Ted Kennedy's real record

By AL GIORDANO  |  August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy has supported the RFK and Moynihan proposals throughout his career, and has done far more to reform the system than have welfare-bashing Republicans.

The Republicans have held the presidency for 20 out of the past 26 years, yet the only GOP-led attempt to reform welfare came in the early 1970s, when Moynihan, now a Democratic senator from New York, served as domestic-policy adviser in the Nixon administration.

The sole major reform of welfare that passed in these decades was the Family Support Act of 1988 – a law sponsored by Moynihan and Kennedy. "That gave the states the option of putting people into workfare," notes Paul Offner, a legislative aide to Moynihan who has frequently written on welfare reform in the New Republic and the Washington Post.

"It's not unfair to say that Bush did little or nothing," Offner adds. "There was not a serious welfare reform proposal of any kind. President Bush waited until he was getting ready to run for re-election in '92, then he sent up a little bill that had four or five little tinkering proposals. Reagan's position was, basically, that we hand this all back to the states and give them more flexibility. That was not what ended up passing."

The real impetus for the 1988 reform, according to Offner, came from the states: "Frankly, Bill Clinton was the lead governor. He said we want to change the emphasis of welfare from sending out checks and determining eligibility and replace it with training and work."

As president, Clinton has introduced welfare-reform legislation that would mandate that able-bodied welfare recipients stop receiving benefits after two years unless they are working. But the Moynihan-Kennedy law already allows any state that wishes to start such a program to do so.

Kennedy, the record shows, had always been for the work requirement. In 1978, he introduced a welfare-reform bill that would have pushed recipients off welfare and into work.

Kennedy has seen his quest for healthcare as an essential prerequisite to welfare reform, since welfare recipients receive health insurance through Medicaid. As Offner notes, "After you get a job and leave the welfare rolls, you're entitled under current law to one year of health care. After that, if you haven't obtained health insurance you drop off completely. There are a number of studies which show that 10 or 20 percent of those on welfare stay on the rolls only because they don't want to lose health insurance."

Clinton and Kennedy

The Clinton presidency has brought new life to Ted Kennedy and his legislative goals. Health-care reform has been Kennedy's priority for almost three decades. A quarter-century ago, Kennedy wrote an introduction to Richard Harris's book A Sacred Trust: The Story of Organized Medicine's Multi-Million Dollar Fight Against Public Health Legislation, in which he acknowledged that it could "take a generation" to enact health-care reform.

In 1972, Kennedy published his own book on the subject, In Critical Condition: The Crisis In America's Health Care (Simon & Schulster). "I have personally tasted the tragedy of illness and injuries," Kennedy wrote, referring to his and his brother Jack's back injuries, and to his father's debilitating stroke.

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |   next >
Related: Ted's turn, Have you heard the one about Chappaquiddick?, After Ted, More more >
  Topics: Flashbacks , Mitt Romney, Trade, Trade Policy,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
    It's Thanksgiving at the Smith home, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia.
  •   TED'S TURN  |  August 26, 2009
    A little-known provision in the crime bill now being negotiated by a House-Senate conference committee would greatly expand the number of prison cells available to house violent criminals, and it wouldn't be cost a dime. But it may be doomed unless Senator Ted Kennedy is willing to spend some political capital.
  •   TED KENNEDY'S REAL RECORD  |  August 26, 2009
    When a 32-year incumbent seeks re-election, there is a long and well-documented record that can be examined. So it's disconcerting to note that admit all the miles of newsprint and videotape that have been expended covering the US Senate campaign, little has been said of what Ted Kennedy has or hasn't accomplished.
  •   SEX, DRUGS, ROCK AND PEACE  |  July 22, 2009
    It is a nation of alienated young people. We carry it around with us as a state of mind in the same way the Sioux Indians carried the Sioux nation around with them. It's a nation dedicated to cooperation versus competition, to the idea that people should have a better means of exchange than property and money.
  •   DAMN YOU, BARACK OBAMA  |  September 26, 2007
    Now that Obama's small contributors have effectively rewritten the history of political-campaign funding, even die-hard cynics are drinking the Kool-Aid.

 See all articles by: AL GIORDANO