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Marketplace Morning Report

The taxpayer-funded pop album all about welfare

Marketplace Contributor Apr 29, 2016
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Keith Rogers worked at the DPSS mail room when he was tapped to help make Larry Townsend's CD "Work Makes the Difference." Krissy Clark/Marketplace

The taxpayer-funded pop album all about welfare

Marketplace Contributor Apr 29, 2016
Keith Rogers worked at the DPSS mail room when he was tapped to help make Larry Townsend's CD "Work Makes the Difference." Krissy Clark/Marketplace
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President Bill Clinton signed welfare reform — officially known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act — into law 20 years ago this summer.

It was one of Clinton’s key campaign promises, and it’s still seen as one of his big domestic policy achievements. But with two decades of hindsight, what effect has welfare reform actually had? What do we really know about it?

That’s the idea behind the first season of our new podcast, “The Uncertain Hour.” The first episode is about welfare’s reformers, specifically Larry Townsend. He was head of the welfare office in Riverside County, a large suburban county east of Los Angeles.

As part of a bunch of reforms in Riverside, Townsend used $2000 in taxpayer money to record a CD called “Work Makes the Difference.” It was full of music to play in welfare office waiting rooms and on the phone, touching all different genres — rap, reggae, pop — to appeal to different demographics.

It sounds wacky, but it seemed to work. People got jobs, and they made more money than other former welfare recipients. They called it “The Riverside Miracle,” and it paved the way for Clinton’s reforms in 1996. 

You can hear a few songs in the audio player above and on this week’s podcast. “Uncertain Hour” host Krissy Clark annotated Townsend’s liner notes and the lyrics to the first track using Genius. You can find those below and add your own if you have a Genius account.

BACK TO THE BASICS FOR AMERICA

By Lawrence E Townsend, Jr.

Director, Department of Public Social Services

One of the more significant reasons our Country became a great nation was due to the character, values and beliefs of the settlers who came to America. They sought religious freedom, opportunity, a chance to realize their full potential, and to establish a future which is based upon their efforts. They avoided charity and had a fierce pride to support themselves and their own dependents. Unfortunately, today we have many able bodied citizens who are dependent upon government and society for their support. This is the time for a process of revitalization, and a return to the basics in our beliefs. The economic success and productivity of our nation could be greatly improved if all members of society subscribed to the notion that it is essential for all employable individuals to support themselves and their dependents. In other words, to become self-sufficient.

It is acknowledged that those that are unemployed and are receiving financial assistance may become discouraged, begin to doubt their own abilities, become subject to stress, lose hope and even possibly resort to alcohol or drugs in order to forget their troubles. It is fiercely believed that all individuals in our society have value, abilities, the potential to develop skills, to make significant contributions to society, and most importantly to partially or fully support themselves and their dependents. We believe work is inherently good for the development of human beings regardless of wage level and can restore pride and morale.

The music provided is intended to assist in the strengthening of work ethics and to encourage those individuals who are unemployed to be positive, have hope, and believe that they can in fact have a wonderful new future by seeking to improve and develop themselves by vigorously pursuing employment.

1 MAKE THE DIFFERENCE (3:15)

Will your children

Be the next generation

Or will you be—

the last

 

Welfare is temporary

Not a way of life

Be proud of honest labor

Have dignity and pride

 

Make the difference

Start a career

Success depends on you

Get into gear

 

Action turns your dreams

Into reality

Work for it —

Be part of the future

 

Be part of the future

 

There is still employment

Out in the world today

We’ve got to show our children

That there’s a better way

 

Welfare is temporary

Not a way of life

Be proud of honest labor

Have dignity and pride

 

Make the difference

Start a career

Success depends on you

Get into gear

 

Action turns your dreams

Into reality

Work for it —

Be part of the future

Be part of the future

Make the difference

Make the difference

Start a career

Start a career

Success depends on you

Get into gear

Get into gear

 

Action turns your dreams

Into reality

Work for it —

You’ve got to work

Be part of the future

 

Make the difference

Make the difference

Start a career

Start a career

Success depends on you

Get into gear

Get into gear

 

Action turns your dreams

Into reality

Work for it —

You’ve got to work

Be part of the future

 

Make the difference

Start a career

Success depends on you

Get into gear

Lead Vocal: Lavern Scott

Background Vocals: Wilny Audain, Regina Clayton, Christopher Gray, Carol Rogers

Lyrics: DPSS Income Maintenance Staff, Keith Rogers

Music Composed, Performed, Arranged, and Produced by: Keith Rogers

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