In 1996, President Bill Clinton and the Congress undertook a reform effort to redesign the welfare system from one that many believed trapped people in a cycle of dependence, to one, that in the President’s words, would give people “a … Continue reading →
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman Mars. Twenty years ago back and ninety ninety six, a crowd of Reporters and politicians gathered in the White House rose by President Bill Clinton, stepped up to the podium and announced that he was signing a landmark bill they would dramatically redesign welfare sixteen billion dollar government program that millions of poor Americans relied on four basic support. Today we are getting welfare, as we know in this, as well as other press conferences. Clinton made it clear that a central tenet to his redesign was the idea of welfare to work for foremost. It should the about moving people from welfare work. This new reform said that, in order to collect welfare, recipients would need to work at a job to trade form a broken system. The traps too, Many people in the cycle of defendants to one
and emphasizes work and independence to give people on welfare a chance to draw a paycheck welfare issues, this whole idea of a paycheck, not a welfare check work, not welfare, its relatively familiar to us now, but there's a guy complicated backstory behind how it came to be at the centre of the reforms that President Clinton Pass that day in nineteen thirty, six reform that still affect many people. Today, last twenty years, the number of families living in deep poverty on less than two dollars a day is rising Most of them don't receive welfare. That's crazy clerk! The senior correspondent for marketplaces, wealth in poverty, Dusk She has been researching the history of welfare reform for podcast series called the uncertain our in today were presented an adaptation of the first episode from that series. That's, but a guy who basically pioneered the work, not welfare reform, a guy, who came to be known as the magic.
Eurocrat. My name is Lawrence tones and Larry. For short, Larry is: seventy. Nine retired he's got close cropped white hair brush shoulders and a serious face with one of those army general smiles that never quite turns up at the edges. Today, Larry lives in a beach town in California, where he drives around in a green Cadillac Seville that has a brass frame around the license plate and etched into the brass. It says if, worse, if you work, Larry loves work. Just the idea of it here. A binder full of work, ethic slogans that he's collected over the years, the reserve from famous quotes from from all for the world alphabetically eyes by factor. There are some want to show you. He starts with a Aristotle, suggested, their happiness results from meaningful activity
all the way down to Tee Tolstoy declared the duty of each man earns living by the sweat of his brow and cows. Hands makes independent virtuous man that's a little sexist, but the point is very valid just as much as Larry Townsend, loves the idea of hard work. He hates welfare broken I've seen so much damage to They have no hope for a better future. They are setting a good enough They setting a good example for their children. Once when Larry was working in county government, he noticed two children in the welfare office waiting room waiting for their mom and they were pretending to play welfare. One of the children was playing the welfare recipient, the other. One was state playing the eligibility worker. Now you tell me the art learning how to get on welfare like they were like you,
like kids, would play house laying playing house in the waiting room while their mother was in the office with the eligibility worker now they are catching on about the concept of getting on welfare. Now that one hurt me and then the story about the two women he says he overheard and an elevator once and this one should do the other one of my oldest Charles Gonna become eighty, and I won't get welfare benefits enough. I need to get pregnant. These are the kind of anecdotes get told and retold among critics of welfare individual moments that may not be typical of welfare recipients in general, but for Chris ex these stories represent all the failings of the system, but in the late nineteenth eighties, Larry suddenly found himself in a position to change welfare in a big way, because he became the head of a welfare department in a big, suburban county east of Allay called riverside? The way he saw it his role, or in the welfare office was to invade. Carter
That was my attitude since, lesson here since the good depression when the programme was first signed into law, welfare had worked we simply, at least in theory, if you are a single parent, if your family was poor enough and if you met a few other technical requirements, you qualified for Welfare check end of story. There was little dictation that mothers would work This is James Rikiu, a sociologist who's been studying welfare programmes for most of his career and he's talking about this crazy, flip flop that happened over the years around HU, we thought deserved welfare when the protein began. The whole point was to help single mothers. Mostly widows at the time make ends meat, so they could stay out of the workforce focused on.
