From Ehrenreich to Digby, then on to the new Salon: We were a bit surprised today reading the new Salon.
Falguni Sheth was criticizing the latest New York Times waste-of-time report concerning (not yet) Candidate Clinton. She also criticized President Clinton for welfare reform.
Clinton did sign a bill enacting welfare reform. That said, we were surprised when we read the following—surprised, and rather skeptical:
SHETH (12/4/13): The ballast for welfare reform exploited the racial antagonism against black women that was inflated and gained momentum under Ronald Reagan’s administration. But as many, from Barbara Ehrenreich to Digby to Jason DeParle, point out, the Clintons and their Democratic buddies endorsed the righteous smokescreen that “workfare” was needed to teach the poor how to keep a job rather than asking for money, and to teach poor (black) women “chastity training.” Patronizing? Racist? Those words don’t even cover half of it, especially as they’re accompanied by the convenient selective amnesia about the legacy of slavery and the still-existent practice of institutional discrimination against blacks.We were puzzled. Did Clinton really sign a bill which called for “chastity training?” If so, why hadn’t we ever heard that?
Helping ourselves to Sheth’s links, we looked to see what Digby had said. We found her quoting a claim by Ehrenreich, then collapsing onto her fainting couch.
Digby believed what Enrenreich said. We’ll put the text from Ehrenreich in italics:
DIGBY (3/15/12): The left, as well as the right, bought into this theory, which basically said that poverty was caused by a cultural divide, in which the good hard working Real Americans were on one side and the lazy, intemperate Others just didn't know how to behave. It wasn't their fault, but Real Americans needed to do something to break the "cycle of poverty."Ehrenreich made the highlighted claim. Plainly, Digby believed it.
Since this fit rather nicely with certain conservative beliefs about race the Republicans took it to a whole other level, followed closely by the New Democrats:
[beginning of Ehrenreich quote]
By the Reagan era, the "culture of poverty" had become a cornerstone of conservative ideology: poverty was caused, not by low wages or a lack of jobs, but by bad attitudes and faulty lifestyles. The poor were dissolute, promiscuous, prone to addiction and crime, unable to "defer gratification," or possibly even set an alarm clock. The last thing they could be trusted with was money. In fact, Charles Murray argued in his 1984 book Losing Ground, any attempt to help the poor with their material circumstances would only have the unexpected consequence of deepening their depravity.
So it was in a spirit of righteousness and even compassion that Democrats and Republicans joined together to reconfigure social programs to cure, not poverty, but the "culture of poverty." In 1996, the Clinton administration enacted the "One Strike" rule banning anyone who committed a felony from public housing. A few months later, welfare was replaced by Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), which in its current form makes cash assistance available only to those who have jobs or are able to participate in government-imposed "workfare."
In a further nod to "culture of poverty" theory, the original welfare reform bill appropriated $250 million over five years for "chastity training" for poor single mothers. (This bill, it should be pointed out, was signed by Bill Clinton.)
[end of Ehrenreich quote]
Yep. “Chastity training.” Signed by Bill Clinton. I'll just leave you to think about that for a minute.
For obvious reasons, Digby understood Ehrenreich to say that President Clinton signed a bill which appropriated money for “chastity reform.”
That isn’t true, of course. Here’s the bill. You can search it yourself.
But Digby purchased this swill from Ehrenreich. Today, Sheth passes it on.
Digby was quoting a “fascinating article” Ehrenreich published in Mother Jones last year. To peruse that piece, click here.
But back in 1998, Ehrenreich had offered her original statement about that so-called “chastity training.” Back then, Ehrenreich didn’t pretend that the bill contained that phrase.
In the Guardian, Ehrenreich railed about Clinton as the Lewinsky scandal broke. Needless to say, she wanted him impeached:
EHRENREICH (1/24/98): No one, of course, could have expected a sitting president to endorse non-marital sex; the mistake lay in not asserting, firmly and calmly, that sex happens, that it happens even among people who are not married to each other, and that the products of such unions are fully legitimate human beings, deserving of social supports. Instead, to his eternal dishonour, in 1996 Clinton signed a welfare reform bill that ends the federal responsibility to children in poverty and, as the added insult, provides funds to enroll their mothers in what the right styles as “chastity training.”Ehrenreich wanted Clinton impeached, for a surfeit of causes. But even she didn’t claim at that point that the bill which Clinton signed had called for “chastity training.” She merely said that folk on the right had been using that phrase.
Now a president who snatches alms from poor morns, while consigning their libidos to cold showers and prayer meetings, arguably deserves whatever torments the puritan right can devise as punishment for his own sexual wanderings. My own preference would be to see him impeached for some weightier misdeed than bedding down a White House intern and urging her to lie about it, and his record provides a surfeit of these.
Fourteen years later, Ehrenreich’s apparent need to deceive apparently made her go farther. Only Digby can explain why she believed what Ehrenreich wrote.
A final point:
Just for the record, was Ehrenreich’s original statement true? Had the right been styling the welfare bill as a form of “chastity training?”
Everything is possible! That said, the Nexis archives contain no record of any such statement. Here’s the history as captured by Nexis:
Ehrenreich is recorded using that phrase in 1998. No one is recorded using that phrase before her. With the exception of Washington Post journalist Michael Powell, no one but Ehrenreich has been recorded using the phrase since that time. “Chastity training” seems to be a very rarely used phrase.
People love inventing facts! Why the heck do people like Digby insist on believing their claims?
Regarding Jason DeParle: We find no sign that Jason DeParle has ever said that the welfare reform bill contained a reference to “chastity training.”
Sheth's link to DeParle takes us here. As we have often told you, the modern professor greatly enjoys inventing her fake, bogus facts.