City Desk

Marion Barry Becomes WaPo Poverty-Beat Reporter

Today, Councilmember Marion Barry and/or his ghostwriter writes an op-ed addressing his controversial TANF legislation that would impose a five-year limit on public assistance and a host of other aid to District residents. Is this guy trying to score a book deal? Become the next Bill Cosby?

Debate after the jump!

Barry writes or "writes":

"My legislation, while imperfect and incomplete, is intended to start a serious dialogue on how to break the cycle of generational poverty, government dependency and economic disparity in the city.

At present, the District is one of only a few jurisdictions in the country that spend local government funds to allow TANF aid to go on indefinitely. Unfortunately, this unsound provision in our local law has been coupled with a system that has failed our residents for years. The result has been to enslave residents in joblessness and dependency on the government rather than lifting them up and giving them an opportunity to achieve self-sufficiency through job training and employment.

That's one reason the District now has 17,505 families receiving TANF benefits, with over 40 percent receiving benefits for more than five years. We must do better."

Barry could have started this conversation years ago. His ward has had staggering unemployment, staggeringly bad schools, and, of course, entrenched crime for years. His measure might make sense if he'd done more than set up phony nonprofits to address these issues. And, well, the councilmember wants to limit more than TANF benefits, according to Bread for the City.

Bread for the City had this to say about Barry's TANF proposal:

"If passed, this legislation would limit TANF recipients to 60 months (5 years) of TANF benefits. Even worse, the current language would make families ineligible for all public benefits – no Medicaid, no child care, no food stamps, no homeless shelter.

Research has shown that these harsh tactics are not effective at encouraging work. They are likely to result in higher rates of child poverty, with many families disconnected from any form of support."

*Yesterday, Loose Lips posted a story about Barry's war with WaPo's editorial board.

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  • Rick Mangus

    More liberal dribble, written by a non-professional, non-jouranlist hack!

  • Ward-8

    Here we go again the nay sayers and enablers concern about unfounded Bull S***, generation after generation will continue receiving aid until in a lot of instance they are given a swift kick in the back side to change their life. Granted, there are a few who will continue to require assistance however, having spent too many years in the City, I have seen too many baby machines who care less about working just live with moma and raise another generation of dependance. "Amen" to the Mayor for life for finally realizing this and not trying to be politically correct.

  • Sally

    Jason Cherkis, poverty pimp.

  • downtown rez

    I'm now leaning toward thinking that Barry knows changes to TANF are coming with or without him, and wants to establish some sort of conservative cred that would enable him to be at the table when these changes happen, rather than being left on the sidelines because people think he's an enabler.
    Essentially, he's trying to position himself to the right of Wells.

  • Jason Cherkis

    Look: Limits on TANF are one thing. But should you impose limits when your social services and job training programs are inadequate to pick up the slack, when your schools have been beyond terrible for years and years, and when your councilmember seems more interested in developing make-work projects for his friends?

    Even, former Bushie, Clarence Carter, director at DHS, has come out against Barry's proposal. He told the Post that the wait-list for job training programs is too long and most of the long-time TANF recipients wouldn't qualify because of literacy issues.

    I hope we can get past the name calling and actually debate the issue.

  • downtown rez

    We wouldn't be in this place if Barry hadn't cynically and disingenuously proposed something he knew was a non-starter.
    And you all in the media bit, and bit hard. Just like he (and whoever the real brains behind this is) knew you would.
    But look at the strategy; how it sets the conversation up:
    Yeah, we know in this time of budget crisis that we need to cut TANF, but first we need to increase spending so much more on other social services.
    I say we just modify Barry's bill to phase in the 5 year limit. Otherwise, this damn thing will end up costing more than it will save.

  • Jason Cherkis

    The phased in approach is a good idea if it's paired with real job training, and genuine oversight over social services. There are cheaper, best practices approaches than doing what we do now.

    How about instead of awarding no-bid contracts to nonprofits, the city only engages in fee-for-service contracts? You get more bang for your buck, more flexibility in how you spend the money, and more oversight over those nonprofits.

    How about actually assessing what the TANF clients need: GED classes, maybe pre-GED classes, job training programs, and actual job programs that can get people jobs, etc., etc.

    As for whether cuts in social services are coming, they already are. That's a done deal. I'm hearing that there's going to be across the board cuts at DMH, and many providers are already starting to cut services. This Barry proposal is really not about funneling more money to social services.

  • downtown rez

    I can't really fault what you are saying, Jason.
    However, I do think the proposal is all about framing the conversation in a way that leads one to believe that social services as they exist today are underfunded.
    Regarding jobs training and other services, I'm pretty much in the You can lead a horse to water camp.
    Maybe knowledge that there is a real cut-off point to social services will motivate the herd, but I don't know.

  • Rick Mangus

    DRIBBLE, DRIBBLE, DRIBBLE and from a hack as well!

  • DCexpat

    Why don't folks who disagree with the dc welfare policy just move a couple miles away, into md or va? DC is what it is, and even changing payout schemes won't change tbe character of the pathetic masses in the city. Salvation is found just by crossing the border...