What Some Feminists Demanded in 1967

Egalia at Tennessee Gurilla Women reproduces NOW’s “Bill of Rights” from their first national conference, which took place in 1967. As Egalia says, it’s interesting to look at this, nearly 40 years later, and see what has – and hasn’t – been accomplished, and what is still under fire.

BILL OF RIGHTS

WE DEMAND:

I. That the United States Congress immediately pass the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution to provide that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex” and that such then be immediately ratified by the several States.

II. That equal employment opportunity be guaranteed to all women, as well as men by insisting that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforce the prohibitions against sex discrimination in employment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the same vigor as it enforces the prohibitions against racial discrimination.

III. That women be protected by law to insure their rights to return to their jobs within a reasonable time after childbirth without loss of seniority or other accrued benefits and be paid maternity leave as a form of social security and/or employee benefit.

IV. Immediate revision of tax laws to permit the deduction of home and child care expenses for working parents.

V. That child care facilities be established by law on the same basis as parks, libraries and public schools adequate to the needs of children, from the pre-school years through adolescence, as a community resource to be used by all citizens from all income levels.

VI. That the right of women to be educated to their full potential equally with men be secured by Federal and State legislation, eliminating all discrimination and segregation by sex, written and unwritten, at all levels of education including college, graduate and professional schools, loans and fellowships and Federal and State training programs, such as the job Corps.

VII. The right of women in poverty to secure job training, housing and family allowances on equal terms with men, but without prejudice to a parent’s right to remain at home to care for his or her children; revision of welfare legislation and poverty programs which deny women dignity, privacy and self respect.

VIII. The right of women to control their own reproductive lives by removing from penal codes the laws limiting access to contraceptive information and devices and laws governing abortion.

From Sisterhood Is Powerful, a great anthology which is available on Amazon for a quarter.

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64 Responses to What Some Feminists Demanded in 1967

  1. 1
    Richard Bellamy says:

    II. That equal employment opportunity be guaranteed to all women, as well as men, by insisting that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces the prohibition against racial discrimination.

    Is this a typo, of was there an assumption that fighting racism would implicitly fight sexism as well?

  2. 2
    shiloh says:

    Richard,
    IIRC, it’s not a typo (but I last read this in the 1970′s!). The theory is that racism and sexism are grounded in the same assumptions – that some humans have more rights than others by virtue of birth.

    I strongly disagreed with IV and V in the 1970′s and still do, the rest I have a few disagreements with when it comes to the details but basically support, as I did back then. Actually it’s kind of unnerving how little my opinions have changed on the issue of feminism… If I hadn’t reversed myself on some other points over the years I’d be worried about myself – but OTOH, I’ve since gone back to much the same opinions there, as well. But at least I tried the opposite perspective for a while…

  3. 3
    Ampersand says:

    I originally read it the way Shiloh did, which is why I didn’t suspect it was a typo. But now I’ve looked it up, and it was a typo – a rather large one. Corrections have been made.

    I don’t have any problem with VI and V, myself.

  4. 4
    Ampersand says:

    Actually, now I’m not sure which version is correct; both versions are on the web in multiple places. I thnk the version that focuses on sex discrimination is probably the correct one, but I might be wrong.

    According to historian Jo Freeman
    , when this was first passed, items I and VIII were the most controversial among feminists:

    …Six planks were quickly passed. They were: enforcement of sex discrimination laws; paid maternity leave; tax deductions for child care; establishment of public, readily available, child care facilities; equal and unsegregated education; and equal job training opportunities, housing and family allowances for women in poverty. Proposals to support the Equal Rights Amendment and reproductive control were controversial; they passed but several members quit as a result.

  5. 5
    Josh Jasper says:

    What amazes me is how often conservatives are opposed to issue V. It’s incredibly stupid from an economic perspective not to free up the time of both parents to work. the net benefit to society is huge. In hunter/gather societies, the elderly are frequently given child care duties, as both parents must by neccesity, work at something. In the modern world, we’re often cut off from our elderly, and the idea that a small village-like social group should provide community child care is gaone. So we staple half of our workforce to the ground due to a lack of child care, but refuse to create it artificialy, because that’d be socialism.

    I know that “enhanced labor force” isn’t exactly a progressive ideal, but at least progressives are unwittingly doing the right thing by society *and* the economy by promoting subsidized child care. Conservatives, on the other hand, are fucking morons in this area. They claim to be in favor of a strong economy, and in favor of family values, but they manage to gut both the economy and families by the idiotic claim that ‘socialism’ is dangerous, and therefore child care should not be subsidized.

  6. 6
    shiloh says:

    Josh Jasper,
    Most of the conservative stuff I’ve read that’s against subsidized child care argues that this penalizes families who choose to have one parent at home – not only do those families end up sacrificing cash to be with their kids, but then they have to pay for two-income families. I’ve seen conservatives counter-propose cash subsidies or tax write offs for ALL children, so that the parents can decide whether to use the money for day-care or for letting one parent stay home. If the goal is better child care, then why are penalize stay-at-home parents? Are stay-at-home parents a WORSE choice for the child than day care?

  7. 7
    egalia says:

    Interesting question. I was not aware that there are two versions floating around. This is the one that is in my copy of Sisterhood is Powerful (1970, p. 513-14):

    II. That equal employment opportunity be guaranteed to all women, as well as men, by insisting that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces the prohibition against racial discrimination.

    I thought this was merely part of NOW’s effort to represent ALL women. While NOW was born with white middle class shortcomings, it – and the movement in general – was never so exclusive as many have charged, IMHO.

    Yet on the preceding page (512) of Sisterhood, there is a short summary of the demands that were adopted at NOW’s first national conference in 1967. Here it says: “Enforce laws banning sex discrimination in employment. ”

    In 1967, NOW was holding demonstrations aimed at persuading the EEOC to take sex discrimination seriously; when demonstrations didn’t work, NOW sued. (It’s actually astounding when you look at how many gains women have made because NOW sued.) While I’m sure the 1960′s EEOC could have done a better job with race discrimination cases, at least they didn’t treat the subject of race discrimination as a joke, or as something best ignored, as they did with sex.

  8. 8
    Hestia says:

    Well, shiloh, the above Bill of Rights makes it clear that everyone would be able to take advantage of #5, not just working parents. So if a stay-at-home parent wanted some time to catch up on errands or work towards a college degree or whatever, they could make use of public child care facilities.

    I’ve seen conservatives counter-propose cash subsidies or tax write offs for ALL children, so that the parents can decide whether to use the money for day-care or for letting one parent stay home.

    But this penalizes those of us who don’t have children! Where’s our free money?

    I’m only half joking. Child care has little to do with the ability for a family to subsist on a single income. People don’t begin to work just so they can provide child care; if they did, then there wouldn’t be a problem for one of them to stay home. (Family in which only one parent works has a child. Either the other parent can go to work to earn $x for $x of child care, or s/he can stay home and provide that care at no cost.)

    So the question really is: Do we basically pay people to have children?

  9. 9
    Hestia says:

    Perhaps I should have said, Do we pay people who have children?

  10. 10
    Jake Squid says:

    I agree with Hestia. Everybody pays for public education whether they have kids or not. Why? Because it is a huge societal benefit to have educated people. Same thing goes for public childcare.

  11. 11
    Fred Vincy says:

    Shiloh also assumes that the set of stay-at-home parents is fixed, when in fact many stay-at-home parents might choose to work if the childcare options available to them were better. More generally, there are lots and lots of benefits the government makes available that some people choose to take advantage of and some people do not, so I’m not sure why this is more worthy of opposition than parks, schools, etc.

