Caption: Even a snake would never think of doing this.
The "deficit reduction" bill passed by Congress earlier this year is a perfect example of the twisted policies of the Bush administration and its rubber stamps in Congress.
Perhaps you remember the bill. It was the deficit reduction bill that increased the deficit. Specifically, it cut around $40 billion from programs that help middle class, working and low income families while giving $70 billion more in tax cuts aimed mostly at the very wealthy.
Interest rates on student loans were increased. Medicaid, which is a literal lifeline for over 50 million Americans--mostly children, but also low income adults, people with disabilities, and the elderly--just got a lot more punitive and confusing.
And the legislation now threatens to undo the progress several states, including West Virginia, have made on welfare reform and will take away the best chance many people have of permanently escaping poverty: access to education.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education
The proposed welfare rules, which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued about a month ago, explicitly state that baccalaureate and advanced-degree programs cannot count as work. Up to a year of vocational training at a college would still count, but the new rules narrow the definition of "vocational" training to apply only to programs that lead directly into a prescribed career.
When welfare reform first went into effect in West Virginia in 1997, many recipients (typically single mothers with children) were told to drop out of GED and post-secondary programs to do work activities in exchange for benefits that provided little or no opportunity for lasting employment or upgrading skills. In communities where jobs were scarce, the influx of unpaid workers threatened to displace people who worked for wages.
This didn't make any more sense then than it does now. There is a direct link between educational attainment and higher incomes and lower unemployment.
To view the data, check page 26 of this report.
If benefits have lifetime limits, it only makes sense for people to make the most of their time by taking part in activities that can help them get out of poverty and stay out.
It took a while, but a diverse coalition formed in West Virginia to push for changes in state law to ensure that welfare recipients got a fair chance to pursue their education.
In 2000, the legislature passed a bill that allowed education from the literacy to post-secondary level to count as a welfare work activity as long as parents attended an accredited institution and made satisfactory progress.
This was a real step forward that opened the way for many women to move into a better situation. It was viewed as model legislation for other states.
Now this progress is threatened. Rather than helping people move up and out, the new rules, if allowed to stand, will defeat any purpose beyond punishing poor people.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED