New York Times welfare reporter Jason DeParle appeared on the NPR program "Fresh Air" hosted by Terry Gross, on Thursday to retell the horror stories that appeared in his lead story last Sunday: "I can't remember a time when I heard people talk so openly about desperate or even illegal things that they were doing in order to make ends meet. They were selling food stamps. They were selling blood. Women talked openly about shoplifting." Even committing "muggings of illegal immigrants." DeParle noted with laughable understatement that such "strategies" can "make them seem unsympathetic."
Asked by the sympathetic Gross about the 1996 welfare reform (which DeParle at the time said risked forcing mothers to "turn to prostitution or the drug trade....abandon their children....camp out on the streets and beg"), DeParle responded with tales of formidable state bureaucracy that won't cut much ice with anyone who has dealt with the DMV:
In 1996 DeParle predicted poor mothers would "turn to prostitution or the drug trade. Or cling to abusive boyfriends. Or have more abortions. Or abandon their children. Or camp out on the streets and beg." None of which came to pass, until now (or so his new anecdotes suggest).
New York Times poverty beat-writer Jason Deparle, who once described Clinton’s welfare reform proposal as “a bill that begrudges poor infants their Pampers” and predicted it might cause women to “camp out on the streets and beg,” made Thursday’s front page with the claim that America is becoming “less equal...less mobile” with the poor stuck in place, in “Harder for Americans to Rise From Economy’s Lower Rungs.”
A photo caption read: “Occupy protesters, like these in Flint, Mich., have pushed discussions about economic mobility toward center stage.”
Veteran New York Times welfare-beat reporter Jason DeParle took yet another victory lap in his Thursday story on how food stamps are losing their stigma in a piece co-written with Robert Gebeloff: "Once Stigmatized, Food Stamps Find Acceptance."
These same two reporters wrote a national version of the same story with virtually the same headline less than three months ago, which appeared on the front page November 29, 2009: "Food Stamp Use Soars Across U.S., and Stigma Fades." Both stories are apart of the paper's occasional series "The Safety Net."
The triumphal headline and DeParle's accompanying attitude of barely concealed vindication is no surprise, given his long-time opposition to welfare reform, noted most bluntly in a sour and alarmist piece he penned as a Times reporter, opposing the passage of Clinton-era welfare reform in the July 28, 1996 Times Week in Review: "Get a Job -- The New Contract With America's Poor." DeParle warned in that 1996 piece:
How will major news organizations handle the challenge or conflict-of-interest problems when they have employees with spouses at high levels of the Obama administration? The newly named head of the White House Office of Health Reform, Nancy-Ann DeParle, is married to New York Times reporter Jason DeParle. The marriage was mentioned in the Times article on Mrs. DeParle’s appointment, but will the editor or the Public Editor of the Times explain how they’ll avoid a conflict?
Time magazine saluted Mrs. DeParle’s resume, including running Medicare at the end of the Clinton administration, but like the Times, they were more concerned with her private-sector conflicts: "Since then she has become a highly sought-after corporate, academic and foundation consultant, earning enough money with her husband, New York Times reporter Jason DeParle, to buy a $3 million house in the Washington suburbs in 2007."
Reporter Jason DeParle garnered Monday's lead story slot in the New York Times with an investigation into how the U.S. welfare system, which went through enormous changes in 1996 after President Clinton signed a bill replacing cash entitlement with work requirements and time limits, is functioning state by state during tough economic times ("Welfare Aid Failing to Grow as Economy Lags)."
But DeParle might not be the most objective teller of this particular tale -- his reporting has always been opposed to the welfare reform bill pushed by the GOP and signed by Clinton. At the time, he called it "a bill that begrudges poor infants their Pampers" and warned of more homelessness, drug use, prostitution, and abortions, none of which came to pass.
DeParle doesn't acknowledge that in his story, which began:
Despite soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis in decades, 18 states cut their welfare rolls last year, and nationally the number of people receiving cash assistance remained at or near the lowest in more than 40 years.
The trends, based on an analysis of new state data collected by The New York Times, raise questions about how well a revamped welfare system with great state discretion is responding to growing hardships.