• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Liberals and Welfare Reform: Denying the Damage They’ve Done

In a recent POLITICO interview Hillary Clinton confidant Neera Tanden said she was always “opposed to welfare reform.”

“I never worked on— was never involved with welfare reform,” said Tanden, the CEO of the Center for American Progress and former aide to Clinton during the latter’s time as both First Lady and Senator from New York.

That’s not true— but Tanden’s reflexive denial is standard fare from the Clintons and their surrogates.

Welfare reform is a particularly touchy subject for the Clinton camp. The bill was seen as widely destructive and has had almost universally negative consequences in the 20 years since its passage.

Tanden’s involvement in the law’s implementation after 1996— however limited— has been the subject of some of the more effective challenges to her advocacy for Clinton.

The specter of welfare reform has haunted Tanden’s social media all year.

In May of this year, a fight on Twitter between Tanden and progressive blogger Matt Bruenig ended with Bruenig losing his position with the American think tank Demos. Here‘s a good overview from Gawker (RIP).

Most recently, The Intercept reporter Zaid Jilani mentioned that White House Domestic Policy head Bruce Reed acknowledged during an interview that Tanden was involved in welfare reform implementation.

Reed was the architect of the welfare reform bill in 1996 and stayed in the White House through the end of the Clinton administration, so it stands to reason he might know what he’s talking about. When faced with Reed’s statement, Tanden flatly denied any involvement in drafting the bill (which nobody suggested she had been involved in) and in implementation of welfare reform in any way.

Not to be dissuaded, Jilani produced audio of the exchange. Tanden then posted what she said was an email from Reed absolving her of any involvement.

I watched this exchange with some interest and went to the Clinton Library’s digital archive to see what I could find. I dug up three documents related to welfare and bearing Tanden’s name via cc. They are:

A fax header for a packet on welfare implementation re children’s benefits; a cc on an American Public Welfare Association document on how the law’s implementation would affect children; and, perhaps most revealing, a cc on an internal White House document clearly plotting out how to implement the law’s harsh penalties while maintaining other benefits.

Twitter user @vabayad also dug up documents referring to Tanden’s involvement.

The evidence I found indicates that Tanden was at least tangentially involved in the implementation of the law, if only on how it affected child welfare in the US. At the very least she helped to manage how the law would affect its victims— and that at least meets the standard of involvement in implementation.

So why lie? Why not just admit involvement, frame it as protecting those most negatively affected by the law, and move on?

Apparently admitting blame is not the way things are done in the Clintonian spin zone. For the Clintons and their surrogates, it’s better to deny deny deny.

Acknowledging any involvement in a politically unpopular policy would be worse than admitting involvement with the added nuance of what that involvement meant in practice.

It’s disappointing. But not surprising.

You can hear Tanden on her time in the White House and welfare reform beginning at 17:20 here.

More articles by:

Eoin Higgins has a master’s degree in history from Fordham University. He lives in New York.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
May 24, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Iran, Venezuela and the Throes of Empire
Melvin Goodman
The Dangerous Demise of Disarmament
Jeffrey St. Clair
“The Army Ain’t No Place for a Black Man:” How the Wolf Got Caged
Richard Moser
War is War on Mother Earth
Andrew Levine
The (Small-d) Democrat’s Dilemma
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Way: Blaming Dead Pilots
Rev. William Alberts
Gaslighters of God
Phyllis Bennis
The Amputation Crisis in Gaza: a US-Funded Atrocity
David Rosen
21st Century Conglomerate Trusts 
Jonathan Latham
As a GMO Stunt, Professor Tasted a Pesticide and Gave It to Students
Binoy Kampmark
The Espionage Act and Julian Assange
Kathy Deacon
Liberals Fall Into Line: a Recurring Phenomenon
Jill Richardson
The Disparity Behind Anti-Abortion Laws
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Chelsea Manning is Showing Us What Real Resistance Looks Like
Zhivko Illeieff
Russiagate and the Dry Rot in American Journalism
Norman Solomon
Will Biden’s Dog Whistles for Racism Catch Up with Him?
Yanis Varoufakis
The Left Refuses to Get Its Act Together in the Face of Neofascism
Lawrence Davidson
Senator Schumer’s Divine Mission
Thomas Knapp
War Crimes Pardons: A Terrible Memorial Day Idea
Renee Parsons
Dump Bolton before He Starts the Next War
Yves Engler
Canada’s Meddling in Venezuela
Katie Singer
Controlling 5G: A Course in Obstacles
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Beauty of Trees
Jesse Jackson
Extremist Laws, Like Alabama’s, Will Hit Poor Women the Hardest
Andrew Bacevich
The “Forever Wars” Enshrined
Ron Jacobs
Another One Moves On: Roz Payne, Presente!
Christopher Brauchli
The Offal Office
Daniel Falcone
Where the ‘Democratic Left’ Goes to Die: Staten Island NYC and the Forgotten Primaries   
Julia Paley
Life After Deportation
Sarah Anderson
America Needs a Long-Term Care Program for Seniors
Seiji Yamada – John Witeck
Stop U.S. Funding for Human Rights Abuses in the Philippines
Shane Doyle, A.J. Not Afraid and Adrian Bird, Jr.
The Crazy Mountains Deserve Preservation
Charlie Nash
Will Generation Z Introduce a Wizard Renaissance?
Ron Ridenour
Denmark Peace-Justice Conference Based on Activism in Many Countries
Douglas Bevington
Why California’s Costly (and Destructive) Logging Plan for Wildfires Will Fail
Gary Leupp
“Escalating Tensions” with Iran
Jonathan Power
Making the World More Equal
Cesar Chelala
The Social Burden of Depression in Japan
Stephen Cooper
Imbibe Culture and Consciousness with Cocoa Tea (The Interview)
Stacy Bannerman
End This Hidden Threat to Military Families
Kevin Basl
Time to Rethink That POW/MIA Flag
Nicky Reid
Pledging Allegiance to the Divided States of America
Louis Proyect
A Second Look at Neflix
Martin Billheimer
Closed Shave: T. O. Bobe, the Girl and Curl
David Yearsley
Hard Bop and Bezos’ Balls
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail