Professors and “journalists” love their fake facts!


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."

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.
Ehrenreich made the highlighted claim. Plainly, Digby believed it.

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.”

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.
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.

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.


  1. Digby never used the phrase "chastity reform". She used the term "chastity training." And, neither phrase can be found in the bill that the blogger linked to.

    However, Section 912 of the bill that the blogger linked to amends the Social Security Act, Section 510, to include funding for abstinence education. The amendment is entitled "Abstinence Education" and it provides federal funds for participating states to establish and maintain specific abstinence-education programs for welfare applicants which could be fairly characterized as chastity training.

    The "swill" is in the bill that Bill signed, but by thin-slicing and conflating this imprecise but reasonably accurate term, the blogger gets a double whammy: another crack at Barbara Eisenreich for her participation in the Big-Dog dogpile back in the day and taking down yet another college professor..

    1. This is a very unfair comment. First, the abstinence sex education funded under "Misc" at the end of this bill is not tied in any way to participation in the program. There is no requirement that women receiving assistance participate in that sex education. There is a concern motivating the bill that teen pregnancies be reduced, and that would justify funding of abstinence education as a preventative measure. At this point, the studies showing that abstinence education is ineffective had not yet been done. Further, many people might benefit from receiving sex education more consistent with their cultural and religious views, so funding of such education is not unreasonable, especially as an alternative for children whose parents will not permit them to attend other types of sex education (it may be better than nothing). Ehrenreich states that Clinton was requiring mothers to receive chastity training as a requirement of their aid. That is not in the bill. Further, it is common for conservatives to attach funding mechanisms for their favorite causes to bills that have very little to do with the programs to be funded. These are often the quid pro quos required to get the rest of the legislation passed. You know that, yet you pretend, like Ehrenreich that Clinton not only funded a bill requiring chastity education, but you pretend Somerby lied about this to attack Digby and others. The attack here is clearly on Ehrenreich who grossly misrepresented the bill and who makes some pretty heated comments about Clinton generally. It is appropriate for Somerby to comment on this because we are heading into an election where this kind of stuff will be revived by those who wish to keep Hillary Clinton out of office.

    2. Thank you.

      Three words: Clinton derangement syndrome. It lives on the left even more ferociously than on the right.

    3. It's always Kool for the young turks who call themselves Democrats to take gratuitous potshots at the Clintons. It makes them feel superior. Competence and success is not high on their list.

    4. You beat me to it in pointing out Section 912 of the bill.

  2. Good catch Howard Olds.

    This blogger needs to eat shit and die real soon (I know, I know - lets say that it is meant only metaphorically). From the "war on Gore" to the "war on Zimmerman" the nits he is picking are getting sub-atomic.

    What is wrong with him? What would make a seemingly human being go on and on like this?

    "Chastity Training" is pretty good description of

    (2) For purposes of this section, the term ‘abstinence education’
    means an educational or motivational program which—
    ‘‘(A) has as its exclusive purpose, teaching the social,
    psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining
    from sexual activity;
    ‘‘(B) teaches abstinence from sexual activity outside
    marriage as the expected standard for all school age chil-
    ‘‘(C) teaches that abstinence from sexual activity is
    the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy,
    sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health
    ‘‘(D) teaches that a mutually faithful monogamous rela-
    tionship in context of marriage is the expected standard
    of human sexual activity;
    ‘‘(E) teaches that sexual activity outside of the context
    of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and
    physical effects;
    ‘‘(F) teaches that bearing children out-of-wedlock is
    likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the
    child’s parents, and society;
    ‘‘(G) teaches young people how to reject sexual
    advances and how alcohol and drug use increases vulner-
    ability to sexual advances; and
    ‘‘(H) teaches the importance of attaining self-sufficiency
    before engaging in sexual activity.
    ‘‘(c)(1) Sections 503, 507, and 508 apply

  3. You have a point, Howard. However, there's a difference between abstinence and chastity. I personally think "abstinence training" is likely a waste of money. But, "chastity training" is a caricature description.

    1. You are entitled to your opinions. There are also studies of the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex education. They show that the programs are ineffective at reducing teen pregnancy but do a better job than other forms of sex education at teaching about STDs (perhaps because they emphasize that to encourage abstinence instead of birth control pills. One of the reasons why abstinence sex education does not work is because it relies on peer pressure to promote abstinence. Peer pressure becomes less effective when peer groups are not maintained during transitions between middle and high school and after high school. So, whether it is a waste of money depends on your goals (STD prevention vs pregnancy prevention). Ehrenreich uses the word "chastity" because it is a loaded term conjuring up images of medieval chastity belts or purity. Foisting that onto the concerns of poor women feeding their children is offensive, even when Ehrenreich does it.

  4. The compassionate, progressive solution to the problem is to abort as many of those black babies as possible.

  5. The Daily Howler is correct here. It is a head scratching element of human life that a writer as gifted, intelligent and sincere as Barbara Ehrenreich was willing to get down in the sewer and roll around in this kind of garbage against the Clintons. But She did, and She did it again in 2008. You have to wonder who She really hurt. I read her last excellent book (Bright Sided) but given the fact She had had a best seller, it performed poorly. It wasn't exactly impossible to critique the Clintons from the left without making stuff up, but She couldn't do it.

    1. Do you really think Ehrenreich is "rolling around in the sewer" because she used the word "chastity" instead of "abstinence?" You are aware that President Clinton's bill appropriated money for abstinence training, aren't you? I think Ehrenreich was using a little literary hyperbole just as you were.

