NP and fusion again ( was Re: converts to the left)

Max Sawicky sawicky at
Fri Sep 25 08:00:59 PDT 1998

Me, previously:
>>While TANF is a royally-screwed up
>>effort, to exaggerate the result, or
>>to characterize Federal anti-poverty
>>spending in general, as having been
>>"annihiliated" is not serious. . . .>

>But it may well be annihilated in the next decade. What happens in the next
recession when Christine Whitman's people get the idea that if they cut TANF funding in half all the poor unemployed single mothers with children will move to New York and be Pataki's problem? Or what happens when the governor of Mississippi calculates that using TANF money to buy people bus tickets to Chicago is a way to save money for the taxpayers of Mississippi?>

I've said TANF is royally screwed-up, so I'm not sure I need to amplify my negativity in this vein. But . . .

The bus ticket stuff is not new. The evidence on migration for the sake of benefits is not strong, in my view. It is true that this may not deter states from trying to low-ball each other, but they could have been doing this anyway. Under AFDC they could set benefit levels and 'compete' for the outmigration of public assistance beneficiaries. One question is whether the new law lets them set residency requirements, a factor which would diminish reform-cum-extradition. I dimly recall some recent court case here, but too dimly.

When the crunch comes, as I agree it will, the states will respond with some combination of accommodation (more spending), meanness, and hand-wringing about re-Federalization. The political challenge is to recreate the political pressure for re-Federalization that the welfare rights movement did in the late 1960's.

>I'm seriously scared. But I've always been scared. TANF was a bribe from
Newt to the governors: I remove federal strings from how you spend your welfare money in the late 1990s so that you get to cut lots of ribbons, propose lots of innovative programs, and get a reputation as a can-do governor; and you don't squawk about what the path of TANF funding means for the amount of federal poor support in the decade of the 2000s.>

Future governors in whose lap this will land will have quite different incentives. When the crunch comes, I think they (or their replacements) are likely to support constructive reform. I dealt with state and local officials in the age of Reagan, and when it came to the Feds, they all displayed a liberal dimension.

>The bribe worked--the governors supported TANF--because every governor in
1995 thought that they would either be retired or be a senator by 2000...>

We're doing a book on devolution which focuses on this problem from assorted angles. Watch this space.

States today are quite different from their forebears in terms of administrative capacity, political culture, etc. Even in this conservative age the state-local sector today takes a larger share of GDP in taxes than in 1980. There has been no 'melt-down' of government, Federal or state. Government's as big in the U.S. as it's ever been; all governments.

Hope I've brightened your day.


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