Welfare Wars: Anatomy of a Smear
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published January 30, 2012 in The Washington Times.
When I was a copy editor at the Los Angeles Times, a young reporter submitted an article about a single mother having trouble obtaining government checks.
The story was designed to elicit outrage at callous bureaucrats who should have been showering the poor woman with subsidies. I asked the reporter if she knew anything about the father. Was he providing any assistance? Was he a deadbeat dad?
The reporter, who probably has gone on to MSNBC, responded: “How dare you ask that question? How dare you be so judgmental? It’s nobody’s business.”
Well, given that the unfortunate woman was asking taxpayers to take the place of the man who fathered her children, it was everybody’s business.
It’s no secret that the decline of marriage has contributed mightily to poverty, crime, abortion, drug and child abuse, alcoholism, school dropout rates, sexually transmitted diseases and virtually every known social ill while exponentially bloating state and federal budgets. Every liberal attack on marriage ensures more government jobs for liberals to pick up the pieces.
As the federal government lurches toward a $16 trillion national debt and states face bankruptcy, the welfare state is strangling freedom and the economy while keeping millions in wretched dependency.
Every attempt to rein in the behemoth is met with threats by public-employee unions, fusillades from left-wing think tanks, and media smears.
Exhibit A is unfolding in the City of Brotherly Love, where the welfare state works so well that Philadelphia is a perennial contender for murder capital of the United States. There’s something to be said for Philly, home of Ben Franklin, Bill Cosby, Independence Hall and hoagies. But Philadelphia is also awash in liberal bureaucracy and social pathologies unleashed by the collapse of minority families, thanks to the Great Society’s vision of the good life.
Here’s the gist of the current drama:
At issue: Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) Secretary Gary D. Alexander’s attempts to reduce waste and fraud.
The real target: Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
The goat: Robert W. Patterson, a DPW official. I worked with Mr. Patterson a few years back at the Family Research Council. He’s a good guy and a careful writer.
Mr. Patterson, who was appointed policy adviser in October, came under fire in mid-January from the Philadelphia Inquirer, which “began asking about Patterson’s side job as editor of the Family in America, published by an Illinois-based research center that advocates for the ‘natural human family … established by the Creator.’ ” You know, the Creator that America’s Founding Fathers cited in the Declaration of Independence, which the Continental Congress adopted in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.
The Family in America is not a faith-based journal but a scholarly compilation of articles and research summaries published by the Howard Center, whose president is Allan C. Carlson, arguably the nation’s leading social historian. To the Philly hit team, the journal is immediately suspect because it isn’t aggressively secular.
Here’s a snippet from a Philadelphia Daily News editorial:
“Religion is at the center of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, where Patterson works as an editor. It’s fair to wonder how right it is for his extreme views to help shape a policy – in Patterson’s case, welfare policy – that will affect so many in need. And we can’t help but be disturbed by the contempt Patterson must have held, given his beliefs, for many of the clients served by the department.”
Add mind-reading to the amazing powers of the Philly scribes, along with shockingly casual religious bigotry. They know Mr. Patterson harbors bad motives because anyone who promotes marriage and respects religion must hate the poor.
The Inquirer and its cousin Daily News zeroed in on an article in the new-research section of the Family in America that summarized a scientist’s findings that semen had some positive effects on women. Here’s how a Daily News blog describes Patterson’s most colorful crime: “He wrote stories about semen as a mental elixir for women.”
An Inquirer article on Jan. 26 attacked Mr. Patterson again, giving a cartoonish version of his views and noting his “musings on how condom use could rob women of reported mood-enhancing benefits of chemicals.”
Unmentioned was that Mr. Patterson had digested a Sept. 22, 2010, blog article in Scientific American summarizing several scientists’ research on the topic. If you want to provoke a liberal wolf pack, try introducing scientific evidence for male-female complementarities.
At the same time the papers were hammering Mr. Patterson, the Inquirer ran stories about the Corbett administration’s attempt to reform Medicaid. The Jan. 18 headline screams: “Since August, 88,000 Pennsylvania children have lost Medicaid benefits.”
The article includes unanswered volleys such as, “They have chosen to send a signal, and it is very callous,” by a senior fellow from the hard-left Center for American Progress, identified as “a Washington think tank.”
Think of this as a microcosm of what the national press will do when House Republicans this year renew their common-sense plan to reform Medicaid in similar fashion to the 1996 welfare reform that replaced open-ended federal matching funds with finite block grants.
Finally, there was this gem:
“Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D-Phil.) said he believed the reviews were part of a pattern … of the Corbett administration’s ‘putting their foot on the neck of poor people.’ ”
Is that all? From the tone of the articles and editorials, one would think Mr. Corbett had commissioned a traveling guillotine squad, perhaps with Mr. Patterson in a black hood.
But only one head fell in the flurry of liberal righteous indignation, and that was Bob Patterson’s. He resigned from the Department of Public Welfare and will continue to edit the Family in America.
It’s bad news for Pennsylvania but good news for the rest of the nation.