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April 8 (the limits of welfare to work)

The New York Times has an article exploring the limits of welfare to work during periods of economic contraction, enemic growth, millions of lost jobs, etc. In it, we read that many states have done what the law stated they had to do--drop folks from welfare when their time limits expired. I remember reading an article from about ten years ago, on how other states were quietly shifting welfare recipients to other kinds of aid to maintain some type semblance of humanity. I once described this to students in a freshman English class, and some had looks of disbelief--aghast that the states would defy their will, offend the "taxpayer," and break the spirit of the law. I suspect others of course didn't see it that way, but for whatever reason, they weren't the ones to speak out in that class.

Although it was partly rationalization because on Tuesdays I was working twelve-hour shifts that could stretch to fifteen if I found an "up" while walking the lot in the p.m., the 1996 general election was the only Presidential one that I've been eligible for but didn't vote in. On the one hand, it seemed almost certain that Clinton would win, and on the other, I was angry at the welfare-to-work law. At the time, to me, it seemed like the worst kind of inhumanity because it clearly was the kind of country where college grads could easily be forced into sales and leasing of automobiles if they hoped to move off their parents dime and pay their student loans on time.

And then the economy began to improve dramatically, and like so many others, I increasingly got lost in my own concerns and surviving. It often seems like America necessitates a careerism that can leave some of our most successful citizens with no idea of what's going on in this world. In that way, it's a scary place.

Happy holidays.

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