Friday, September 14, 2012

Who was to blame for California's controversial Social Welfare cuts in the summer of 1970? (Part II)

Fourkas, T. (1970, July 28). Welfare official says haste, budget crisis prompted cuts. The Modesto Bee, p. B5.

Chief deputy director of the CA Department of Social Welfare, Charles Hobbs, reported that the short-lived budget cuts which caused such a brouhaha were the result of his office being "hurried."  Hobbs stopped short of painting Reagan as the bad guy, though it is possible that he intended to imply ignorance on the governor's part.  It is clear that certain "unnamed sources" sought to promote this view--a desire which the Bee may have shared, as evidenced by its inclusion of the opinions of these "unnamed sources" that:
...the changes were made because the Reagan administration did not understand how the program was handled in the past.
 When told that Reagan denied being too hasty, Hobbs replied:

From the governor's view, things moved with logic and calculated speed. But from our point of view, they moved too hastily, because we couldn't measure what would happen, what the counties would do with the changes.
Hobbs argued that problems stemmed from the fact that authority to translate the initial cost-cutting goals into specific cuts was handled not by the Social Welfare Department, but rather by Director of Finance, Verne Orr.  County officials (presumably Welfare Department officials) claimed that the Orr cuts were written in such a way that it left them "little room for interpretation." 

Governor Reagan did not buy this argument, and accused the county welfare workers of intentionally trying to sabotage the budget-cutting process by "following the letter, but not the intent of the regulations."  Presumably, this meant that Governor Reagan felt the county welfare workers did have adequate discretionary powers, but that they simply chose to exercise those powers in a way likely to be most politically-damaging to the administration's push to trim the size of government.

One may dispute whether Reagan's or Hobb's interpretation of the "bind" in which county welfare workers found themselves was most accurate; But it is clear that Hobb's notion of what needed to be done was decidedly different from Reagan's.  Reagan wanted the budgets cut to address the state's financial crisis.  Hobb's, alternatively, merely spoke in terms of "improving" the Social Welfare Department:

The important thing is we make some changes in a system that is pretty bad, and that we make them not in terms of saving money but in terms of improving the system and involving more welfare recipients in the process
The Bee article ends with a report of the aforementioned unnamed sources' speculations regarding why the Reagan administration "decided" the Social Welfare program was out of control.

Hopefully, as my research advances I'll find ever more discussion and explanation of just what happened here.  As always, I welcome informed and verifiable comments!

Update: 7/30/2013 It seems that the Modesto Bee issue cited above is no longer available through Google News.  I leave the citation in the event that anyone wishes to locate the hard copy and consider the original article for themselves.

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