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The Urban Institute Record on Welfare Reform: 'Experts' appalling wrong and History Whitewashed
The Urban Institute claimed that the 1996 Welfare Reform bill would result in 2.6 million persons falling below the poverty line and that 1.1 million of these persons would be children. In fact, the exact opposite occurred. During the heated political debate leading to the passage of the landmark bill, both the media and Democratic Senators and Representatives constantly used the Urban Institute's estimates in their 'talking points'. This is a pattern that takes place consistently throughout almost every bill that comes to pass in Congress, which is why Conservatives (rightly) claim there is a bias in the media. In the following excerpts from the media and politicians I tried to only use specific references to Urban Institute numbers. It is definitely not an exclusive list and likely represents only the tip of the iceberg. The Urban Institute's talking points were almost certainly used throughout talks and news shows and across a wide range of media. All emphasis below has been added.
Media Using the Urban Institute Rhetoric:
The New York Times, August 25, 1996 Editorial HEADLINE: The 'Nonworking Class'
Proponents of the draconian welfare reform just enacted in Washington say the bill will help the poor to exchange "welfare checks for paychecks." But this welfare reform will do nothing of the kind. It will terminate welfare benefits after five years -- throwing perhaps a million children into poverty -- while doing little to create jobs in distressed areas where work does not exist. Having revoked Federal support, the country has an obligation to find or help to create jobs. (165)
The New York Times, August 1, 1996
The Administration's staff estimates that such provisions will throw a million
more children into poverty.
The New York Times, July 25, 1996
The conferees will hand the President
a bill that, like the bills they will work from, will hurl more than a million children into
The New York Times, June 1, 1996
Poor children need better educational
opportunities, better nutrition and health programs and communities where they can grow up free of
guns and violence. Yet President Clinton and Congress have embraced welfare reform bills that could throw
a million more children into poverty, and Congress has balked repeatedly at more meaningful gun
The New York Times, July 22, 1996
Op-Ed By BOB HERBERT HEADLINE: In America; The Mouths of Babies
There is something very creepy about the welfare debate.
The Washington Post, July 25, 1996 Editorial HEADLINE: A Children's Veto
An eighth of the children in the country now are on
welfare. No one can know for sure how many would be affected adversely by the legislation, but the
best guess seems to be that at least a million more children would end up living below the poverty
line. A fifth of the children in the country already are there.
The Washington Post, July 27 1996 Opinion, Colbert King Headline: Trashed by the Welfare Bill
Now the weight and wait are on President Bill Clinton. Let Congress have its way and watch as about a million children eventually get tossed back into poverty. (167)
Politicians using the Urban Institute Rhetoric:
The Urban Institute has also estimated, in a report released just last Friday, July 26, that this bill will cause 2.6 million persons to fall below the poverty line; 1.1 million of those impoverished will be children. To say nothing of those persons already living in poverty. They will be pushed even further below the poverty line. The average loss in income for families already below the poverty line will be $1,040 per year. I note that the Urban Institute's estimates are based on quite conservative assumptions, so the actual impact could well be even worse than predicted. (130), (143)
- Senator Daniel Moynihan (D-NY) (speech from the Senate floor)
“When you take all of these policies together, this bill will put an estimated approximately 1.1 million children into poverty. And this is a conservative estimate. It could be higher. Mr. President, my conscience does not permit me to vote for a bill that will likely plunge children into poverty.” (112)
- Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) Congressional Record, August 1, 1996)
“This welfare bill will do far more harm than good.” “I have been persuaded by the process of debate and projections on the likely impact of this bill on my State that this welfare bill will do far more harm than good. It will cause hardship to State and local governments, throw more than a million more children into poverty and hurt rather than help the Nation’s efforts at true welfare reform.” (112)
- Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) (Congressional Record, July 25, 1996)
“This bill condemns millions of innocent children to poverty in the name of Welfare Reform.”
- Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) (Press Release)
Any way that you look at this under the Senate bill originally it was 2 million people, 2 million kids that were pushed into poverty. Now under all the statistical data, it’ll be 1 million children that will be pushed into poverty and an unknown number of legal people that played by the rules, that came to this country, that will just wash off, and why not? They can’t vote. (172)
- Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY) whose district encompasses Harlem, NY
Congressman John Lewis, D-Ga., said that the bill would "put one million more children into poverty." He declared, "They're [The Republicans] coming for the children. They're coming for the poor. They're coming for the sick, the elderly, and the disabled." (173), (174)
- Reprsenative John Lewis (D-Ga.) March 21, 2005 on the house floor (also paraphrasing a famous statement used against the Nazis during World War II)
Let's return to this Urban Institute. If you have noticed, many Democratic Senators (and the media) described how children would be horribly affected and so forth. The Urban Institute's estimates were widely cited by opponents of the bill.
As the debate over welfare reform unfolded, the loudest detractors of devolution and block grants included associations representing local administrators such as the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, and the National League of Cities. They were joined by advocacy and research groups based largely in New York and Washington D.C.. Groups such as the Children’s Defense Fund and the Urban Institute had emerged out of the welfare and poverty activism in early decades and had established links to both Democratic constituencies and party elites. Leaders of these groups and associations complained that the effect of devolution and the cuts in federal funds would be to increase poverty and associated problems and leave these to local governments and non-profits to manage. (108)
I visited the Urban Institute web site to 'snoop around' and try to dig up this report that claimed 2.6 million people will fall into poverty and of these 1.6 million will be children. They have a "History of the Urban Institute" section, similar to the 'Milestone' section in the Social Work Dictionary (132):1993-96 — Federal "waivers" from health care and welfare rules proliferate. One study examines initiatives in nine states using Medicaid funds to expand insurance coverage and health services. Early results indicate that states can gear up quickly to cover uninsured groups and to switch beneficiaries to managed care, but that such changes must be phased in to minimize confusion. Study demonstration projects in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Utah, and Vermont reveal how effectively states are moving welfare recipients into jobs.