  12. 12
    shiloh says:

    Hestia,

    The general conservative assumption, in my experience, is that well-raised children are a benefit to society, while neglected children are not, so it is to everyone’s benefit to ensure that children are subsidized. I’m not sure where I stand on the topic, myself, but I do know I get annoyed by the assumption that I should pay for day care for parents who work when I’m already making financial sacrifices to give my kids what I consider best. In my area, at least, if you look around there are a lot of classes and the like you can sign your kids up for if you need short breaks every week (and if you’ve only got a couple of kids – coordinating said classes so more than two kids are busy at any one time does get to be a trick).

    Where conservatives get a bit two-faced, IMHO, is in arguing that married parents should have the right to have one stay home with the kids, but single moms on welfare should get off their can and work. If it is a benefit to my kids to have me home, then I want to know why it is not a benefit to my neighbors kids to have her at home. There are a lot of moms on welfare who are excellent moms and would like to stay home with their kids, but instead they’re told to get jobs and put their kids into less-than-thrilling day care situations. A welfare mom is not, by definition, a worse mom than your average suburbanite mom, and if you’re going to argue the suburbanite’s children benefit by having her home, then you should also argue that the welfare mom’s children will most likely benefit from the same thing.

    Jake Squid wrote:

    “Because it is a huge societal benefit to have educated people. Same thing goes for public childcare.”

    But you are assuming that it is NOT a social benefit to have children with a stay-at-home parent. This is precisely why so many people who believe it’s best for kids to have a parent available are not feminists. And I don’t mean people who think mom has to stay home – I’ve known families that switched back and forth; mom stayed home for some years while the kids were little and she was still breastfeeding, then she went back to work and dad was the stay-at-home parent. Some kids do just fine with day care, but some… don’t. If you have a kid with strong Asperger or Autistic traits, for instance, day care is often not the best choice, because the child finds changes most kids don’t even notice highly disruptive.

    Every family needs to work out what’s best for them, but to say that day care should be subsidized but stay-at-home parents should not is to say that day care is superior to stay-at-home parenting, and I flat don’t buy that. It may be that specific day cares are supperior to specific parents, but that day care is superior on the whole? I’m skeptical.

  13. 13
    shiloh says:

    Fred,

    I worked as an office temp for a decade, and I heard a *lot* of women say they’d rather be home with their kids, and listened in on many a mom trying to work out rides and such like for stuff her children wanted to be involved in that required them to get places while she was at work. And even more women, both at home and at work, who would like to work two or three days a week. I heard more than once about the twins who held down the same job without their boss knowing it (switching from day to day or over lunch hour) from women who wished they could work out the same deal somehow.

    I agree that if the government subsidizes something, you get more of it. But since so many women already feel “forced” to work when they want to be home, I can understand the resistance to day care subsidies by stay-at-home moms. This, in my experience, is a HUGE split between women who self-identify as feminist and women who don’t. I think it’s as big as abortion some places (or some ages?). I know a lot of women who agree with NOW on numerous fronts, but who disagree on the day-care thing, and so reject feminism as a whole.

  14. 14
    Decnavda says:

    That equal employment opportunity be guaranteed to all women, as well as men by insisting that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforce the prohibitions against sex discrimination in employment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the same vigor as it enforces the prohibitions against racial discrimination.

    Let me guess, white women wrote that, right? I suspect black women and Latinas would not have thought that was quite enough vigor…

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    Every family needs to work out what’s best for them, but to say that day care should be subsidized but stay-at-home parents should not is to say that day care is superior to stay-at-home parenting, and I flat don’t buy that.

    I can see it both ways. The thing is, having one or two stay-at-home parents is probably a bit better than day care, for the kid. But it’s MUCH more expensive to pay one person to take care of one child than it is to pay three people to take care of 15 chidren.

    Taxes pay for a public bus system, but they don’t pay for people who’d prefer to have private cars to have private cars. Does that say “buses are superior to private cars?” No, it doesn’t; it says that buses are much, much easier to afford than private cars. It says the government will pay for the minimum necessary, and if you want something better than the minimum then you have to pay for it yourself.

    I’m not sure that I agree with all that, but it’s a defensible reason to fully subsidize day care while not paying SAH parents a full salary for staying at home raising their children.

    That said, I do favor a number of policies to help SAH parents – from policies that allow them to build up Social Security while they’re SAHPs, to subsidization at a level that the state can reasonably afford ($2000 a year?).

    More radically, I like the idea of basic income, in which every person gets enough money every year to be able to afford living without working if they keep things very simple and affordable. That way, anyone could be a SAHP, so long as they were willing to accept a degree of non-abject poverty.

  16. 16
    Richard Bellamy says:

    I’m not sure that I agree with all that, but it’s a defensible reason to fully subsidize day care while not paying SAH parents a full salary for staying at home raising their children.

    Amp,

    I think you’re missing the point. The point isn’t “should we pay for my car payments, just like we pay for your bus tokens”? The point is “Should we give everyone bus money, or just people who ride the bus”? It’s one thing to say “We will only pay the minimum.” It is another to say “We will only pay the minimum to people who chose the minimum.”

    Assume, for example, that half of all women are SAHM and half work out of the home. Assume that child care costs $4,000 per year, while being a SAHM costs the foregone income of $40,000 per year.

    No one is saying that we should pay the SAHMs $40,000 per year. What we are saying is if the choice is (a) pay all child care costs ($4000) for the 50% of women who work out of the home and give the SAHMs nothing, or (b) pay half the day care costs ($2000) and use the other $2000 to subsidize the decision of the SAHM (perhaps by giving them IRA contributions), there is no reason to choose (a) unless you feel that child care is “better”.

    Point “V” advocates (a) without even considering that (b) might be more equitable to all women, including those who chose (or would chose) not to work.

  17. 17
    Josh Jasper says:

    shiloh

    Most of the conservative stuff I’ve read that’s against subsidized child care argues that this penalizes families who choose to have one parent at home – not only do those families end up sacrificing cash to be with their kids, but then they have to pay for two-income families.

    So what’s the alternative? Not paying for two income families who’ll end up probably needing tht much more public assistance? Sheesh. Morons.

    It’d be thrilling if people could get out of poverty on one income alone. But it can’t be done in most areas. So day care is essential to any parent who’s going to be working at low to minimum wages.

  18. 18
    shiloh says:

    Ampersand wrote:

    “I’m not sure that I agree with all that, but it’s a defensible reason to fully subsidize day care while not paying SAH parents a full salary for staying at home raising their children.”

    I’m not totally sure I agree with any standard subsidation for parents, but I do know I don’t agree with the idea of paying SAH parents a full salary for staying at home. I would pay stay-at-home families whatever the families using day-care got. Although honestly, at least in today’s market, really good day care from outside of the family already costs almost as much as a minimum wage job. But most bills I’ve seen suggested aren’t paying for the entire thing, just giving working parents some help.

    When I say single moms should get help even if they’re staying home, I’m really thinking welfare moms, not all single moms. The “you only get welfare if you spend 40 hours a week at a job or looking for one” kind of programs that were much pushed early in Bush’s first term. My problem is more with conservatives who argue that welfare moms shouldn’t be “allowed” to stay home, but who then turn around and say it’s better for kids to have an at-home parent. If they *really* believed it’s better for kids to have an at-home parent, and if they *really* aren’t prejudiced against poor people, then why is it so important for them to get single welfare moms a job? Particuarly when you consider the studies showing that most welfare moms are on welfare a short time, then either marry out of it or get back on their feet with their own job when their kids are a bit older.

