Decade-Long Study Reveals Clinton Welfare Reform Caused Racial Bias
For decades critics of the welfare program on the right have often been accused of racism by implication. They talk about the people who received cash assistance or SNAP benefits as if they are leeches on the society, too stupid or lazy to grab their bootstraps and strive for that American Dream. However after ten years of research, sociologist Joe Stoss has found that not only is it true, it’s Bill Clinton’s fault.
In a report from Bill Moyers’s (one of the few Real Gangstas of Journalism™ still in the game) website, Stoss talks about his research and the book he wrote with Richard C. Fording and Sanford F. Schram on the subject. He suggests that when Republicans took Congress during Clinton’s first term, he had “backed himself into a corner” on welfare reform because of how far the GOP was willing to go in cutting services.
Stoss discovered that “the one thing that did predict a negative view of welfare was negative beliefs about African-Americans, particularly a belief in black laziness” and “sexually irresponsible” black women. Soss also found that the political rhetoric surrounding welfare actually caused people to have negative views about black people who hadn’t felt that way before hearing it.
However, Stoss may have inadvertently landed on what is really meant when certain people say they want their “country back.” They may just be missing their old nanny. “For much of the 20th century, and certainly in the earlier history of this country, we had all sorts of race-specific programs that channeled benefits to whites and excluded everyone else,” Soss said.
So when Clinton’s welfare “reform” gave individual states the power to make their own welfare systems, “all of the states with more African-Americans on the welfare rolls chose tougher rules.” Still, Soss calls the racial element in this “coded” and “below the radar” like a kind of subconscious racism.
The study found that it didn’t matter for white welfare recipients if they were under strict or lax rules (read: a conservative or liberal state), they were all treated well. “It was only clients of color who received different treatment in conservative and liberal counties,” Soss said.
Photo By Smithsonian Institution from United States (1997 Clinton Inauguration – Swearing-in Ceremony) [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons