The current plan that was signed by the House of Representatives Ways and Means Subcommittee intends to save $23 billion over five years. If we subtract the amount of money that the federal government would save from giving block grants to the states over a five year period, which balances out to be $15 billion, then the remaining $8 billion must come from cutting the actual welfare allocation. The way the Republicans plan to cut that $8 billion over a five year period is by barring cash benefits to unwed mothers under 18, limiting welfare eligibility to a consecutive five years, and setting up work requirements. If the Republican perception is true that the cuts can prevent teen pregnancy, decrease dependency, and promote labor, simultaneously taking the burden off the states to comply with federal regulation, which costs the states more money, then one can look at this as another pro. There is empirical study that shows a correlation between teen pregnancy, crime, etc. and welfare dependency. However to take that correlation and present it as a case of causality is wrong. The perpetuation of a notion that people are on welfare because they aren't intelligent enough not to have babies at a young age, to stay in school, etc. stems from ideology and not proof. Charles Murray attempts to display empirical proof for this argument in his book The Bell Curve. Among the many problems with the book are that the results from his exploration illustrate correlation, not causality. In addition to that, many political scientists say that the empirical data he has for his correlation analysis is not fully descriptive data and less than statistically significant. It is fair to assume that even if the Republican Contract did not base its tenets on The Bell Curve, that book certainly has been used to legitimize the Republican agenda.