Well, it looks like Aldona Wos got to kick some freeloaders off the dole after all. The News & Observer is reporting that North Carolina will stop Work First payments to poor families. Last week, Wos tried to stop WIC payments but, fortunately for recipients, Art Pope figured out that it stands for Women, Infants and Children. He didn’t figure that DHHS needed anymore bad publicity and beating up on pregnant women and kids wouldn’t look good at all.
This year, the legislature rejected an expansion of Medicaid that would have been paid for by the federal government and provided health care to 500,000 North Carolinians. They also passed a law to drug test all welfare recipients even though similar programs in other states have proven to be more costly than effective. And two years ago, the legislature cut $350 million from Medicaid, including dental and eye care.
It’s been a long time since we’ve such animosity toward the poor in North Carolina. There’s a strong dose of blame-the-victim in their rhetoric and their actions. It’s surprising that sentiment is so strong given our economic problems.
So what’s behind it? Money and politics, of course. Republicans, and the Tea Party in particular, want to scrap much of the social safety net and return the good old days when the poor knew their place and the free market lifted everybody who wanted to work out of poverty.
Remember those days? Yeah, me neither.
What I do remember is a massive recession that caused the unemployment rate to hit double digits. I remember an economy that lost thousands of high paying manufacturing jobs that were replaced by lower paying service jobs. I remember a legislature that ended the Earned Income Tax credit, effectively raising taxes on the working poor, while cutting taxes for the wealthiest North Carolinians. And I remember that we have an income gap like we haven’t seen since before the Great Depression.
That’s what I remember.