Tony Perkins, Mike Pence, and the MAGA Right For Life Marchers

Indigenous Peoples March in DC

New Orleans        I heard King, though not clearly, as one of more than 100,000 once at the Spring Mobilization Against the Vietnam War in 1967 in front of the United Nations.  On the holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, we think back on his speeches on the Washington Mall and the dream he shared of another world much different still than the one in which we live.

Incredibly on that same mall, we now are forced to read about youngsters from a catholic high school in Kentucky near Louisville, wearing Make America Great Again Trump hats, in a verbal confrontation with an elder Native American.  After a protest at the Lincoln Memorial with other native groups, with his drum beating he had stepped into the middle of a racial confrontation between these hopped up white boys and a black group.  No one would expect this to turn out well in these days and times.

All of which brings me back to Tony Perkins and the hate and division he broadcasts on a daily basis in his “Washington Watch” radio show which stirs the pot for this kind of mayhem, just as he was doing last week in beating his drum to hype up the crowd going to what has become an annual Right to Life March on the mall.

Tony Perkins is not just another rightwing motor mouth.  He’s a serious hater.  If you’ve missed the positions he and the Family Research Council espouse, here’s a short list.  He’s livid about LGBT rights.  He’s touted a constitutional amendment defining marriage as strictly between a man and a woman.  He’s against the minimum wage, but he’s OK with white supremacists.  He has spoken to such groups, and he bought the mailing list from David Duke and the KKK when he ran for Senate in Louisiana.  He’s all about religion, but has slammed Islam.  The Family Research Council has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  You get the picture, right?

What is frightening to me is looking at the guest list for his radio show, especially now that I have listened to it recently on the road through southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana.  There’s nothing secret about this, it’s hidden in plain view on his website.  Recently, he has had as guests Senator James Lankford (R-OK), Representative Mike Johnson (R-LA), Representative Chris Smith (NJ), Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Representative Brian Babin (R-TX), Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), Representative Don Bacon (R-NE), Ambassador Sam Brownback, the former Republican Governor of Kansas, and, here’s a gut check, Vice-President Mike Pence.  And, hey, this is just the politicians and elected officials who have been with him on his show in January!

No question many of these folks are his fellow-travelers, but it’s one thing for birds of a hateful feather to be flying together, but is this really the kind of company that the elected Vice President of the United States should be keeping?  This is a blatant endorsement of Perkins, the Family Research Council and its positions.   This Right to Life march seems to bring out the worst in folks.  Vice President Pence in this context makes King’s dream, another of our contemporary nightmares.

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Please enjoy Winning Circle by Rick Ross, Misty Blanco, IB Mattic.

Thanks to KABF.

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Not Welfare Reform, but Welfare Deform

New Orleans   You may have missed the fact that welfare reform was on the priority list for the new Congress as it took office in Washington.  You may not have noticed all the signs at the Women’s March there and elsewhere demanding improvements in welfare benefits for women trying to raise children in the current system.  In fact, you may have missed the mention of welfare in the special New York Times supplement featuring stories about the war on poor women as mothers.

In fact, you may have missed all of these references to welfare report and the drastic need to really reform the welfare deform of the last twenty years, because they don’t exist.  Mothers and others on welfare, including their children, have become invisible except as political fodder victimized by old racist and classist tropes about welfare queens and baby-benefit-machines.   Welfare reform was not a priority for the Congress or raised as a major issue by all of the record-setting women who were newly elected.  There were no signs at the women’s marches demanding welfare reform.  The tragedy and travesty of the modern welfare system for poor women as mothers and the price paid by their children was not mentioned in the New York Times’ supplement.  Except as a punching bag for the right, welfare recipients have become invisible.

All of this was grist for the mill in talking to Felicia Kornbluh, a co-author with Gwendolyn Mink, on Wade’s World about their new book, Ensuring Poverty:  Welfare Reform in Feminist Perspective.  The only thing clear about the results of the Clinton-era so-called reform “of welfare as we know it” has been how much money it has saved by governments by denying benefits to welfare recipients.  The title of their book is clear.  This is “ensure” as in guaranteeing poverty, not “insure” with an “i” that might entail protecting against poverty.

The book details the results of these deforms:

  • The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) has shortened recipients’ lives by nearly six months while saving governments $28,000 per recipient over her lifetime.

  • 74% of low-income families with children were NOT receiving TANF or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families which is a 73% gap between average TANF grants and federal poverty definitions.

  • In 2016, states spent just 25% of their TANF funds on cash grants to clients, down 70% compared to the period before so-called reform.

  • The single-mother poverty rate is 35.6% overall with 38.8% for African-American female-headed families, 40.8% for Latina-headed families, 42.6% for Native American female-headed families, and 41.5% for families headed by foreign-born women.

The only way to miss the disastrous impact of these reforms and their ongoing punitive impact, is by not looking.  Kornbluh and Mink argue persuasively that it is has been accomplished in no small part because the intersectionality of race, gender, and income have victimized welfare recipients as women and mothers.  Their feminist analysis is also not kind about the division among feminists that has abetted this tragedy.

Part of their book is the story of the Women’s Committee of 100 that formed during the reform fight to argue for a different path.  The committee was largely spearheaded by Hawaii Democratic Congresswoman Patsy Mink, Gwendolyn Mink’s mother, and both Kornbluh and Mink were counted among the one-hundred.

With all of the current discussion of inequality, it was hard not to ask why we don’t have a Women’s Committee of 100 and a standing army of millions of welfare recipients and their supports demanding real reform now.  The time will never be right politically, but the need continues to be urgent.

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