This article was published in 1999, just as Bill Bradley was running for President of the United States. It’s strange how politicians, notably Democrats, quote the same old mess about poverty and about they want to help poor impoverished children. The theme is never-ending and many of the statistics never change. Of note is the fact that Mr. Bradley declares a victory of 1%. Bill Bradley fought for some of the most invasive federal welfare reform and made new enforcement measures with the help of the Clintons. He claims that he didn’t approve of what the Clintons did because they watered his legislation down. The law wasn’t enough. It never is. It didn’t work. It never does. The politicians didn’t kill the Bradley Amendment though. They legislated over it in a pretense to make effective legislation.
In America; Bradley’s Poverty Push
By BOB HERBERT
Published: October 21, 1999
Bill Bradley, eschewing small themes in favor of a grander vision of America, will argue today, at a speech in Brooklyn, that the United States has a moral obligation to do what it can to lift as many children as possible from the punishing confines of poverty.
”We are in a time of unprecedented prosperity,” he said in an interview, ”and yet there are still nearly 14 million children who live in poverty. I think there is a broad consensus that we need to change that.”
Mr. Bradley said he planned to ”lay out a broad goal to reduce child poverty by a specific amount at a specific time.” And he will detail what he described as the initial steps, or ”down payment,” needed to move toward that goal.
The speech is scheduled for this morning at the Concord Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant. And like his proposal to make health care available to virtually all uninsured Americans, and his insistence that a Bradley administration would work constantly to break down racial barriers, his approach to child poverty appears to be far more ambitious than the terminally incremental initiatives that have plagued the country since the Clinton health plan imploded.
Mr. Bradley said his speech would address the following: ”How do we increase income for people who are poor? How do we provide child care for people who are poor? How do we generate hope in the lives of people who have had very little hope in their lives?”
This antipoverty initiative is linked both literally and symbolically to Mr. Bradley’s desire to forge a more tolerant and unified society. He noted that 36 percent of the poor children in the U.S. are white, about 30 percent are black, and 22 percent are Latino. ”What I see as a possibility,” he said, ”is a multiracial coalition that would rekindle the same kind of purposefulness as the civil rights revolution in the 1960’s.”
Most politicians have run like rabbits from that kind of talk. Grand visions, idealism, kind words about the 60’s — all have been anathema in the 90’s. But Mr. Bradley, quietly, almost serenely, has been saying the nation is ready once again to assert its better self.
”I think we still have a lot of catching up to do in terms of our commitments to each other and our commitments to children who are poor,” he said.
Mr. Bradley acknowledged that inroads against poverty had been made as the economy has improved over the past few years, but he said that was not enough.
”Poverty dropped, I think, 1 percent last year,” he said. ”I’d rather have that happen than not happen. But it is still higher than it was in 1989 and far higher than it was in 1970.”
Mr. Bradley voted against the so-called welfare reform legislation that Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996. ”I didn’t think the federal government should cut off its commitment to individual children who are poor,” he said, adding, ”I didn’t think the answer to the problem of children in poverty was to have a group of federal politicians take a pot of money and send it to the state politicians and say, ‘Handle this problem as best you can.’ ”
Mr. Bradley said some of the more objectionable aspects of the law had been modified, but more changes were needed.