The long-anticipated welfare debate of 2002 has officially begun. Yesterday afternoon, President Bush offered hisvision of a reformed welfare system to an audience of low-income moms and community activists in a church inWashington, DC. Declaring that the 1996 welfare overhaul was a resounding success, Bush called for even strongerwork requirements and hundreds of million dollars a year to promote marriage among welfare recipients. “Work is thepathway to independence and self-respect,” he told his audience. “Many are learning it is more rewarding to be aresponsible citizen than a welfare client.”
Bush’s welfare proposal comes some six months before the welfare law of 1996 is set to expire. When that happens,the law must be rewritten and then reauthorized by Congress. The debate surrounding this process is expected to befierce and sometimes furious, with conservatives calling for tougher regulations and liberals and welfare activistsdemanding a sturdier safety net.
Already, one of the president’s proposals has ignited heated discussion. In the weeks leading up to yesterday’sannouncement, Bush’s marriage promotion plan garnered cheers from some and condemnation from others. Under the plan,the federal and state governments will give a combined total of $300 million a year to finance marriage educationcampaigns and other experimental programs to get low-income parents to wed. While supporters praise the initiativeas a step in the right moral and social direction, critics argue that education, job creation, and a solid safety netare far more effective at ending poverty.
Well, today on Democracy Now! we will have our own debate on marriage promotion.
- Martha Davis, legal director, NOW Legal Defense & Education Fund. As legal director, Martha Davisoversees NOW-LDEF’s litigation and advocacy in the areas of economic justice, violence against women, education,reproductive rights and employment. Martha is the author of numerous articles and the book, ??Brutal Need: Lawyersand the Welfare Rights Movement, 1960-1973. In 1999, she helped argue the first “welfare reform” case to reachthe Supreme Court.
- Ingrid Rivera, organizer-activist. Until recently, Ingrid worked as the Racial and Economic JusticePolicy Analyst at the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. She moved on just a few months ago to pursue a career as apoet, performance artist, and activist. Ingrid is also a mother; her daughter is 12 years old.
- Patrick Fagan, Heritage Foundation, William H.G. Fitzgerald Research Fellow in Family and Cultural Issues.He was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services during the former Bush Administration. Currently,he researches on the relationship between family, community, and social problems.