Raising their kids into productive citizens, but attitudes began to change, particularly in the nineteen seventies and early eighties. Part of it had to do with the fact that more middle class mothers were entering the workforce so somewhere asking the question: what about mothers on welfare shouldn't? They have jobs to Joe. That's a labour economists at Duke, and he says well, most welfare moms did have jobs at least on and off. There was this persistent group of largely single mothers, who stayed on welfare for long periods of time, they didn't work and arguably had a life of dependence on welfare and that small, but persistent group of completely dependent welfare recipients started to get off. This focus, there's a lot of equity. The potential. There is certainly a lot of attention in policy circles to this quote: problem of welfare dependents, The view was that you know what's key to changing. This was to make changes in the welfare system which encourage people to work, but then
question was: how out in the suburbs of Riverside California Italians and had some ideas and his county got a special waiver from state and federal authorities to try some of those ideas out. I was absolutely stern. There was a given freedom to design a programme to implement a programme higher the staff that are needed. I felt like also honour an opportunity and a rich, to change the concept of welfare. Larry's changes happened under a California pilot Programme, called gain short for greater avenues for independence. So at the time of the eighties there was these standard welfare approach which was like you, make less than x amount and you go over check every month and they were too who basic avenues counties could take to get more of their welfare families closer to financial independence. One,
Was the education and training rout? The idea here was to help poor single moms who'd often dropped out of high school to get more skills, maybe a g d to fare better on the job market, but down in Riverside Larry, did not have much patience for that approach. His approach, much simpler, get people into a job immediately. Just don't worry about. Are you trained enough for you? Do you have enough education just get that job? We're not going to train you for years, we're not going to show you the school for years, we're going to show you how to find a job, no vocational training or g D just get in the workforce. Asap anyway, you can. You can still hear the conviction and Larry's voice talking about this programme. Almost thirty years later. Listen to it
to find a job, and the point wasn't to find a perfect job or even a well paying job. At least your foot is in the door and how will you succeed from there is up to you with an important catch? if you do not cooperate with us, we will take you off of welfare, your child, It will still get money from us, but you won't to carry. Out his jobs first plan Larry restructured, his welfare office to run job search classes and job clubs for welfare recipients James. Ricky oh and Joe Huts, the sociologist and the economist we heard from a minute ago both sat in on some of riverside job clubs and they left an impression. Imagine people sitting in the South our goal chairs in a circle there'd be a job LAB leader, who would talk about what it means to work. How to fight and a job patio
approach. Potential employers, haughty, addressed dealing with testy supervisors Eventually, the people on welfare would be handed a list of job leaves and a telephone and told to start calling around and asking for jobs. Here's Joe that's again, and there's a wifi right, so somebody would get us, you know an interview and it would go up on the board and everybody now. But bears points in cheer write. This is like going to eat these weight. Watcher meetings, where you know I lost fifteen pounds right. I got a job offer and that sense of this is exciting. We're doing something. That's really important and novel. You could He had an impact on the recipients who were involved in these job clubs, but those job, clubs, the chairs and the white boards, and await watchers of I've. They were just the beginning of Larry's plans for the welfare recipients of Riverside Larry, says His vision was a much bigger in fact will offer. Every ship is with a positive attitude with the
a beauty and glory of work, and so I became turn up like a preacher for work. This was a campaign to change hearts and minds and get people excited about getting a job which involved a lot of marketing. Booklets posters boards full of welfare to work, slogans, suggestions on your back, but not your wishbone action terms, dreams into realities get into gear start a career. The messages were printed on bumper stickers to catch the eye of a welfare recipient walking through the Welfare office parking lot on buttons, that the welfare intake worker is would pinned to their lapels personally aims at nothing, has targeted can't made out of honest labour, wait for your ship to command swim out to it, but even if you somehow miss these messages on the bumper sticker is unknown, posters and pins and outside of on the loaves it was. Especially hard to measure this. I thought music is variants
rational form of communication and so very made. This cd called work makes the difference to use two thousand dollars of taxpayers, money, no authorization to record it forgets that might get fired, but he didn't. This is the first track the title track? Will you where lay the music was made to be played and welfare waiting rooms over the Pierre systems to be the whole. The music When people called up the welfare offices, it would play Green Voicemail greetings I have to say, since I first heard me songs. I cannot get them out of my head. There are ten.