    It’s the hypocrisy that gets me, not the particular issue. I’m enough of a libertarian that I tend toward not subsidising either day care or stay-at-home parents. Right now, for some parents, it’s actually cheaper to have a stay-at-home parent than to use day care. If day care were subsidized but staying at home to parent wasn’t, that would change, but would the benefit to children and working moms justify the cost to society as a whole? I’m not convinced it would.

    I’m also not capitalist enough to believe that only people who’re making and spending lots of money are contributing to society. As a stay-at-home mom, I can do a lot of volunteer stuff working moms can’t. When I worked as a temp, I was not a full-time worker and lived very cheaply, but again, I was free to do a lot of volunteer stuff I couldn’t have done if I worked forty hours a week every week. So I’m not sold on the idea that more working moms would improve society all that much, either. More working parents means fewer parents available for unpaid but nifty stuff.

    A lot of suburban working moms now trade off with stay-at-home moms so that the stay-at-home mom does errands for the working mom during the week, and the working mom does downtown/close to her work/otherwise easier for her stuff for the stay-at-home mom. I just don’t think we’ll ever have a day-care situation that’ll shuttle kids from place to place and keep track of class papers for little ones (info on special events or whatever) and even make treats for class potlucks and the like the way stay-at-home moms can. The fact that they’re unpaid doesn’t mean stay-at-home moms or dads don’t contribute to society – and daycare isn’t their only contribution.

  19. 19
    Robert says:

    What would be really helpful to single working parents is better tax treatment for part-time workers, and different incentive structures for employers who provide such jobs.

  20. 20
    AndiF says:

    What would be really helpful to single working parents is better tax treatment for part-time workers, and different incentive structures for employers who provide such jobs.

    Very much agree. But maybe even more important is affordable health insurance. I know people who could afford to go part-time or even leave their jobs to stay with the kids but who absolutely cannot afford to give up the health insurance their jobs provide.

  21. 21
    Richard Bellamy says:

    My problem is more with conservatives who argue that welfare moms shouldn’t be “allowed”? to stay home, but who then turn around and say it’s better for kids to have an at-home parent.

    I think several posters here are overselling the hypocracy of the Conservative position. I think if you asked them, most Conservatives would say that it is important for children to have diligent work and self-reliance modelled for them by a parent (“Dad”) and also that they should be raised by a stay at home parent (“Mom”).

    When there is only one parent, of course, there cannot be both at the same time. It is not hypocracy to favor one value over another when there is a single parent who must function as both “Mom” and “Dad.” Forcing the single parent to work forces her to do the “Dad” part, and still be “Mom” at night and on weekends. Favoring the SAHM model for single mothers would lead to no modelling of “Dad values.”

    I think that’s what Conservatives were going for when they pressed for “breaking the cycle of welfare” and stuff like that. If kids did not see a parent working, they wouldn’t value work, so would end up on welfare themselves.

  22. 22
    alsis38.9 says:

    ” If kids did not see a parent working, they wouldn’t value work, so would end up on welfare themselves. ”

    Because parenting itself could not possibly constitute “work.” Yeah, right.

  23. 23
    Richard Bellamy says:

    “Work” here was defined as “being self reliant.”

    Lots of things are actually work — raising children, writing poetry, volunteering time — that do model self-reliance. For a conservative, that is the important aspect.

  24. 24
    alsis38.9 says:

    [snort]

    Too bad conservatives aren’t so persnickity about, say, oil companies being self-reliant. Such selective worship of self-reliance is nothing but glorified bullying of the weak, as far as I’m concerned. Not that the so-called Democratic alternative is that much better these days.

  25. 25
    Robert says:

    Right. Conservatives believe in monkey see, monkey do – it’s very difficult for kids to acquire behaviors that they don’t actually see modelled. That’s why single-mom-on-welfare is problematic; not that it’s bad for a parent to be home with their kids, but because they miss out on having a job modeled for them. They can get the parenting modeled on weekends, so it’s marginally preferable for them to have mom (or whomever) working than staying home.

  26. 26
    Robert says:

    Such selective worship of self-reliance is nothing but glorified bullying of the weak, as far as I’m concerned.

    If we wanted to bully the weak, we’d support the kind of enervating garbage that liberals have spent the last fifty years trying to push onto the disadvantaged. The spineless and the hyperdependent are a hell of a lot easier to bully than people who have been required to learn to fend for themslves.

  27. 27
    Josh Jasper says:

    Robert:

    What would be really helpful to single working parents is better tax treatment for part-time workers, and different incentive structures for employers who provide such jobs.

    Even if they paid no taxes whatsoever, people earning minimum wage in many states are still living in poverty. Fixing it so the poor pay less taxes won’t fix things emough. Child care is simply too expensive at that income level.

    You could lower taxes on the poor *and* raise the minimum wage to a living wage, but that’s not a conservative solution to anything. Conservatives are anti-minimum wage.

  28. 28
    Josh Jasper says:

    If we wanted to bully the weak, we’d support the kind of enervating garbage that liberals have spent the last fifty years trying to push onto the disadvantaged. The spineless and the hyperdependent are a hell of a lot easier to bully than people who have been required to learn to fend for themslves.

    Because without public welfare programs, poor people would get off thier lazy asses and earn livable wages?

    Thank you *soooo* much for perpetuating the idiotic claim that the poor are held back by public assistance, and they’d be better off without it. Because it’s so easy to disprove.

  29. 29
    Robert says:

    OK. Disprove it. Although Amp might want us to take this somewhere else, since it doesn’t have much to do with feminist demands 40 years ago.

    The literature on iatrogenic social policy is pretty clear. I look forward to your singlehanded sociological revolution.

  30. 30
    shiloh says:

    Josh Jasper wrote:

    “It’d be thrilling if people could get out of poverty on one income alone. But it can’t be done in most areas. So day care is essential to any parent who’s going to be working at low to minimum wages.”

    I don’t think day care is always the best, or even a good, solution with two parent families that are on welfare/barely surviving financially. I’ve seen families with free daycare (church or family supplied day care) struggle for years with both parents working at dead end jobs. I’ve seen families with the same income that completely changed their approach to things so that one stayed home with the kids end up getting off the welfare/low paying job cycle. A stay-at-home parent can often “make” more than a low-paid working parent, both because the stay-at-home can do stuff like cook from scratch and because the stay-at-home doesn’t have to pay clothing and transportation costs to get to work.

    For that matter, a stay-at-home wife can make a difference. When hubby and I lived in the same apartment complex as my brother and sister-in-law, they made about twice what hubby did delivering pizzas. I wasn’t working, and none of us had no kids so day care wasn’t an issue – but hubby and I were still financially better off than they were. I could plan, so our time was used more efficiently, I could cook from scratch (cheaper than eating from boxes or eating fast food), I could research purchases so we got good deals on things, I could do all the errands and otherwise free hubby up so he could get done what I’d planned, I could volunteer or barter my time for various things (movies, paid membership to events, etc.).

    Especially once you have kids, sometimes one spouse going home takes enough stress off of the working spouse, and frees the worker from enough errands that if they also take some time off “parenting” they can get the education to get out of the low-paying job rut. Especially when you’re talking a correspondence course (which was the first step to get hubby to where he is now), if one spouse is home and can clear the space and remove the kids, it’s much easier for the other spouse to get their “homework” done in time.

