Minneapolis, MN - Members of the Welfare Rights Committee (WRC) and supporters protested the 20th anniversary of the passage of the disastrous U.S. welfare reform law. On Aug. 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the right-wing welfare reform measure into law. Hillary Clinton supported it.
Angel Buechner, member of WRC, told the crowd, “Welfare ‘reform’ has been a catastrophe for Minnesota families. First and foremost it eliminated entitlements. Families are no longer guaranteed help if they are living in desperate poverty. Now it’s up to the ‘discrimination’ of individual states, and in some cases, counties.”
Buechner asked the crowd, “What do we want?” The people responded, “Repeal welfare reform!”
“Poor families in this country have been suffering,” Buechner continued. “Families are cut off of assistance after five years, even if they have no income. Family caps were instituted in many states, punishing children for being born. There were major cuts to food stamps that limited food assistance to three months in a three-year period. And in many states sanctions, drug tests and cuts to benefits for immigrants were put into practice.”
“Clinton, Clinton you must know, welfare deform has got to go!” chanted the crowd.
Loretta Van Pelt of WRC said, “The Clinton administration knew what they were doing when they signed this bill. They were not looking at protecting or helping the poor, they were looking at protecting the rich and politicians – encouraging an atmosphere that blames poor people for poverty rather than the causes of poverty in our communities."
The crowd booed. The call and response came from the people, “One, two, three, four, we refuse to blame the poor. Five, six, seven, eight, stop the politics of hate!”
Darnella Wade, member WRC stated “TANF was reformed to be MN Family Investment Program but the state hasn’t invested in families since 1996. Our homes are struggling and our children are not making it. Politicians are doing nothing to end poverty.”
Deb Konechne, former WRC member and current AFSCME 34 member, talked proudly of history of WRC and the strong fight back that was able to stop some of the worse of MN’s welfare reform. After recalling the WRC’s 1996 seven-day hunger strike encampment before Clinton signed the bill, she added, “We are here in support of the great work WRC has done and continues to do. We are all on the same side, as people from the working class and as welfare recipients, together when we fight together and fight back, we can win and we will win.”
A statement from the Welfare Rights Committee noted, “WRC has been fighting, and sometimes winning, in forcing the state of Minnesota to stop some of the worst parts of Clinton’s welfare reform, like the family cap. But welfare reform overall is bad for children and families and must be undone. Until that happens, we will be fighting again at the state level for our bill to Give Aid to All in Need. The GAAIN bill would cover families who hit the time limit and also people who currently don’t qualify for any help at all.”
The statement continued, “While Hillary Clinton is out trying to appeal to women voters, she continues to ignore poor women and children. While she courts high-rolling donors and protects Wall Street tycoons, our families are suffering. The Welfare Rights Committee will continue to shine a light on this devastating law. And we demand that Hillary Clinton pledge to overturn welfare reform!”