Songs in all different John rose to appeal to different demographics. Larry says: there's a song that features a whole rap section and then there's a song with a kind of slow reggae jam together, so don't worry about, and then there a Jazzy Andrews sisters, forty style thing, that's very hard not to snap your fingers day to day. I do but were not done yet. There are also
different versions of a song called feel so good to have it country Urban Contemporary to have a job and for the spanish speaking audience. In all these arms were written composed produced in recorded by the staff of the Department of public social services or PS, ass which was the welfare department that Larry Townsend ran. What happened? Was he sent Animal a paper memo yet paper level. It was all staff. Member he's Rogers was working in the mailroom of GPS S back then. His job, was to send out the welfare checks that, according to one of the songs, he would later right. Welfare received hence, should be envisioning in their past them
oh from Larry's said he was looking for volunteers to take some of the work ethic slogans, he'd collected and put them to Muse Turn them into songs It was a musician. The mailroom thing was just as day job, so when he saw this all sat memo, he was like. Oh, I get a chance to do my thing. Let me just go up and whip, something out, and then submitted to Larry Townsend, so afterward Keith sketched out a melody, he still remembers. It will the first issue where Reunion not a way of life, and he sent a demo over to Larry. I loved it. May I'm up in his office easy now, each year not doing male right now, you're you're gonna be a producer. You're gonna produce my c d, and am I what six months in the studio later, with two thousand dollars of taxpayers, money and musical contributions from the male room on up through county social workers, and they
and their city. It's worth pointing out that before he had worked in the mail room. Keith had Lebanon government assistance himself back when he is struggling to make it as a musician and in between gigs yeah, I dont mean I receive full stamps, you know, but that was just something that I needed until I became gainfully employed. I was not anything and I wanted depend upon. It was temporary, not a way of life. For all. I know it wasn't whale I've trial above food stamps. Keith was already on board with the message that getting a job was important and he was game to spread. The word Vienna you here in a year and be imports all Vienna system near and then you might call some of the welfare offices in unity, put your analogy: welfare as attempt by way of life, and I'm taking you know you play certain things over and over again it does have a subliminal effect I guess what I want to find a job
and whether it was the songs themselves or the buttons, the billboards, the bumper stickers, the job clubs or the jobs first strategy altogether. Somehow Larry's play and in riverside seemed to work in a in the work programme. Most impressive. We have ever seen in the welfare of the work programme of the that I've. This is socio just James Ricky again, he was actually hired by the government to study Riverside jobs First Programme, his team. Followed the families who participated tracked, what happened to them for five years and compared that too? What happened to families who stayed on the plain old welfare programme, where they just got checks no job club, Sir Job Pep talks turns out the ones who participated in the jobs first programmes. Five years later,
They were doing way better. On average had earnings that were forty two percent higher than those who were assigned to the control group. They were made forty two per cent more money than the families who hadn't gotten any of the jobs first stuff, James also compares the people who went through the jobs First programming riverside to people who lived in other parts of the state that emphasised education first and the Riverside jobs First group came out on top in that comparison to five years later they were employed more and had higher wages than the education first group, and because of this Larry towns and the director became a kind of
star in this narrow world of welfare reform, but this narrow world of welfare reform was about to widen and play a very big rule on the national States and Larry's get a job. Any job approach for welfare recipients became known as riverside miracle. The riverside miracle, the Riverside Department of Social Services, received in a word from the Harvard Kennedy School government and the riverside miracle, got a lot of attention on the National NEWS and on just read a few quotes here from the New York Times. No programme has done as much to raise the earnings of people on welfare as one here in Riverside County and from Allay Times Riverside is pursuing a notion so obvious as to be stupefying. If you want to get people off welfare stay on their backs until they get a job, they call me the magic
rather shocked. Together it was an editorial a whole page. I picture of the lower. The weary has a framed copy of the editorial hanging in his house, but in all the news coverage Larry's thoughts about the welfare system sometimes revealed a more aggressive tone than the one you here and those songs in one hour, from ninety ninety three. He says that every time and he sees a bag lady on the street, he wonders If it's a mother on welfare who quote hit the men, Oswald, who can no longer reproduce and get money to support herself. I asked him about this quote: please don't well. It is out in the public record, I just want to give you not pretended tat. The record yards ago. I dont about the deed, clarify it further. Since we're going into history. You know we depart part. This whole story is about the history of the EU. Done your job in that regard.