    2. Ehrenreich tried to create the impression that Bill Clinton was forcing women to to take abstinence training, or I guess consider abstinence as a form of birth control. It's a massive stretch to say that was what he was doing. It's sleazy bullshit, and at least I give her enough credit to say She's above it. But like I say, he hit book could have left her a real voice in the national debate. But She took the low road, and now nobody reads her books (sad, because they only got better).

  6. I've recently deleted Digby from my favorites, since she has shut down comments without explanation for well over a year (with an annoying note asking people not to complain about it) and there's no way for readers to respond.
    I like to think my calling out of "thereisnospoon" as a privileged, sanctimonious little prig caused it, because the widespread ridicule of "Tristero" apparently had no effect on the comments but thankfully made his posts very infrequent.
    Turn this into a Digby and LGF gadfly blog and I'll donate, Bob.

  7. A single woman used to be able to have a baby and then go on welfare for the next 18 years. Then she could have another and stay on it for another 18. She didn't even have to pretend she intended to do anything else. And why would she? If she got a low paying job her kids would lose their health care, she'd have to pay for child care, and they'd be worse off in every way.

    In New York one out of six people was on welfare. It was a way of life. I knew people who did it. Clearly this had to be changed. I'm a liberal but this isn't the way to help poor people. It's not beating people up to stop letting them make a living out of having kids they can't support.

    1. Sounds like "low paying jobs" are (yet again) the problem.


  8. Welfare "reform" was the precursor of education "reform". It was a moral disaster. Digby is quite right here. Clinton and Gore have a lot to answer for.

    1. Surely a welfare reform program that is that flawed can be criticized on its own merits without having to make up ridiculous claims about what it contains.

  9. Ehrenreich wrote an excellent book regarding the working poor Nickle and Dimed. Clinton promoted NAFTA and signed Gramm-Leach-Billey into law. He also gave us "the commitee to save the world". My sympathies are solidly with Ms. Ehrenreich.

    I read Hillary gave another of her $200,000 "speeches" before Goldman Sachs recently. Lord don't they help themselves.

    1. Ehrenreich is trusted by her readers, so distorting that bill in order to attack Clinton damages that trust. You liked Nickeled and Dimed. Would you like it as much if you heard that she made up her experiences instead of living them, as claimed? Probably not. So, she should have stuck to telling people the truth, not let her dislike of Clinton interfere with accuracy.

      I'm not sure why the Clintons are expected to waive their speaking fees. Is it now a crime to make a living? Shouldn't a former first lady and Secretary of State be paid that much? Or is she supposed to be paid less because she is female or because you don't like her husband? Should she only speak to people who agree with her messages or who support her policies or should she speak to those who disagree with her? Are you implying that this is a way of being paid off by such organizations, and if so, are you aware that Obama received more money from Wall Street (including Goldman Sachs) than Clinton in 2008? Do you imagine that Obama will waive any of those six-figure speaking fees when he leaves office? Will you then say "Lord, don't they help themselves." about him?

      Lord, don't people love to hate the Clintons.

    2. "Are you implying that this is a way of being paid off by such organizations ...?

      Uh, yeah. One has to be BooBoo the Fool to think otherwise.

    3. Same here. I greatly prefer President Clinton to any Republican, period, but have to point out that not only did he sign NAFTA and the repeal of the Glass-Steagall law, he also presided over the adamant refusal to regulate CDO's and the rest of the so-called Shadow Banking system which made so many of his cronies filthy rich and contributed so greatly to the collapse of our economy in 2007-2008.

  10. When the Great Society welfare programs were passed, benefits were less than what someone could earn in a minimum wage job. Also the economy was booming and inequality was decreasing so it was assumed that it would always be to anyone's advantage to take a job and get off welfare. But real wages actually started decreasing by 1973 - the minimum wage was not updated as fast as prices - and the advantage of working instead of getting welfare decreased. This is why there was some necessity for reform of welfare and making work mandatory. The "culture of welfare" was an economic development which had little to do with work habits or incentives among lower-income people.

  11. Mothers need help. Single or not. Ending "welfare as we know it" did nothing, nothing to help children in poverty and a lot to hurt them. Somerby, who cares about poor children, ought to acknowledge this. The move was a calculated act of pandering to the knuckle-draggers and mouth breathers (mostly the Southern), who, given an inch have taken many many feet.
    I am not a fan of Erinreich for many reasons, among them the snobbish disgust she expresses for manual labor, but Clinton and Gore will never live down their neoliberal "reforms". If they had any decency at all they would attempt some kind of atonement for their misguided dismantling of the social contract.

    1. I don't recall any "snobish disgust" for manual labor". As a matter of fact she did those jobs, she lived it, and I think humanized the people she worked along side. What I got out of her book was a contempt for the unnecessary psychological and physical dehumanization made part of that work. She's what I call a REAL journalist.

    2. I'd like this commenter to provide one single, solitary example of Ehrenreich expressing a "snobbish disgust" for manual labor.

  12. I personally would like to see a law requiring corporate officers, bank presidents, hedge fund managers and their ilk to undergo drug testing before their companies could be eligible for any form of corporate welfare.

  13. I was put off by the way she went on and on (in The Nation) about how horrible it was to clean films of accumulated dirt off of things,

    as though this were the most degrading work in the world.

    Someone has to do it -- it is part of life and not that much more horrible than other kinds of work.

    Having just cleaned the range hood, I can say that at least one can have the satisfaction of seeing the result of one's work and that is how people who have to do this kind of work -- which includes most of us who cannot afford a cleaning staff --. see it. it is not at all helpful to concentrate on how disgusting the all gunk is. I was really surprised at Erenreich's take on this. Otherwise, I am mostly in sympathy with her point of view.

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