December 22, 2008

CA and National Press Ignore State’s 12-Year Failure to Get with the National Welfare Reform Program

arnoldCalifornia Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s three-year lurch to the left, with the enthusiastic assistance of Democratic majorities in the state’s legislature, has sent the state’s fiscal situation once again into Gray Davisland — and this time, unlike in November 2003 when he took office, the Governator doesn’t have a growing economy to make getting out of the mess easier.

The state’s controller said earlier today that the state “the state will run out of cash in about two months” if the state doesn’t close its current budget gap of $18 billion.

Finally, the state is attempting to do something about its disproportionately costly welfare (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program.

The howls are predictable, if somewhat understandable (which I’ll get to). Excerpts from a Sacramento Bee story by Cynthia Hubert lay out the situation:

Welfare benefits in California could be cut to levels of seven or eight years ago, under at least one state budget proposal.

Agencies that serve some of society’s most vulnerable people are slashing staff and canceling services in anticipation of state budget cuts to welfare programs.

“It’s like we’re turning back the clock on 10 years of effective social policy,” said Cathy Senderling, senior legislative advocate for the California Welfare Directors Association.

In the face of a woeful economy, soaring caseloads and state budget cuts that could total billions of dollars, administrators of programs that include CalWORKs, Medi-Cal and food stamps are on the verge of panic.

….. If the proposed cuts pass, welfare recipients could see their benefits drop by 10 percent. A family of three would see their monthly check reduced to about $620 – as much as they would have received in 2000 or 2001 – plus about $250 in food stamps. Social Security benefits for needy elderly and disabled people would be cut. Benefits would be cut to virtually all other welfare programs, as well.

Concentrating on the “monthly check” (Food Stamps is a separate story, but in a nutshell, what is provided is adequate), Ms. Senderling’s contention about “10 years of effective social policy” has a ring of truth to it. Unfortunately, the ringing has taken place in almost every state except California, which has consistently, stubbornly, and ineffectively failed to reduce its welfare rolls in response to the landmark national reform law passed in 1996.

The cuts taking place now should never have been necessary. If it is indeed the case that “some of society’s most vulnerable people” are going to suffer, it will be because of that 12-year failure, and not the currently arriving budget ax. California’s press, as I observed when I posted on this a year ago (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), never-never-never touches this issue, treating it as a third rail every bit as dangerous as the national press’s fear- and entitlement-driven handling of Social Security.

Consider these facts:

  • In 1996, the Golden State’s share of the national caseload was just under 20%, and just over 21% of total recipients.
  • As of June 2008, those percentages were 29.3% and 30.7%, respectively.
  • Since December 2003, shortly after Schwarzenegger took office, California’s caseload and recipients have increased by roughly 42,000 and 118,000, respectively. The rest of the country’s caseload and recipients have decreased by 368,000 and 1.024 million, even continuing to fall through the difficult economy of the first half of this year (2003 data is summary form is here).
  • If California’s proportion of the population on welfare mirrored the rest of the country (and there’s no good reason it shouldn’t), an astonishing 837,000 fewer people would be receiving it. Using $700 as rough measure, based on the excerpted information, of current monthly benefits for every three recipients, the state would be spending over $2.3 billion less — each and every year ($700 x 12 x 837,000 divided by 3). This figure is probably higher, because the average family size is closer to 2.5 instead of 3, and benefits are probably not reduced in direct proportion to the number of family members.

The fact that the state with the most singularly visible record of failing to implement welfare reform is now finally having to cut costs is very unfortunate, especially because the meat-ax approach to cuts will hurt deserving recipients while doing little to get to the heart of the problem, which is that, based on the stark contrast with the rest of the nation, too many undeserving people are collecting benefits.

The fact that Scharzenegger, as far as I can tell, still plans to run to Washington for a financial bailout is an insult to our intelligence. California’s poor handling of welfare means, at least as far as that one program is concerned, that the Golden State should really owe money to the rest of us, some of it over a decade in arrears. Someone in the media should ask when that check will arrive.

