Monday, April 25, 2011

A trip down memory lane

W. James Antle III provides some much-needed perspective on the budget debate and proposed spending cuts:
Before a Republican Congress passed and President Clinton signed welfare reform, Democratic politicians and liberal activists casually tossed around dire predictions of a million additional children being consigned to poverty. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Was.) said the bill would "put 1.5 million to 2.5 million children into poverty" within two years of becoming law.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) warned that welfare reform "children hungry and homeless... begging for money, begging for food, and even at eight and nine years old engaging in prostitution."

Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.) called it an "abomination" and imagined it could lead to children being sold into slavery. Marian Wright Edelman wrote contemptuously of the need to reduce spending: "It is nonsense for congressional leaders to argue that they are protecting children from a future debt children did not create by destroying the vital laws and investments children need to live, learn, and grow today."

Replace Aid to Families with Dependent Children -- welfare as we knew it -- with a block grant to the states and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) said we could expect children to seek warmth by sleeping on sewer grates: "We will say, 'Why are these children sleeping on grates? Why are they being picked up in the morning frozen? Why are they scrambling? Why are they horrible to each other, a menace to all, most importantly to themselves?'"

Moynihan, who should have known better, worried that even his fellow Democrats were "literally arranging flowers on the coffin of the provision for children in the Social Security Act."

Needless to say, none of this actually happened. Welfare reform was not without its flaws, but after it was enacted caseloads were reduced by 57 percent in ten years and child poverty dropped by 1 percent per year for the first five years. Child poverty rates remain below their pre-1996 levels despite a severe economic downturn and lackluster post-recession job growth.
We've been down this road before. Leftist doom-mongering about reductions in the size of government are utterly predictable, but not at all credible.

Update: More historical perspective, in graphical form, from John Taylor:

Enough said.

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