Jeb Bush on Welfare & Poverty

Republican FL Governor; V.P. prospect


1994 Phoenix Project: end welfare culture

Bush's tough brand of conservatism also featured new restrictions for Florida's welfare recipients. In early 1994, Bush unveiled a welfare reform plan dubbed the "Phoenix Project." The goal of the project, he later told the Miami Herald, was to "dismantle the welfare state and all the culture that comes from it."

Under the plan, Florida would refuse to accept federal funds to aid the state's poor families, and restrict benefits to just two years of assistance. To be eligible for benefits, poor women would be required to "identify the fathers of their children, submit to random drug tests and work if jobs were available," according to a Herald story from March 1, 1994.

Bush's welfare plan was an early sign of the sharply conservative tone that would come to characterize his entire campaign.

Source: New York Times 2015 interview of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jan 11, 2015

If you're born poor, the odds are stacked against you

Bush threw cold water in the face of conservatives who espouse a strict up-by-the-bootstraps doctrine of individual responsibility, and who ascribe failure only to personal failure. Life, he said, is increasingly more difficult for those who aren't born with built-in advantages. "It is not a validation of our conservative principles if we can only point to the increasingly rare individual who overcomes adversity and succeeds in America," Bush said. "Here's reality: if you're fortunate enough to count yourself among the privileged, much of the rest of the nation is drowning.

"In our country today, if you're born poor, if your parents didn't go to college, if you don't know your father, if English isn't spoken at home, then the odds are stacked against you. You are more likely to stay poor today than at any other time since World War II," he said.

Source: 2013 Conservative Political Action Conf. in Huffington Post , Mar 15, 2013

Proposed refusing federal money for welfare

Bush's campaign was described as 1 of fervently held ideas. "His appearances became revival meetings.and as he went from country club to country club telling stories about [welfare fraud] to his all-white audiences they would shake their heads along with him, conjuring up their own image of what the lazy welfare mother looked like, and the color of her skin." During his campaign Bush openly espoused a conservative "constrain the beast" philosophy toward government. He proposed to dismantle the State Department of Education and to refuse federal money for welfare. He would have forced mothers and children off welfare after 2 years, with no provision for job training or child care beyond the small amount available at the time.
Source: Aggressive Conservatism in Florida, by Robert Crew, p. ˙6 , Dec 11, 2009

Created Governor's Faith-Based Advisory Board

Governor Bush embraced with greater enthusiasm the use of religious organizations to take over activities traditionally provided by governmental agencies. Florida has a long history of working with religious based organizations to provide social services to disadvantaged citizens.

To pursue his strategy, Bush created in the Office of the Governor a Faith-Based Advisory Board designed to mobilize additional religious organizations and to encourage their participation in his efforts to make nongovernmental organizations the primary mechanism for delivering public services in Florida. The board also provided direction to state agencies in their use of religious organizations in their work and technical assistance to the organizations in securing grant funds from both the federal and state governments. Bush also required state agencies to create official positions--called faith-based liaisons--to help eliminate internal obstacles to the receipt of funding for religious groups.

Source: Aggressive Conservatism in Florida, by Robert Crew, p. 34 , Dec 11, 2009

1994: Get tough on recipients of public assistance

During his 1994 run, he made welfare a main issue in his campaign, vowing to get tough on recipients of public assistance--even if it meant, he said at one point, having the state take away the children of parents who were too lazy to find a job. At event after event, Jeb talked about the welfare mom who, given all the various freebies available to her like Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Medicaid and so forth, was pulling down an extravagant $15,000 a year in benefits.
Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p. 13 , Feb 15, 2007

More government money to religious groups

Regarding church and state issues, George Sr. and George Jr. both supported sending more government money to religious groups, even if some of it helped them proselytize. So did Jeb.

Where George Sr. may have read executive summary of a report and schmoozed with the people who wrote it, and George Jr. may ask for a one-sentence synopsis and then snap at the aide for giving him too much information, Jeb will actually take the briefing book home and read it. In a press conference, Jeb will far more articulately explain the report and the policy than either his father or brother. In the end, though, the result is likely to be the same: a set of policies that in most cases only hard-core economic and cultural conservatives can support.

Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p. 28 , Feb 15, 2007

Welcome community and faith based organizations as partners

Last year, I asked you to join me in an unshakable commitment to educating our children, diversifying our economy, and strengthening the bonds that hold our families together. Today, I thank you for honoring that commitment and ask that we continue on the path of progress for the people we serve.