Of his clearly did not want to talk about this. I still wanted to know whether he ever worried some of his welfare to work. Rhetoric might be hurtful candy people there isn't this tricky territory. It seems like in discussions around this, where There can be staring the types that come up or feelings of judgment, the examples that that talks about the result. Concept where I was concerned about, ladies getting into an unfortunate situation, and nobody ever helped them to discover how good they are an that's all he wanted to say regardless of what you think about Larry's opinion of work and work ethics and how that apply, as to whose on welfare and why the fact is visa. Indians were widely embraced twenty years ago. Eventually Larry Story, his riverside miracle, starting any noticed and political arenas. The result
It's in riverside influence thinking among Republicans and Democrats you will come to order is one of a continuing series. And in the years leading up to welfare reform. Larry flew to Washington DC five different times to testify before Congress, as they debated how to restructure this some sixteen billion dollar programme. We have heard anything from the witnesses to date. It is work, work, work that will work, better than anything else, we might consider who attempt to Europe but we would regard as a failure above a welfare of the United States, that's republican, Senator Bob Packwood from Oregon and nineteen. Ninety five just a year before welfare reform legislation would be signed into law pack eyes. The riverside miracle would be the key to fixing welfare mister lorry. Towns, a news, the director of the Department of public social services. In riverside vanity of standing success. Examples in the country
and their larry was in a dark suit, with a big blue button pinned to his lapel that read so sufficiency is supporting yourself. Like your german backward Mary told, the senators all about his welfare to work programme and riverside all the way. Is he had enlisted his staff to promote it. You ve all Riverside County in nobody, answers the phone or get a work ethic message we have investors in the waiting room. We have produced a compact disc, with work ethic music, we identify buried, match work, ethic music. Now what we found commercial were produced, a compact desk in and we started, a new singing group felt the ethics
you think I will I always off work. We go where everybody, but eventually the latter would ideas and the senators would come to take Larry's methods and philosophy, just as seriously as he did Larry's dismissal of educating welfare recipients as a waste of money and time his emphasis on getting a job any jobs. Both those ideas show up in various ways in the welfare reform bill that Congress Past and President Clinton signed in ninety ninety six, it had a name that Larry would approve of the personal responsibility and work opportunity. Reconciliation act, a few years after this change was made. It came to light the thing that all of this reform was based on the riverside miracle. It turned out It wasn't a miracle, after all, be joy let's get a job approach, was it the magic fix that everyone wanted it to be? Unfortunately, it wasn't that simple
in the early two thousands Joe huts, the Duke economist here, Two other researchers checked back in on what had happened to the welfare recipients. Who'd gone through the Riverside job First programme, and they impaired their circumstances to folks had gone through other programmes and counties like Allay and Alameda that, but four based on education and training, and what we found was tat. Yes, indeed, work first work better in the first few years out of the treatment, but by years seven and eight and nine actually the effect reversed, meaning the p had gotten more education, more skills, training, rather and being told with buttons and songs and slogans to just get a job any job. They were doing better. There were more like: later be stolen work. They were making slightly more money and less likely to return to welfare. The effects of the riverside miracle had all but disappeared
juices the riverside miracle has less to do with Larry's work, first tactics and more to do with the fact that in rivers I'm back, then there was a booming job market for low skilled workers. Plan doesnt work in places where there are a lot of low skilled jobs. When there are jobs out there, you can have all the job comes. You want, you can have an calling as many employers as you want. It's not going to change the fact that there are no jobs and by the late Ninetys there is very very little of this kind of labour, even in riverside it turns a better name for the riverside miracle might have been it's not as catchy about. Maybe it something like the river besides short term spike in the labour market. That was a fluke and Howard Borgia, allowed more jobs for awhile between ligament yet, but that probably not going to get a sound bite. The riverside miracle didn't look like a miracle. Nine years later, it didn't put