    Knowledge is not just power. Knowledge is money. I’m not excited by arguments that we should get people out of poverty by getting them jobs – I think the most successful programs are those that take people out of the work world for six months to two years, while the people in question are trained, not just in specific careers, but in working skills. A lot of people who keep going from one dead-end, low-paying job to the next don’t honestly know *how* to work, or how to survive in the work world. They literally need to start from the ground up, learning how to dress, how to be prompt (which means planning skills), how to maintain focus, etc.

    And some know how to work but need the time to learn a particular skill – I’d rather we do that then just say, “Here’s some money for child care; off you go into yet another dead end job.” I don’t think provided day care makes that much difference in the long run for those who are on the edge to start with.

    Robert wrote;

    “If kids did not see a parent working, they wouldn’t value work, so would end up on welfare themselves.”

    While I’ll agree that conservatives value self-reliance – for that matter, *I* value self-reliance – I think this particular theory may backfire. Single-parent kids whose parent goes to work do not actually see a parent working. I never saw my dad working when he was *at work*. I saw both my parents working *at home*. My dad worked in the yard and built stuff. My mom worked in the house and the yard and did all the painting and papering and the like. Together they both designed landscape plans, remodeling plans (we moved every three years, on average, and made money each time). Mom set up schedules and menus and dad did budgetary planning.

    I can work hard not because I *saw* my parents work, but because they were home to make me work hard! We kids had to work around the house, we had to work to high standards, and we had to work on schedule. We learned to work not by seeing someone work, but by working. How is a single parent who works forty hours a week supposed to teach their kids to work? First off, they’re not there most of the time, which means call after call after call home trying to nag the kids into getting their chores done. Second, when the parent does get home, the parent’s already put in a full day of work and they’re tired. Third, if the parent thinks “going to work” is what constitutes working, they’re going to want to come home and play.

    It’s an extraordinary parent who can pass on values when they’re not there to teach them. Yes, there are extraordinary parents out there, and yes, some of them are single parents. But being able to hold down a job is no garuntee of passing on good work habits. I wonder if i’ll turn out like some families where the parents are gone all the time to church functions when the kids are little, whose kids grow up to hate church. How many of these kids will grow up to hate the working world, because on some level they believe a job took mom away when they wanted her? I dunno. But I do know having a working dad doesn’t mean the kids grow up to hold down good jobs, because that’s the case with many of my contemporaries.

    And again, there were the studies indicating the grand majority of single women on welfare married out of it, in which case one assumes the kids would get a working parent out of the deal one way or the other. Personally speaking, that’s been the case with most of the single moms I’ve known who were on welfare or used food stamps. The only single mom I’ve ever known who was on welfare for more than two or three years was my aunt, who was raised by two working parents .

    She is one reason why I suspect that having a mom who works out of the home in and of itself isn’t going to teach anyone to work. She had two working parents – she’s the youngest, so she’s the only one who was young when her mom worked – yet she’s also the only one of the four kids who can’t hold down a job. I don’t know if she resents that a job took her mom away, or if it was that no one was there to teach her to work, or if it’s something else entirely, but I do know that just having a working parent didn’t do the job with her.

  31. 31
    Jayanne says:

    “Let me guess, white women wrote that, right? I suspect black women and Latinas would not have thought that was quite enough vigor…”

    Right — bell hooks’ Ain’t I a Woman has some comments on stuff like that. (There was also an edginess because “sex” got added into the Act late, there are different stories as to why and how.)

    Also Kimberle Crenshaw — here she is –

    http://www.studentaffairs.columbia.edu/multicultural/diversity_conf/speakers.php

    wrote a really good piece on how laws against sex discrimination and race discrimination can end up leaving black women out (because employers hire black men); of course that isn’t always so but it was well worth showing (and she’s very good).

  32. 32
    La Lubu says:

    Funny, I can’t think of a single person I know with two working-away-from-home parents that became a layabout, while I can think of scads of folks (especially men) with stay-at-home moms who grew up to be deadbeats. However, I don’t think it had anything to do with their mother’s employment status, but with their father’s abusive alcoholic status.

    Look, shiloh…I can understand you not wanting your choice to be dismissed. But can you not understand that when you make casual statements like, “it’s an extraordinary person who can pass on values when they’re not there to teach them” feed the flames of the Mommy Wars? ‘Cuz I’m a single mother, and yes, I work forty hours a week. But it instantly gets my back up when some more privileged person insinuates that therefore I’m “not there” for my daughter, or “someone else” is raising my kid. Or even that I must be feeding her crap out of a box instead of home-cooked meals, because of course! that’s what single mothers do. Bullshit.

    See, the thing is, it’s not just parents that raise children. Ever. And there’s no “one true path” of Perfect Parenting.

  33. 33
    shiloh says:

    Sorry, La Lubu. You’re right; I was out of line. I wrote in a rush and conflated categories. I don’t think it’s extraordinary for all working moms to have kids who turn out to be good workers – but I do think it’s extraordinary for moms who were on welfare and then go into a work program and continue to work full time to have kids who turn out to be good workers. I’m sure I’m influenced by the fact that the people I’ve known who felt forced to go to work to get welfare did not have a good attitude about it. And maybe it depends on where people live, but in this neighborhood, at any rate, working moms basically echo the lady who told me the year we moved in that, “Once they’re teenagers, can’t do a thing with them.”

    One year we were the only family in the four blocks around us whose kids hadn’t had dealings with the police. At one point there were guys dealing drugs in the playground where the kids in daycare-for-all-ages played, at another point there were drug dealers in the house across the street. We’ve had drunks puking in our front yard, and every few years a house burns down because homeless people had broken in and gotten careless. The schools here are terrible, at least according to my neighbors (we homeschool).

    This is not a bad neighborhood. This is by no means a ghetto or a slum. We eventually get the dealers evicted, most people here are fine, a lot of our neighbors have been beyond fine and right into great. But it is a tough neighborhood for raising kids. And the people I’ve seen succeed here, in the sense of raising kids who end up self supporting, are the ones who tend to have a parent on the scene most of the time. I’m sure there are single working parents who succeed, but I haven’t seen them, so in my experience that’s extraordinary. But extraordinary in this neighborhood/in some areas, not in the world at large.

    So what I should have said is, if you are in an environment that doesn’t support your values, *then* it takes an extraordinary working parent to pass them on. And I should have added the caveat that this is only my observation, and not supported by any studies I know of. I certainly did not, by any means, intend to say that working parents are bad parents. But neither do I think the solution to “welfare moms” is to put them to work. Arguing against the idea that welfare moms who’re forced to work will result in working kids was the main point of my post, and I am sorry I made statements that implied I was talking about working parents as a whole. First by making unqualified statements, and then in wandering off into the digression about my aunt, I set it up so the reader’s logical conclusion is that I was discussing all working parents for the entire post, even though in my head I’d shifted ground somewhat when I was talking about my aunt (i.e., even when the situation is better, the conservative theory doesn’t always hold).

    The hazards of posting while doing half a dozen other things, I’m afraid. I apologize. I will try to re-read my posts more carefully in the future.

  34. 34
    Robert says:

    But neither do I think the solution to “welfare moms”? is to put them to work.

    I’m inclined to agree. There ought to be a better tradeoff available.