Cross-posted at



  1. Tom, you are much too kind to California, but then it would require a lengthy tome to describe in detail all the rest of their failed policies contributing to their massive deficit. In a nutshell, the liberals, especially the local jurisdictions have the attitude that because they are thee government with the right to tax, they can and they do. The question is never asked if they should, because they are infected with the hubris that any idea they come up with must be funded as rationalized by the public good.

    To compound that hubris, if the idea isn’t going swimmingly with the funds provided, the answer is always to throw more money at the problem because as we all know anything is solvable with enough money. The hubris after all is that any liberal assertion made is true and all one needs is to spend enough money to prove it.

    The same attitudes displayed with taxation and liberal assertions can be also attributed to alternative energy (geothermal, solar and wind). We can produce all of our electricity with geothermal, solar and wind, it just costs 5 times the amount than conventional means, THAT’S ALL. (sarcasm) Which is where California is headed on the energy front as well.

    My suggestion to all taxpayers who live in CA, it’s time to vote with your feet, cut your losses, get out now before it gets far worse. El Centro, CA has become a third world country with over 27% unemployment. Voting on election day for either ballot measures or politicians is a waste of time and effort since self governance has been marginalized by the courts and the political elites. Like drug and alcohol dependent (addicts) personalities, they must hit bottom before they are willing to change. Change does not occur until the person can acknowledge what they did up to that point was wrong. Helping a person who hasn’t hit bottom only enables them to avoid the truth to admit they were wrong. We have heard no such thing from their political leadership, only sorrow that they can’t do business as usual. An addict will drag down everyone around them in order not to admit the truth of their situation, that is why in this case voting with your feet is necessary. Even if you don’t willingly enable an addict, they will steal (CA case excessively tax) from you to maintain their situation, this why they must be isolated and left to themselves to allow an unhindered path to the bottom. The slogan was “Change”, but if people really understood what “change” entails, they would have voted for the other guy.

    Comment by dscott — December 23, 2008 @ 9:09 am

  2. Wow, I second that…

    Why don’t you two start a talk show?

    Comment by Rose — December 23, 2008 @ 5:47 pm

  3. California to issue IOUs, like they did in 1992.

    These guys will do anything to avoid reality and as long as people let them get away with it, they will. So the question for everyone in CA is what can be cut to eliminate the $18 billion structural deficit this year since if they are allowed to get away with this, there will be another $18+ billion next year?

    The obvious is illegal immigrants which of course the Dems are loathe to do.

    1.) How much does it cost CA to house HALF of the prison population in it’s state that is composed of illegal immigrants? You think you could lay off a bunch of $100k/year guards if you got rid the illegals by turning them over to ICE?
    2.) How much does it cost CA for unemployment insurance in paying illegals a weekly stipend? Tell us if they are still doing jobs Americans won’t do? Does that extend to unemployment insurance as well?
    3.) How much does subsidized housing cost CA?
    4.) How much does food stamps cost CA?
    5.) How much does WIC cost CA?
    6.) How much educating the children of illegals cost CA? What’s wrong with the Mexican government’s education system?
    7.) How much does Medicaid/MediCal cost CA picking up the cost of indigent care?

    Next, once you get rid of the illegals, how much extra does it cost to hand out government benes beyond the federal welfare limits?

    How much extra does it cost to run all those flex-fuel vehicles with their crappy gas mileage? Do yourselves a favor put in straight gas and save money. How much extra is CA paying to purchase new flex-fuel vehicles? And to maintain them?

    Here’s a thought, instead of raising taxes on businesses who then pass on the cost to consumers and force you to give government handouts to make up for the high taxes, why don’t you eliminate the tax on businesses and save all the taxpayer’s jobs to stop any further unemployment and businesses folding? Doing so would make CA competitive against the rest of the country. If Socialism is so great then why is CA in recession in the first place since CA is the country’s big taxer and spender? Did the $18 billion budget deficit soup up the CA economy? Why NOT?

    Finally, CA should get out of buying electricity and reselling it. Get the whole thing off the books, this is an individual responsibility, the track record so far of State involvement has been abysmal.

    Comment by dscott — January 2, 2009 @ 1:51 pm

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