Thursday, July 28, 2005

Recalling Bill Clinton's Greatest Shame

It has been 9 years since Bill Clinton sold out poor women and children in return for a little political capital with the Republicans. I haven't forgotten. I haven't forgiven. I still have stories from the aftermath of welfare reform, stories that I collected for years after he signed the welfare reform bill.

They are stories about children who died because their mom was doing important work at Pizza Hut or Burger King instead of doing the seemingly unimportant work of caring for children. They are stories about moms who were forced to report to low wage jobs even when adequate or safe childcare was unavailable.

The number one assumption of the welfare reform law (other than that single moms are the scum of the earth) is that caring for children is NOT work. People who do it full time are lazy and deserve your contempt.

People who do it are almost always women.

It was an interesting time to study our culture. Under the guise of classism, misogyny was free to rear its hideous head. Day after day, the Great Welfare Reform Debate raged on the front pages of all the newspapers. All the experts weighed in. They wrote books. They condemned the women as lazy welfare queens who lived a life of leisure. They said outrageous things like 'wherever single mothers live you will find crime and drugs.'

The experts were almost always male. They were people who have never ever been charged with the 24/7 responsibilty of keeping children alive and well. They were people who defined 'work' as something you do for money. In every analysis that counted, any job that paid a wage was deemed of far more value than the work of caring for children.

After that debate, it is a wonder that there is a woman alive in this country who is brave or foolish enough to be a stay at home mom.

This post at Our Word, a very cool feminist blog, is responsible for bringing back my memories of Bill Clinton's greatest shame:

Monday Afternoon at the Welfare Office

"So I spent a lovely couple of hours at the obligatorily ugly welfare office today, me and about 200 other moms & kids, waiting to see my worker for my yearly review in order to continue to get my monthly allotment of $152 in food stamps that comes between my family and starvation." More . . .