    Most welfare mothers are people with relatively low levels of life skills. There are many exceptions, of course. For those with low levels of skills, what’s really needed is training – but not training on how to run a cash register or help a customer. As has been noted by other posters, training in life lessons. How to show up for work on time. Doing a timecard. Keeping track of tips. (Hey, remember when your math teacher told you to pay attention because you would need these skills some day, and you laughed? She’s laughing now, if somewhat diffidently, since she just got the new lung put in.) How to schedule a babysitter. What numbers to call in an emergency. Managing bills. Balancing a checkbook. (Mrs. Johnson squeezes out another peal.)

    The skill problem is exacerbated for single welfare mothers. Most people lack some life skills; wise partner choice often finds us pairing up with people whose strengths complement our gaps and vice-versa. I do the checkbook. She figures out how many tomatoes we need for the chicken. Less checks bounce, fewer acres of tomatos have to die for naught. So skill deficits which, in happier circumstances, would never trouble folks end up being a real problem.

    My suggestion to ameliorate this rproblem is shockingly socialist and utopianistically libertarian: abolish nearly all public schools and issue every citizen enormous education vouchers, spendable at any school or tutor.

  35. 35
    reddecca says:

    Robert I find your statements about what single mothers on welfare mothers need offensive. I don’t know about America but I do know that in New Zealand, despite frequent political attacks, women on the Domestic Purposes Benefit spend less time on the benefit than any other benefit category, and are less likely to come back on the benefit. Any mother is one man and/or one job away from being a ‘welfare mom’.

    And a privatised eduction system is pretty much the opposite of socialism.

    The debate about childcare is interesting; in New Zealand feminists demanded both the availability of 24 hour childcare, and a motherhood wage. I don’t think that’s particularly practical under capitalism (I don’t like capitalism), but I do believe that valuing reproductive work has to be a central part of the feminist project, or else whatever else we do will be pretty meaningless.

    I don’t have my copy of Sisterhood is Powerful to hand – so I can’t quote, but people who have been involved with the Kos debate might find Marge Piercy’s ‘The Grand Coolie Dame’ interesting, although she is talking about men considerably more radical than shills for the Democrat party. I don’t know

  36. 36
    reddecca says:

    I hate it when I make a grand statement that sounds good, but then I realise it’s wrong:

    “Any mother is one man and/or one job away from being a ‘welfare mom’. ”

    Unless she’s independantly welfare.

    Doesn’t change my point though.

  37. 37
    La Lubu says:

    I find the characterization of welfare moms offensive, too. Not to mention wholly inaccurate. There is a small percentage of persons who fit that category of not having “life skills”, but the vast majority are simply working class folks who had a major life event impact them—and they had no (or an inadequate) financial safety net to catch them. The book “The Hidden Cost of Being African American” had a lot to say about this, in that we hear a lot of rhetoric about personal responsiblity from white middle class people, yet when a major life event (or two) lands on them with both feet, they have a strong safety net in the form of well-to-do parents to loan (or give) them money. Food for thought.

    I’ve had relatives on welfare, and in fact qualify for it myself right now, as I have run out of unemployment insurance (I’m not filing for it because there’s a job on the horizon, and I have some savings to tide me over—but it still ain’t easy, folks.). The majority of people who’ve been on welfare have two children or fewer, are skilled, and needed temporary help (two years or less). Factors that landed them there range from divorce to death to health problems to health problems of a child (or parent), and are exacerbated by the dearth of child care (which allows one to work), transportation difficulties, and availability of employment.

    Case example: several years ago, one of my aunts came to stay with me temporarily. She had four children, and left her violent, crack-addicted husband. Now, the typical conservative response is “why”d she marry a crack addict?” but the reality is that he didn’t always use crack, that at one time he actually held down a decent job just like she did. We all decided (la famiglia) that it was probably best for her to come here because her husband didn’t know me or where I lived (unlike all her sisters and brothers) and she would probably have the best luck finding a job in this area, as the medical industry is one of the largest employers. She is an RN whose specialty was kidney dialysis.

    Except, it didn’t work out that way. She was able to get TANF assistance and a Linc card (food stamps), but child care was a huge obstacle. She was offered a couple of jobs, but couldn’t obtain evening child care; the only place in town that offered it at the time was filled—-and besides, only her youngest met the age requirement (they don’t take children older than seven). I couldn’t provide her with evening child care, because at the time I was working second shift, and my job location changes periodically. I couldn’t provide her with the crucial stability she would need for child care. She ended up having to circulate between the homes of several relatives upstate, where the ex hounded her by phone and she lived in constant fear of him showing up at the door (thankfully, he was arrested and put in prison before that happened). It took her over a year before she was able to secure employment of the type that made her self-sufficient, even though she was a highly skilled professional with an excellent work history. Then, around six months later, she had an on-the-job injury involving her back. She was terminated by the employer, and off began the round of laywers, worker’s comp, and court. It literally took years before she gained financial stability.

    Now, if she had just chosen the “right” family to be born into, she wouldn’t have had to go through all that. She could just call up someone (usually Mommy or Daddy) and ask for some cash, and everything would be copasectic. Too bad for her that the family she was born into had spare beds and couches, but no cash, huh? Her scenario is far more typical of the “welfare mom” than the “no life skills” b.s. Of course, it’s more convenient for blaming the victim if you can say they “didn’t listen in school”. Criminy.

    shiloh, your neighborhood sounds a helluva lot like mine. So far, my solution has been to get involved with neighborhood activists that fight the drug dealers and slumlords (and I know exactly where you’re coming from when you say it’s not that bad of a neighborhood! Neither is mine!!). A common parental solution around here is to get kids involved in extracurriculars from an early age, to keep them off the streets. The Boys and Girls Club is pretty helpful in this; they run an after-school program at the neighborhood school. When I’m back to work (hopefully in a couple of weeks), my daughter will be taking dance and martial arts classes. If she has an interest in art as she gets older, she can take those classes too (the art association is in the neighborhood, and the kids’ drawing instructor is fabulous). Just about everybody I know, single or married, has their kids packed away somewhere, doing something, to keep them off the streets.

    But y’know, there’s a lot of ambivalance about that. We wish we could give our kids a little more free time. Folks are really pissed about the city not doing enough to rid the neighborhood of dope dealers and thieves. It’s as if the shit is allowed to happen here in order to keep it from going there, to the tonier neighborhoods. I guarantee you the drug customers are driving in from elsewhere. Arrgh. There’s a real spirit of vigilantism developing, because when the economy hit bottom, it both exacerbated the problem, and took away the ability of some people to leave the neighborhood. There’s more of a “fuck it, I’m going to fight” feeling. And don’t even get me started about the recent addition to the neighborhood—a halfway house for sex offenders (conveniently located close to two elementary schools, three daycare facilities, and a high school. Go figure.).

  38. 38
    alsis38.9 says:

    “Now, if she had just chosen the ‘right’ family to be born into, she wouldn’t have had to go through all that.”

    Well, the conservative mindset is all about making every event in life about an individual’s “choices,” so as to exonerate society as a whole from any obligation to assist the individual. It never seems to enter into the conservative mind that often the results of a “bad choice” are wayyyyyyyy the hell out of proportion to the act of the “bad choice” itself. I mean, honestly, why couldn’t that relative of La Lubu’s go to a fortune teller to make sure her partner wouldn’t end up smoking crack ? Since she wasn’t clairvoyant, how it is our problem if he ends up beating her to a pulp.

    [rolleyes]

    Of course, also missing from the conservative notion of debate on welfare and other social contract matters is that often “bad choices” are all the individual has to choose from in the first place. Anyway, that, too, is the individual’s fault and besides, if we helped her out enough so that she could buy herself a safe, comfortable dwelling away from her abuser, who would be left for us to feel superior to ? Ho hum.

