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New Left Review 4, July-August 2000


Clinton’s finest hour, on the welfare front. The moral hysterias and mean calculations of US reform are now a benchmark for post-social-democracy in Britain. Joel Handler considers the fall in American welfare rolls, and the realities of poverty and vulnerability behind them.

JOEL HANDLER

REFORMING/DEFORMING WELFARE

Mary Ann Moore was a ‘welfare-to-work heroine’ who had, it seemed, defied all the odds. She had grown up without a father, surrounded by violence, in one of the worst public-housing projects in the United States. A high-school dropout, she had borne four children by three different fathers, become an addict, suffered from depression; her employment record was poor. Yet when New York Times reporter Jason DeParle visited Moore in 1994 she had been working for over a year, ‘up at 3:30 a.m. . . . snapping on lights and bundling up children. She was out the door at 5 and on the job, as a cook, by 6.’ Three years later, however, when DeParle revisited Moore, there had been a total reversal. She was back on drugs, out of work, the apartment was a wreck, and she could barely get her twins off to school. What had happened?

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