Decades of Distortion - Page 9

Changing The Behavior Of Women

Using the momentum of his early days in office, Reagan propelled through Congress major welfare revisions contained in the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. By revising the way in which earned income was counted and removing many work incentives, most recipients in wage work were terminated from receiving supplemental AFDC benefits.224 The result was that some wage earning poor now were economically poorer than they had been when they had received their AFDC supplement and Medicaid225 and were not able to augment their wages with benefits, a situation which allowed the Right to play to hostility and frustration against AFDC recipients who at that moment were not in wage work.226

In addition, by both constructing a racist stereotype of AFDC recipient as an African American "welfare queen" and by playing to the historically contingent understanding on the part of many whites that African American women should be in wage work, Reagan was able to begin persuading even many "liberal" white women who now were in wage work, and advocating for the right to do wage work that welfare recipients should not receive AFDC as a means of allowing them to parent. Thus Reagan's revisions, which increased the work requirements begun in 1967 in both the AFDC and Food Stamp Programs, found broader acceptance among the public.227

Although the Reagan (with Heritage Foundation guidance) welfare reductions were ostensibly designed to reduce government interference and return control to state and local governments, they laid the groundwork for the late 1980s and 1990s government intervention to change poor women's behavior.228 In 1989, Policy Review published:

The heart of such a position [the historic gains of the Reagan budget as holding a line on social spending] should be that the nation now spends enough on social programs and that the idea of "entitlements" should be supplemented, and in some cases replaced, as the underlying principle of American social policy, by the idea of benefits contingent on responsible behavior.229

Rightist publications attacked the media for unjustly criticizing the Reagan welfare cuts.230 After Bill Moyers's CBS Report, "People Like Us," which was "relatively sympathetic" to welfare recipients, Reed Irvine's Accuracy in Media listed the sponsors of the show and urged readers to voice their disapproval.231 Milton Friedman attacked Newsweek coverage in his column in that magazine.232

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Decades of Distortion

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