    And I STILL want to know why conservatives never seem to think that, say, all those no-bid contracts dumped in Hailburton’s lap are bad for its character. [snicker] Don’t those no-bid contracts have a degrading effect on the other, smaller businesses that end up trying to mimic Haliburton ? “Monkey see, monkey do,” right ? Handouts are only bad for individuals, not corporations and the weasels who run them. Whatever.

  39. 39
    Q Grrl says:

    “How to show up for work on time. Doing a timecard. Keeping track of tips. ”

    So **this** is why women are poor, eh? Coulda fooled me.

    I think that instead of welfare, we should just put a tax on any and all words that spew forth from pompous, patronizing male chauvinists. I mean, talk about not obtaining life skills! (sarcasm)

  40. 40
    Robert says:

    Conservative ideas must seem awfully threatening, if the only way you are comfortable engaging them is to caricature and distort the concepts, and demonize their adherents.

    Rather than engage on this level, I will simply note that you are not responding to what I said or to what I think.

  41. 41
    alsis38.9 says:

    “So **this** is why women are poor, eh? Coulda fooled me. ”

    I wonder how many executives know how to do any of those things. Hell, my own department head doesn’t understand the computer program that she and her cohorts picked out for us peons six years ago. We deal with it –and its considerable drawbacks– every day, she doesn’t.

  42. 42
    GreyLadyBast says:

    Robert writes: “Conservative ideas must seem awfully threatening, if the only way you are comfortable engaging them is to caricature and distort the concepts, and demonize their adherents.

    Rather than engage on this level, I will simply note that you are not responding to what I said or to what I think. ”

    Funny how you didn’t manage to respond to La Lubu’s well thought out post, though. Looks from here like you can’t be bothered to defend your “thinking” unless it involves declaring yourself the victim and storming off in a huff.

    How very typical of the privileged. When they’re caught out, ignore it, attack, or walk off. Yeesh.

  43. 43
    Radfem says:

    “That equal employment opportunity be guaranteed to all women, as well as men by insisting that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforce the prohibitions against sex discrimination in employment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the same vigor as it enforces the prohibitions against racial discrimination.

    Let me guess, white women wrote that, right? I suspect black women and Latinas would not have thought that was quite enough vigor… ”

    Yeah, the language back then was problemic to say the least, b/c it pits racism and sexism against each other, when both of them were and continue to be serious problems in our society. To enfranchise all women means looking beyond ending sexism. It means addressing racism, homophobia, classism and as well. Sometimes that gets lost in the process when sexism is the sole focus. That, and the fact that White women sometimes focus on liberating themselves from sexism to the extent that it has negative consequences for women of color.

    The EEO didn’t really have any teeth in the 1960s so I don’t know how aggressive it could have been regarding racial discrimination in 1967, when this article was written. Most of its enforcement powers came in the early to mid 1970s(i.e. power to litigate, instituted in 1972). Even now, at least in the public sector, so many cities and county governments have learned how to circumvent or stall complaints filed by both men of color(alleging racism) and women(alleging racism and/or sexism) to make it a frustrating process.

    I like a lot of what was written.

    The ERA works in an equal society, in a patriarchal society, it makes me nervous, only b/c the text as written can be used to penalize women, by eliminating programs that help enfranchise them. If you think this can’t happen, you don’t live in California.

  44. 44
    Radfem says:

    “I find the characterization of welfare moms offensive, too. Not to mention wholly inaccurate. There is a small percentage of persons who fit that category of not having “life skills”?, but the vast majority are simply working class folks who had a major life event impact them…and they had no (or an inadequate) financial safety net to catch them”

    Me too. But hey, it’s easy and it makes some people feel better about themselves to do so.

  45. 45
    Robert says:

    Funny how you didn’t manage to respond to La Lubu’s well thought out post, though.

    La Lubu and I are talking about different populations (me, people who stayed on welfare for years, her, people who get on and off quickly) although I don’t know if she recognizes that. Since her response is a response that doesn’t address what I wrote, what would be the point of arguing back at her? I said what I wanted to say, she said what she wanted to say…it’s hardly walking out in a huff to leave her with the last word.

    I’d be glad to defend my thinking against all comers, but it would be somewhat rude of me to do it on someone else’s blog. And given the massive disconnect between my world view and the world view of most posters here, it would be a constant source of contention, misunderstandings, acrimony, etc. What’s the point? Nobody’s likely to convince me; I’m not likely to convince anyone else. So I try (not always successfully) to limit my responses and arguments to topics and posters where I or the respondent will gain something from the exchange; information about someone else’s point of view, clarification of some point of ideology where one side has only a hazy notion, and so on. Once the non sequiturs, generalizations, and deliberate miscomprehensions reach a certain level, there’s no possibility of that happening, and thus no point in burning Amp’s bandwidth.

    It is possible, however, that I have misjudged either Amp’s preferences for his blog, or the preferences of the people who are part of this virtual community. Is there a widespread demand that I stand and fight on every post, that I respond to everything written that I consider mistaken, dishonest, or misunderstood? If so, I imagine I can make the time.

  46. 46
    La Lubu says:

    No Robert, you’re the person who isn’t responding. Over here is a nice little ditty from the American Psychological Association busting welfare myths. Meanwhile, from both “conservative” and “liberal” sources, there’s tons of evidence that the best way to not only get single moms off of welfare, but to give them what it takes to stay off of welfare is….ta da! a bachelor’s degree! Imagine that.

    But does welfare reform (excuse me, welfare deform) address that? No, no it doesn’t. In fact, after welfare deform, attending college does not count toward the work requirement. This keeps welfare moms from being able to access most scholarships, which require full time attendance. If the goal is to actually help out women and their children on a permanent basis, this is built-in sabotage. However, if the goal is to insure a permanent underclass of undereducated, marginally employed “reserve” workers….it’s ingenious. And this program was created by conservatives of both Democratic and Republican ilk.

  47. 47
    Robert says:

    Yes, that’s a nice myth-busting article. Since I didn’t reference or rely on any of those myths, I’m not sure how it’s material.

    I’m sure that a bachelor’s degree would do a great service for many people on welfare. I’m also sure that many of those unfortunates who are persistently on welfare are a long way from being able to benefit from a college-oriented program. The skills they lack are more fundamental.

    That’s one reason I suggest a massive taxpayer-funded open-ended educational voucher that can be spent at any level of the educational process.

    But of course, engaging with that suggestion would not simultaneously permit the luxury of thinking that “conservatives” (represented by me, I suppose) don’t care about anybody but themselves.

  48. 48
    La Lubu says:

    I have a simpler solution: funding the public schools properly. In no way, shape or form do my dollars need to go towards funding religion—and let’s face it, most private schools are religious schools.

    Are you in favor of requiring all private schools who would accept taxpayer dollars under your plan to accept all students, as public schools must do? And abide by all anti-discrimination laws, as public schools must do? And get rid of all religious instruction during regular school hours?

  49. 49
    Radfem says:

    Didn’t studies show that the majority of vouchers in Ohio were issued to kids who hadn’t been to public school in at least two years, except perhaps kindergarten, if ever?

    link:(2001 study)
    http://www.policymattersohio.org/media/edweek.htm

    link(2003): http://www.nsba.org/site/doc.asp?TRACKID=&DID=32622&CID=896

    excerpt from second link:

    “Contrary to the image put forth by voucher proponents, especially during the Supreme Court’s review of the Cleveland voucher program, voucher students are less likely to be African-American or to qualify for the federal free lunch program when compared to their public school peers.

