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THE ARITHMETIC OF DEPRIVATION Simple math: Infant day care costs six hundred to eight hundred dollars a month. Child care costs five hundred to six hundred dollars a month. Minimum wage, at four dollars and twenty-five cents an hour, makes for an income of approximately six hundred eighty dollars a month before taxes. You figure it out. If we keep the Earned Income Tax Credit for working poor people \(my nomination for the Best Thing That President and raise the minimum wage to cover at least basic needs, estimated by the Center for Popular Economics at ten thousand, eight hundred and forty-seven dollars for a woman with two children, and keep Medicaid intact for those at the poverty level, then we will probably see a noticeable number of folks move off welfarealthough offering them job training and transportation costs would help move even more off the rolls. So what are the Republicans doing? Moving to eliminate the EITC for working poor people. Refusing to consider the minimum wage. Moving to slash Medicaid. And that, friends, is a recipe for disaster. Pat Cole of Seattle wrote to Senator Patty Murray: “I found myself at thirty years of age with two children, no job and very few skills to make more than a minimum wage. I was awarded no alimony and two hundred and ten dollars a month child support. For a month, I was forced to leave my eight-yearold daughter in charge of my two-year-old while I worked as a waitress. I could have been arrested and my children taken away from me. My only recourse was public assistance…. “Luckily, the state paid for a vocational program at a community college and the early learning center program for my twoyear-old. Within a year, I was graduated and off welfare; within five years, I was making forty-five thousand dollars. Currently, I am in business for myself as an independent sales representative, and this year, I project sales in excess of two mil Molly Ivins is a former Observer editor and a columnist for The Fort Worth StarTelegram. lion dollars. My oldest daughter works for me, and my youngest daughter is graduating from college. I could never have accomplished this without the availability of education and child care. “I was given a chance to create a future for myself and my children instead of drifting in low-paid jobs and dangerous environments, with no hope…. What Senator Dole is suggesting is insane! The idea that there be no child care, that somehow women are supposed to leave their children at the mercy of family or neighbors suggests that he has never been to a poor or even working-class neighborhood….He pictures some ’50s fantasyland where some sweet grandmother is being magically supported and willing to lovingly care for her grandchildren…. Excuse me… the reality is that these ‘grandmothers’ are in their 40s, have to work and are struggling to hold their own lives together.” Another Republican proposal is to raise the retirement age to seventy, leaving even fewer grandmothers home to provide child care. When contacted yesterday, Cole was even more indignant about “welfare reform.” “Haven’t any of them ever spent an afternoon at a welfare office?” she demanded. A five-year cut-off on welfare is not necessarily a bad idea; in fact, seventy percent of women on welfare stay on the rolls for less than two years, according to the Center for Popular Economics. The problem is that many are forced to return to Aid to Families with Dependent Children within five years, almost always because of job loss or a health-care crisis. As soon as a woman loses Medicaid because she gets a job \(almost always with no gets sick, she has to go back to welfare to get the child medical care. So cutting Medicaid puts these women on a hopeless treadmill. My favorite quote from the Senate welfare debate came from Texan Kay Bailey Hutchison, who said: “States can be more efficient and more responsible if Washington just gets out of the way.” Hutchison served in the Texas Legislature when this state provided thirty-two dollars a monthnot per week, per monthin AFDC. If she has forgotten, she should ask her husband, Ray, about the fight to get education for deaf children. “Efficient and responsible”? Try callous, racist, cruel and stupid. This is Texas today. A state full of Sunbelt boosters, strident anti-unionists, oil and gas companies, nuclear weapons and powerplants, political hucksters, underpaid workers and toxic wastes, to mention a few. :Tar.tsp, .,1 . Ir. , 41c . ..–, …lk .41 \\ r— _j. l… . : 14b f ilf o r u g ‘ 4 4. :. ; , . AVM NW !Irail ‘ ,res Q. , 11111P Eiff I’d ‘ ?JD. t.S . Si Ir r iir i : ri a * , . BUT . DO NOT DESPAIR! r aw Till TEXAS 1 op server TO SUBSCRIBE: Name Address City State Zip $32 enclosed for a one-year subscription. Bill me for $32. 307 West 7th, Austin, TX 78701 MOLLY IVINS THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15