Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Making Ends Meet

Making Ends Meet

Adult nonfiction
"States who want to meet the twin goals of getting welfare
mothers to work while safeguarding the well-being of their children
must understand that the real problem with the federal welfare system
is primarily a labor-market problem. For the large majority of
mothers we interviewed, it was lack of access to a living wage and not
a pervasive and disabling poverty culture that made working so
difficult. Unless states can manage to equip welfare-reliant single
mothers with the skills that will lead to living wage jobs, single
mothers who work will continue to need government help." (Making Ends
Meet, p. 19)
Recently I read a fascinating and sadly too relevant book,
Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer's $2.00 a Day: Living On Almost
Nothing In America. I decided to get my hands on two of Edin's
earlier books. I was quite lucky to find her Making Ends Meet: How
Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work.
Making Ends Meet was written at the point when Bill Clinton (a
Democrat--oh, the shame of it all) had made ending welfare as we know
it a key platform in his election campaign and transformed an
entitlement into a program with a lifetime benefit restriction and a
mandate to push recipients into whatever labor market existed.
However, he only enacted the most conservative provisions of David
Ellwood's proposition on which he based this "reform". Ellwood,
author of Poor Support, had put more emphasis on education and
training and claimed that in order to require work, the government
would be obligated to provide jobs in areas of the country where there
weren't enough. In fact this twisting of his ideas prompted Ellwood
to flee Washington and return to Harvard. ($2.00 A Day).
Edin and Lein conducted research on the budgets and survival
strategies of hundreds of welfare and low wage earning mothers in four
states. Their findings stand in sharp contrast to the claims of
politicians who blame laziness and an entitlement deserving frame of
mind for dependence on government resources. Most of their subjects
cycled between periods of work and welfare and viewed work as the
ideal state of being. However, the jobs they could get, in addition
to not providing enough for family survival, often had erratic and
unpredictable hours. Many "training" programs simply gave them the
skills to acquire those jobs that would never lift them and their
children out of poverty.
Although this book is a bit drier and more academic, I think it
also is an important read for anyone who wants a more equitable
world. Even if you, yourself, and those you love are not affected by
the increasing restrictions on government aid and demonizing of those
who receive it, you have every reason to be concerned. The pushing of
legions of often poorly skilled and educated people into the workforce
creates a supply demand situation in which big business can get away
with wages so low their employees must be subsidized through tax
provided benefits and with abysmal working conditions. Maybe if the
government provided enough jobs so there would not be such a glut of
workers big bidness might have to treat workers as people, not
expendable commodities. Imagine that!
On a personal note, there are just days now til Bearfest, the 12 hour
dance marathon to benefit Children's Miracle Network. It's my third
year. Part of me is all psyched and the rest of me is thinking
YIKES. The combination of exhaustion and lots of flashing lights
makes me (petit mal) seizure prone, especially toward the end.
A great big shout out goes out to the people who will be dancing with
me and the fine folks who set the whole thing up.
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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