We are stronger because we recognize that government isn't the sole answer to the most important questions, and we welcome community and faith based organizations as partners to serve the needs of Florida families. Florida is in a better position to serve our people and face our future, and I thank the members of the Legislature for creating that opportunity.

Source: 2004 State of the State speech to the Florida Legislature , Mar 2, 2004

Replace AFDC with limited temporary assistance

Jeb Bush decided to run for governor in 1994, vanquishing competition in the Republican primary and leading in polls during most of the fall. He called for fewer appeals for death row inmates and speedier executions, said Florida should withdraw from Aid to Families with Dependent Children and replace it with limited temporary assistance. There was a rigid tone to Bush’s campaign; when one black man asked him what he would do to help him, Bush replied, “Probably nothing.”
Source: National Journal, the Almanac of American Politics , Jan 28, 2000

Limit welfare benefits; supports welfare-to-work

Source: 1998 Florida National Political Awareness Test , Jul 2, 1998

Help welfare recipients into workforce

Source: 1998 Florida National Political Awareness Test , Jul 2, 1998

Taking welfare should be more shameful than working

Aristotle created a special category of virtue, which he called “quasi virtues.” In it he placed shame. Shame has always been an important mechanism for exercising self-control.

An example of how we have come to devalue shame in our society is in our welfare system. In the mid-1960s, only half of those eligible for welfare payments were taking them and many enrolled would refuse to take the maximum allowance. People shined shoes and found other ways to bring in money that by today’s standards would be considered shameful. However, by the early 1970s, the stigma of receiving welfare had been lost by an administration that encouraged receipt of welfare. The rolls exploded as a much higher percentage of those who were eligible suddenly thought it less shameful to take advantage of the benefits rather than employ themselves in a job requiring hard work, such as shining shoes or sweeping floors. For many it is more shameful to work than to take public assistance-that is how backward shame has become!

Source: Profiles in Character, by Jeb Bush & B.Yablonski, p. 52-55 , Nov 1, 1995

Maintain federal Social Services Block Grant funding.

Bush adopted the National Governors Association position paper:

The Issue

Despite an ongoing need to provide social services to families, the elderly, and the disabled, federal funding for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) has been cut dramatically over the past few years, indicating a weakening of the historic state-federal partnership to serve needy Americans. In 1996, as part of the historic welfare reform agreement, Congress agreed to provide the states $2.38 billion each year for SSBG. Since that time, funding has been chipped away little by little. This year, SSBG is funded at $1.725 billion.

NGA’s Position

The nation’s Governors have consistently supported the broad flexibility of the SSBG and are adamantly opposed to cuts in federal funding for the program. Governors believe that funding for SSBG is among the most valuable federal investment that can be made for the nation’s most vulnerable population. Further cuts will be difficult for state and local governments to absorb and will cause a disruption in the delivery of the most critical human services. Governors believe that funding for SSBG should be restored to $2.38 billion, and transferability should be permanently restored to 10 percent, the levels that were agreed to as part of the 1996 welfare reform law.

In 1996, Governors reluctantly agreed to a slight reduction in funding for SSBG, from $2.8 billion to $2.38 billion, with the understanding that funding would remain at $2.38 billion through fiscal 2002, and then return to $2.8 billion. However, the federal government has consistently broken that promise. The nation’s Governors strongly urge Congress and the administration to reject the proposed cuts and to restore funding and flexibility to the program.

Source: National Governors Association "Issues / Positions" 01-NGA14 on Sep 7, 2001

Maintain flexibility & funding levels for TANF block grants.

Bush adopted the National Governors Association position paper:

The Issue

The 1996 welfare reform law, including the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, needs to be reauthorized before September 30, 2002.

NGA’s Position

    In 1996, the Governors, Congress, and the administration entered into a historic welfare reform agreement. In exchange for assuming the risk involved with accepting the primary responsibility for transforming the welfare system from one of dependency to self-sufficiency, Governors agreed to guaranteed funding for the life of the TANF block grant along with significant flexibility to administer federal programs. The current NGA policy on welfare reform makes three key points:
  1. Maintain flexibility. The TANF block grant was created so that states could develop innovative approaches to addressing welfare reform, and states have been successful in tailoring their programs to meet the individual needs of their citizens. This flexibility must be maintained so that states can continue the progress of welfare reform.
  2. Maintain investment. States are provided with $16.5 billion each year in federal TANF funds, which together with the required state maintenance-of-effort funds, finance welfare reform. Some will argue that the funding should be cut because of the dramatic drop in caseloads. But TANF is no longer just about cash assistance - states are now serving a much broader population than under the old welfare system, and states are now providing services to families that help them succeed and advance in the workplace, not just cutting a check for cash each month.
  3. Move toward greater program alignment. The Food Stamp Program is one example of a program that is in great need of reform, and its connection to welfare reform should be discussed in the context of reauthorization. Other related programs that should be considered include child support, child welfare, housing, the Workforce Investment Act and Medicaid.
Source: National Governors Association "Issues / Positions" 01-NGA17 on Sep 21, 2001

More federal funding for Low-income energy assistance.