people on a trajectory that was going to last a lifetime. But this discovery that may be climbing out of poverty and an unpredictable economy it's more than job clubs and songs that did not? get the same kind of media play as the riverside a miracle had gotten, because in the meantime, the It had already left the dock. The riverside miracle hadn't spired a whole raft of federal welfare reform legislation based and they get a job. Any job work first mantra and collectively changed how we think about welfare today we are handing welfare, as we know,. And the thought of revisiting and restructuring welfare. Again. Just wasn't something that the federal government, or this it's that ran welfare to work programmes had the political will to deal with any more cause. Our view of how we took care of this back in eighteen. Ninety four ninety five and we all need revisit it, wouldn't
he till later that the weaknesses of the get a job, any job welfare to work approach revealed themselves on a big painful scale in the great recession that started in two thousand eight when job markets asked all over the country, especially for low wage workers Joe says. The riverside a miracle had been such a tantalizing low cost, quick fix to poverty, get people off welfare and, in the self sufficiency, just inspire them. Tell them to get jobs. It was a hard approach to let go of. On Fourchan, After a while, we realise these problems are age old, it's if that simple. We would solve that much earlier. Unfortunately, it wasn't that simple and the people who went through the riverside miracle are still dealing with the bitter sweet aftermath We have seen a after going through the Riverside jobs programme more than twenty years ago, Sophia element has been off welfare ever since for the less
decades she's worked in this plus size dress shop, she's the store manager in charge of a small staff and figuring out where to put the pink sweaters silly dont clashed with the coral ones, but this coral key with this. That looks kid. The fact that Sophia has a job is evidence that the Riverside jobs First Programme did have its successes. In fact, she was featured in a newspaper article in the early nineties as an ex ample of the riverside miracle, but for a woman fifties she has a physically taxing job. She's her feet all day, dragging racks of clothes. From here to there my hands are screwed up. Now all this: she makes less than fifteen dollars an hour, Sophia live down to the river side programmes name game. She fell and greater avenues for independence, but I asked her do you consider yourself again success story, she fell
For a long time, yes, No, she said, and then she correct, did herself. Do you know why to tell you the truth. You know I, working for it like, since I was fourteen years old the work requirements, the job clubs, they were actually But if a distraction she says she, already had low wage jobs, and she knew how to get them. I felt like it was more a hindrance to me like gained was a hundred yes, because I had to go there. But It did, but I had to deal because they said I had to do it. So I did it Sophia. Moved out of poverty and off of government assistance, but she says she would done that anyway, affair was just a temporary bit of help she needed when she had her husband, split up but Decades later, she hasn't moved that far out of poverty. Things are still tight, and rather than getting pep talks to find a job any job she wishes. She'd had encouragement to get the training to do what she really wanted.
I want to be a nurse, probably if I got offered The opportunity to go back to school right now I could be in a hospital. Albina are in making a lot more than fifteen dollars an hour, just A longer version of the story was recently heard on the uncertain our new podcast from marketplaces wealth in poverty. Does it's really good? He should check it out the uncertain our is Chrissy Clerk, Caitlin Ash, Gina Del back and Nancy, far Golly Ben tell a days. The engineer and Mark Miller is the managing editor
Ninety nine percent of his Youssef Avery. If a retrenchment, Delaney Hall, Katy, mingle, Kirkwall Stead same Greenspan and me roman Mars, we are, Ninety one point: seven k, L, W San Francisco and produced on radio row in beautiful downtown Oakland. California,. We often don't think of winter is a time of growth or creation, but if you think about it, it's the perfect, I'm too great your own website cooped up your thinking about being productive and now square space can help you do it whiskers it's you can take your cool ideas. You ve creative content, your services, goods and you can turn them into a beautiful website in just a few clicks. Does it because there is to use templates, are created by world class designers, and then you have the ability to customize the look and feel in the different set.
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.