1996 — Following passage of landmark welfare reform, the Institute undertakes its biggest research project yet—Assessing the New Federalism—to monitor and analyze the well-being of American children and families as states assume more responsibility for health care, income security, social services, and job-training programs for low-income Americans. (132)
Their original report has been deleted. Their opposition/conspiracy/ignorance/misconception/demagoguery - whatever you want to call it - relating to the 1996 Reform Bill, about a subject (welfare) that they are supposed to have been the experts on, has disappeared. Now they call the reform bill a 'landmark'. In fact, if I didn't know better I might infer that they supported and assisted in passing the bill!
I was finally able to find a summary of the Urban Institute's dire predictions by a link from the (conservative) Heritage foundation. If you wish to read this see source (145). (145)
What are they up to today? They say they are a 'nonpartisan' research group. Glancing through their 'new publications' , I see research that is never quite against, but seems to strike a tactfully disproving tone regarding personal retirement accounts, EITC (earned income tax credits) and the No Child Left Behind Act (131). All of these are, in part, conservative ideas, which is not to say they are not flawed, but it is an interesting coincidence, especially considering their latest (August 2nd 2004) publication on the progress of Welfare Reform:
This paper reports on new NSAF analyses revealing a pattern in which male adolescents in the families of former recipients may be faring worse than their counterparts in the families of current recipients. (133)
Yet, these differences in family characteristics did not account for the elevated levels of developmental risk found among adolescent boys in former recipient families. (133)
Well, boo hoo! Even if this small nag-bit of negativism is true, wasn't Welfare Reform worth it? Why don't they study some of these Indian Reservations and present the striking findings (I'm just guessing they would be striking) to their friends in the press and lobby some those who represent Native American states, like Senator Tom Daschle, to press reform for there too?
Media continue to misrepresent the Urban Institute as 'nonpartisan':
Number of Uninsured May Be Overstated, Studies Suggest (Posted 4/26/05)
Los Angeles Times Well, it turns out, just like the oft mentioned 'obesity
panic' the government is having a conniption over, that government may have overestimated the
number of uninsured Americans by as much as 20%, according to research
conducted for the government.
That could mean 9 million fewer uninsured, reducing the total to 36 million from the 45 million reported for 2003, the latest year for which data are available. But in fact even this might be too high as the article later states: Four government surveys attempt to estimate the number of Americans who are without coverage for a full year, a potentially harmful gap. The results range from a high of 45 million in the Current Population Survey to a low of 19 million in the less-known Survey of Income and Program Participation, also by the Census Bureau. Why don't they give us the numbers for all four studies and why couldn't the last figure be correct? [Another] estimate [not the 19 million one], using 2001 data, was calculated by researchers at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. It indicated a smaller over-count of about 4 million. <.> "Whatever method one applies, we're still going to get rising uninsurance," said Linda Giannarelli of the Urban Institute. "This problem is not going to go away." The Urban Institute is NOT a nonpartisan think tank! The Urban Institute is the same institution that claimed 2.6 million people, 1.1 million of them children were going to be flung into poverty by Welfare Reform, when in fact the exact opposite happened. How quickly critics may pounce on anything suggesting insensitivity on the coverage issue was illustrated by the reaction of a prominent economist. Uwe Reinhardt of Princeton University, a specialist on healthcare issues, said the administration's decision to commission the research showed that it was worrying more about counting the uninsured than about helping them. "I call it the body count," Reinhardt said. "Instead of addressing the problem, we say we must count the uninsured. It is literally, in my view, like making sure we know how many deck chairs we have on the Titanic." Nonetheless, Reinhardt said, he agreed that the figure of 45 million might be high. If Uwe Reinhardt applied the same logic he uses to advocate spending your money on government programs to his private finances at his own house, he would blindly buy carpets and paint without first measuring the surface area of the floor or walls. Who is Uwe Reinhardt, this so-called 'prominent economist' and 'healthcare specialist' ? (sigh) It really gets sort of tiring exposing the blatant bias in the media because after a while you already know what your going to find, but still have to go through the empty steps of finding it. PBS showcased two different extensive interviews (a sign in itself) with Reinhardt, which tells us all we need to know: He argues that a prescription drug benefit should be targeted not strictly towards seniors, but towards the poor and poor seniors. <.> Reinhardt says that the pharmaceutical industry could have avoided being "the scapegoat for all kinds of problems in health spending" if it had been proactive in assisting low-income recipients. Notice the standard Democratic lines of proposing massive government expansion and the demaguaging of the wealth generating, job creating, and life saving Pharmaceutical companies.
The LA times story continues: Democrats have criticized Bush for not doing enough to stanch the loss of employee health benefits. This is interesting considering that employers are increasingly being tempted to shift their employees to the various state and federal health plans that the Democrats have been instrumental in creating. (see charts and previous post for more on this). If government would stop robbing people to create all of these programs then people and businesses would have more money to voluntarily give to programs that work like this one. Reflecting the political sensitivity of the issue, the White House said President Bush was determined to expand coverage, regardless of the precise number of uninsured. Like Uwe Reinhardt, I guess the President wouldn't pre-measure the surface area of his walls or floors either. Or perhaps the taxpayers pay for those too. As Benjamin Franklin said: The king's cheese is half wasted in parings; but no matter, 'tis made of the people's milk.
See also, 'The Children's Defense Fund'
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