Bush signed the Southern Governors' Association resolution:

Source: Resolution of Southern Governor's Assn. on Energy Policy 01-SGA12 on Sep 9, 2001

Supports TANF grants to states.

Bush signed the Southern Governors' Association resolution:

Source: Resolution of Southern Governor's Assn. on TANF 01-SGA9 on Aug 7, 2001

Other governors on Welfare & Poverty: Jeb Bush on other issues:
FL Gubernatorial:
Alexander Snitker
Charlie Crist
Rick Scott
FL Senatorial:
Bill Nelson
Marco Rubio

Gubernatorial Debates 2014:
AL: Bentley(R) vs.Griffith(D)
AR: Ross(D) vs.Hutchinson(R) vs.Griffin(R,Lt.Gov.)
AZ: Ducey(R) vs.DuVal(D) vs.Mealer(AE) vs.Gilbert(L) vs.Riggs(R)
CA: Brown(D) vs.Kashkari(R)
CO: Hickenlooper(D) vs.Beauprez(R) vs.Tancredo(R) vs.Hess(L)
CT: Malloy(D) vs.Foley(R) vs.Walker(R,Lt.Gov.)
FL: Scott(R) vs.Crist(D) vs.Snitker(L,Lt.Gov.)
GA: Deal(R) vs.Carter(D) vs.Hunt(L)
HI: Ige(D) vs.Aiona(R) vs.Abercrombie(D)
IA: Branstad(R) vs.Hatch(D) vs.Hoefling(R)
MA: Coakley(D) vs.Baker(R) &Polito(R,Lt.Gov.) vs.Grossman(D) vs.Berwick(D)
ME: LePage(R) vs.Michaud(D) vs.Cutler(I)
MI: Snyder(R) vs.Schauer(D)
NM: Martinez(R) vs.King(D)
NY: Cuomo(D) &Hochul(D,Lt.Gov.) vs.Astorino(R) vs.Hawkins(G) vs.Teachout(D)
OK: Fallin(R) vs.Dorman(D)
PA: Corbett(R) vs.Wolf(D) vs.Schwartz(D,lost primary) vs.Critz(D,Lt.Gov.,lost primary)
Newly-elected 2014:
AK-I: Bill Walker
AR-R: Asa Hutchinson
AZ-R: Doug Ducey
IL-R: Bruce Rauner
MA-R: Charlie Baker
MD-R: Larry Hogan
NE-R: Pete Ricketts
PA-D: Tom Wolf
RI-D: Gina Raimondo
TX-R: Greg Abbott

Up for re-election 2014:
AK-R: Sean Parnell
AL-R: Robert Bentley
CA-D: Jerry Brown
CO-D: John Hickenlooper
CT-D: Dan Malloy
FL-R: Rick Scott
GA-R: Nathan Deal
HI-D: Neil Abercrombie
IA-R: Terry Branstad
ID-R: Butch Otter
IL-D: Pat Quinn
KS-R: Sam Brownback
ME-R: Paul LePage
MI-R: Rick Snyder
MN-D: Mark Dayton
NH-D: Maggie Hassan
NM-R: Susana Martinez
NV-R: Brian Sandoval
NY-D: Andrew Cuomo
OH-R: John Kasich
OK-R: Mary Fallin
OR-D: John Kitzhaber
PA-R: Tom Corbett
SC-R: Nikki Haley
SD-R: Dennis Daugaard
TN-R: Bill Haslam
VT-D: Peter Shumlin
WI-R: Scott Walker
WY-R: Matt Mead
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Term-Limited or Retiring 2014:
AR-D: Mike Beebe
AZ-R: Jan Brewer
MA-D: Deval Patrick
MD-D: Martin O'Malley
RI-I: Linc Chafee
TX-R: Rick Perry

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Page last updated: Jan 19, 2015