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Will Welfare Reform Play in the CA Governor's Race?

Adrian Moore
January 25, 2010, 7:19pm

I have lived in California my whole life, barring a few years while in the Army, and I cannot recall a candidate for governor running adds on welfare reform.  Now Meg Whitman is doing so, and her ads really struck me.  Steve Moore wrote about the ads in the Wall Street Journal, read it here.

Last week her campaign launched a series of radio ads now running across the state that educate Californians on the abuses of public assistance in this near-bankrupt state.

"Welfare can't be a way of life," is the headline of the ads, and Ms. Whitman's campaign is betting the farm that this message will resonate with California voters. The system is "completely broken," she says and the ads punctuate that theme with jaw-dropping statistics. For example: California has twice the population of New York but five times as many welfare cases. One reason, her campaign says, is that California offers "among the highest cash welfare checks of any state. But only 22% of our recipients work for their benefits."

These are the kinds of statistics that were commonplace in other states in the 1980s and 1990s, after then-Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson inaugurated a wave of state and federal welfare reforms that cut caseloads by more than half. But as Donna Arduin, California's former budget director and now an adviser to Ms. Whitman, points out: "California never adopted many of the reforms that were adopted in the 1990s in other states -- and that worked to lower costs."

It is ridiculous and unsustainable that California did not adopt welfare to work reforms, and not surprising at all that it led to the state having disproportionate welfare rolls.  It is long past time the state got serious about reform.


Adrian Moore is Vice President, Policy


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