    Because of the selection (or lottery) process, higher income families, non-minority families, and families whose children already attend private schools disproportionately end up claiming vouchers.

    Many low-income families who receive a voucher via the lottery do not use the voucher, citing limited private school vacancies near their home, lack of special services (including special education and gifted programs) by participating private schools, or out-of-pocket expenses (including tuition not covered by the voucher).”

  50. 50
    La Lubu says:

    “Many low-income families who receive a voucher via the lottery do not use the voucher, citing limited private school vacancies near their home, lack of special services (including special education and gifted programs) by participating private schools, or out-of-pocket expenses (including tuition not covered by the voucher).”?

    Hey, they forgot lack of bus service, before/after school child care and/or incompatibility with parental work schedules!

  51. 51
    Robert says:

    I have a simpler solution: funding the public schools properly.

    First, that’s a solution to a different problem. We’re talking about adults who need help in fixing their lives now; you can make K12 the greatest system on earth and it doesn’t do squat for those folks.

    Second, the position that the public schools have a funding problem doesn’t hold up. There’s no connection between funding and school performance. “Give them more money” may be the right solution in some instances of genuine resource shortfalls, but it isn’t the systemic cure. Most schools have enough resources to get most of the job done.

    Are you in favor of requiring all private schools who would accept taxpayer dollars under your plan to accept all students, as public schools must do?

    No. Egalitarianism may be your kick; it isn’t mine. I’m certainly not going to ask the taxpayers to replicate strategies that are already known to fail; required-admit is a ticket to disaster for most schools.

    And abide by all anti-discrimination laws, as public schools must do?

    Require it? No. If those anti-discrimination laws are useful and produce good outcomes, then parents and students will support them. If the public schools that still have to follow those rules are doing their job, then they will attract parent and student support and will be able to stay in business.

    And get rid of all religious instruction during regular school hours?

    Certainly not. Your bias against religion is a legitimate point of view, but not one supported by the Constitution, which requires only fair (non-establishing) treatment of different faiths. That’s one reason that I make my proposal so wide-open; anybody who calls themselves a school and can attract students should have the chance in the marketplace, and that will protect all religious sensibilities by maximizing options and individual choice.

  52. 52
    La Lubu says:

    Sorry, I thought you had already changed the subject by bringing up vouchers. As for helping adults on welfare, there needs to be less of a “one-size-fits-all” gaze. The small portion of habitually unemployed, low-or-no skilled people (the ones you tried to paint as representing the majority of welfare recipients) need a different program than the seventy percent who use welfare temporarily. The sixteen percent who have a substance abuse problem need a different program than the majority who do not. A living wage would go a long way toward getting folks off of welfare.

    See, there isn’t really much difference between welfare recipients and those who aren’t—-except education. Welfare recipients don’t tend to have more than a high-school education, and that keeps them very vulnerable economically, since our economy no longer provides living wage jobs to people with high-school educations. Not earning a living wage means no hope of creating the type of savings that is able to tide one over the rough spots. There isn’t anything left at the end of the month to sock away for a rainy day.

    The biggest obstacle for most welfare moms is child care. Both affording it, and having access to it. And what happens when your child gets sick? Well, you have to leave work, that’s what. That keeps welfare moms on the job merry-go-round, as they lose jobs to take care of sick kids, then have to scramble to find another one.

    This has repercussions for the future, because our school systems are funded by property taxes. If you are well-to-do, you’ll have a well-funded school with all the trimmings for your children to attend. If you’re on the skids, the school your children will attend will have oversized classes, inexperienced teachers, out-of-date textbooks, and no amenities such as a school library (my city’s school district has no elementary school librarians—there’s no money in the budget). Folks who have the option of moving to the suburbs do so. The rest of us have to make do. This just exacerbates the problem.

    The biggest problem I have with vouchers, besides the fact that I think no tax dollars should ever go towards funding religious institutions (and do we really need more schools in this country that teach the Earth is only 5000 years old and that dinosaurs died in the Flood?), is that it will amplify the trend toward economic segregation that is already visible and damaging. Not to mention the racial re-segration of schools.

    Come to think of it, there wasn’t all this frothing at the mouth about public schools until they were desegregated (which in a lot of Northern cities didn’t take place until the mid-late seventies). Not a coincidence.

  53. 53
    alsis38.9 says:

    “A living wage would go a long way toward getting folks off of welfare.”

    Yes, so would a thirty-hour work week with a living wage. So would a return to the pre-Reagan notion of affordable college tuition.

    But to rally for a living wage requires challenging the powerful –who are still mostly male. It just isn’t as simple and fun as demonstrating your compassion [sic] by bullying women and kids. :/ Besides, without a permanent underclass, whose gonna’ clean house off the books for all those “compassionate conservatives”? Tsk.

  54. 54
    Robert says:

    he small portion of habitually unemployed, low-or-no skilled people (the ones you tried to paint as representing the majority of welfare recipients)

    Yes, I said that most welfare mothers are people with relatively low levels of life skills. After which you and several other people went apeshit about how incredibly offensive this statement is. And then YOU said:

    See, there isn’t really much difference between welfare recipients and those who aren’t…-except education

    Would you mind explaining the difference between my “they need more skills” assessment, and your “they need more education” assessment? ‘Cause from where I sit, we said the same damn thing, but it’s offensive when I said it.

    In my view, one of the main reasons for the marginalization of left-wing voices in social policy debates has been the impossibility of discussing the facts on the ground with such folks. When you can’t have a discussion about facts with folks without it turning into personal attacks – even when the facts being discussed are agreed upon by all parties – then those folks are pretty much dead weight in any actual attempt to set policy. Liberals and conservatives can sit down at a table and talk about the problems with welfare and work out solutions – but radicals apparently won’t be able to do that.

    Small wonder that its the liberals and conservatives who ended up setting the terms for the discussion and making the decision, then.

  55. 55
    noodles says:

    Robert you were talking about basic life skills, you specifically said you weren’t talking of job training but basic life training. You mentioned ‘skills’ such as being able to turn up on time for work, knowing what numbers to call in an emergency, and being able to tell how many tomatoes you need for dinner… I’m pretty sure of two things: a) they don’t teach that in any school; b) the people who don’t even know what 911 is for are not called “people on welfare”. They’re called idiots. That’s probably why your particular choice of examples for “life skills” sounded offensive to some commenters.

    Oh, and you’re ot sitting down at a table discussing policies to enforce. You’re just discussing things on the internet. No laws have ever been passed and no policies have ever been enacted out of a blog thread.

    Hope that helps. If you need more help with your reading skills, let me know.

  56. 56
    alsis38.9 says:

    “In my view, one of the main reasons for the marginalization of left-wing voices in social policy debates has been the impossibility of discussing the facts on the ground with such folks.”

    Why don’t you get down off your pulpit/cross long enough to specifiy exactly what in this thread you have shared with us that is any more “fact-based” than what your opponents have written ?

  57. 57
    Robert says:

    Alsis, I am not making a claim that my statements are more fact-based than those of others. I am making a claim that discussion of facts is impossible with people who assign personal morality to discussions of empirical reality. This was very clear. And you wonder why working politicians on the leftish side of things don’t want to address your issues?

    Noodles, there is certainly room for disagreement about which skills people in bad economic circumstances are lacking, just as there is room for disagreement about which external conditions might be holding them back. But there is agreement that skills are lacking, and agreement that there are external conditions in play. You note “the people who don’t even know what 911 is for are not called “people on welfare”?. They’re called idiots…” – is it your serious contention that people who don’t know what 911 is for are less represented on the welfare rolls than people who are more informed? If that is your contention, then your input to any serious policy discussion is going to be a negative one; you’re out of touch with reality. If that’s not your contention, then what’s your point?

    It would be nice if everyone on welfare were a near-college grad who divided their time between helping the homeless and tutoring neighborhood children in algebra. But that isn’t the reality. The reality is that a lot of people on welfare lack basic skills. Getting outraged that people have the temerity to notice this isn’t productive.

    You have a conservative with very modest but real connections to power who wants to talk solutions, and get some input from the utterly disenfranchised radical wing. Do you want to talk solutions, or do you prefer to just shout louder so that your bubble chamber doesn’t get contaminated with the bad thoughts?

  58. 58
    alsis38.9 says:

    “I am making a claim that discussion of facts is impossible with people who assign personal morality to discussions of empirical reality.”

    You can pretend not to be assigning your own personal morality in much the same way that others do, but it’s obvious to anyone with half an eye that you do exactly that. When folks like La Lubu explain to you why what works in your particular class and social sphere — and through your own male-centered prism with which you view reality– might not work for others, you ignore or dismiss them. So go on and pretend you’re the Ambassador Spock of political discourse, since it means so much to you, but don’t expect the rest of us to constantly humor you while you do it.

    “This was very clear. And you wonder why working politicians on the leftish side of things don’t want to address your issues?”

    Actually, they don’t want to address these issues for the same reason you don’t want to. The status quo keeps them superior to millions of others. They are insulated and protected, with minimal effort, from the worst outcomes of their decisions and practices. So naturally, they move heaven and earth to keep the status quo in place, while they cloak their selfishness and myopia in buzz-words like “compassion,” “choice,” what have you… Again, it’s easy enough to see, once a person opens her eyes.

  59. 59
    Robert says:

    So go on and pretend you’re the Ambassador Spock of political discourse

    Live 200 years and have sex 15 times? Pass.

    I’ll be the James T. Kirk of political discourse, instead.

  60. 60
    alsis38.9 says:

    Try to find a velour shirt long enough to hide your gut. :/

  61. 61
    Robert says:

    The length is easy, what’s hard is finding a shirt that rips when you start having a fight, but holds up under day to day wear. It’s a delicate balance!

    (Fifty quatloos on the newcomers!)

  62. 62
    Pseudo-Adrienne says:

    Live 200 years and have sex 15 times?

    Only 15 times in 20o years?! Poor Mister Spock. That explains a lot.

  63. 63
    noodles says:

    It would be nice if everyone on welfare were a near-college grad who divided their time between helping the homeless and tutoring neighborhood children in algebra. But that isn’t the reality. The reality is that a lot of people on welfare lack basic skills. Getting outraged that people have the temerity to notice this isn’t productive

    Did anyone even suggest that to be able to find a job and not live on welfare, one has to be a near-college grad?

    You are also mistaken on the reason people found your description of people on welfare outrageous. Well at least, speaking for myself, I didn’t even find it outrageous or offensive, but so clichéd and reductive it approaches absurd.

    Again, besides the “knowing which numbers to call in case of emergency”, and knowing you have to show up in time for work appointments, you did mention things like “figuring out how many tomatoes we need for the chicken” so that “fewer acres of tomatos have to die for naught”. You genuinely don’t see why it looked like you were taking the piss?

    But let’s take that statement seriously, well the people who routinely buy a lot more tomatoes – or chicken, or milk, or eggs, or any food that deteriorates if not consumed – than they’ll end up using are people who *do* have money to throw away and don’t mind that they end up throwing away food every week because it’s rotten or past its sell by date and they haven’t eaten it yet. It’s not a matter of “skills”, it’s a matter of luxury. Do you genuinely think welfare grants that kind of luxury? Is that your idea of being in touch with reality?

    As for showing up late for work appointments, do you genuinely think that is a matter of *not knowing*, ie. lacking the cognitive capacity or the social skill or acquired information via training to know you’re expected to show up at an appointment at the time set? Not other reasons? Have you never known or heard of people with higher education and maybe even from wealthy families who showed up late at an appointment? Come on…

    You were equating complete idiocy or ineptness or carelessness and lack of discipline with being on welfare. That’s quite different from lacking skills, be they job skills or social skills.

    For the record, I find nothing offensive in saying someone is unskilled if they are. Duh. But that’s not what you were saying, first because of that peculiar notion of “basic skills” you picked, and secondly because you picked that as the reason why people are on welfare.

    You also deliberately chose to ignore factors that go beyond the individual, external factors and circumstances.

    I’ll give you an example. My dad started working as an electrician, then moved on to work for a big multinational construction company, not doing the manual work on site, he was working in the offices, good position and good salary, well at least for his level of skills and standard of living. Then the company closed down those offices and laid off a lot of people, and my dad ended up on welfare for a whole year. And good thing my mom had a job. Dad also had the bad luck of getting a severe life-threatening illness that very same year so search of another job was delayed. That’s one case where ending up on welfare is not up to skills, but external circumstances.

    Even when it comes to skills, well, getting a job is not exclusively a simple matter of having the skills. Wish it were so. It doesn’t work like that even for college graduates! You don’t automatically get a job because of education or job training, unless it’s a specific training programme where the job placement is already part of the programme. You don’t automatically get a job even if you’re the smartest savviest person in terms of life and social skills that have nothing to do with education. There’s such a thing as context, social and economic, that affects employment rates. It’s not *all* about the individual.

    Any welfare programme that makes sense has to aim at (and even require) work placement and has to distinguish between different cases to offer targeted approaches, and to avoid people taking advantage of the system and make it less efficient. I don’t see welfare as a kind of charity handout or disability pension (which is a whole other matter). I see it as a means, not an end.

    By the way, I also do think it is better for a single mother to work than stay at home on welfare (which perhaps is not always a choice?) – but there’s a few things that need to be added to that sentence: work *and* have access to child care facilities. What point V in the post says. That is going to benefit the children of both single mothers and single fathers and those who live with a partner.

    Also, I don’t think the reason a working single parent is better for the child is the “model” effect — children do not live in a shell where they only see their parents’ behaviour and copy it mindlessly when they’re adults. If anything, being born to a poorer family can give you much more of an incentive to achieve something better. But life is not all about being driven or being good at competition or achievement. There are a lot of unpredictable variables that have nothing to do with ability or drive to succeed or even education or training. It’s not a linear process and you just can’t tell which children are going to be more likely to do good, based on their parents behaviour. The principle of child care access is a good principle on itself, regardless of the specific situation of the parent and children.

  64. 64
    AndiF says:

    Robert,

    I don’t know how much time you’ve spent with people on welfare but your experiences don’t seem to be much like mine. Yes, some of these people have and continue to make bad choices but many of them are simply consumed by the struggle to survive poverty. Most of the welfare mothers I’ve known were quite savvy and had solid life skills like figuring out to get where they need to get when they need to get there on public transportation, trying to make food stamps stretch, keeping the kids in school and clothes and out of the hands of gangs, drug dealers, and pimps, searching for the holy grail (which would be getting into section 8 housing). These things interfered with their job-getting and holding skills a lot more than not knowing how to do a timecard.

    Oh and the private non-profit organization in my county that was running an adult literacy program just announced that they were closing down because they lost their grant due to federal cuts in the adult literacy program.