Doling for dollars

The Cold War over, defense giant Lockheed Martin mines another government program for profit -- the war on poverty

In Ms. Evans' April class, all of the students were African-American, with the exception of one Hispanic woman. In Dallas County, 65 percent of the 10,492 people who received TANF benefits in February were black, 16 percent were white, and 16 percent were Hispanic.

Toward the end of the first session, Ms. Evans makes a detour from her lesson plan because of a student's question. She has begun discussing in very specific terms what's required for the students' mandatory job searches. The class seems riveted. They're supposed to contact 10 prospective employers in person per week.

Ms. Evans tries to calm any fears about so much pavement-pounding. "I don't want you to concern yourself with the 10 contacts," she says. "Take it one day at a time. We'll call you and job-develop for you. You call us--we're here to serve you."

Nonetheless, she's blunt about her students' obligations to follow up on job interviews that caseworkers have scheduled. "If you don't," she says firmly, "it could result in a loss of benefits."

At the morning break, as the women stand on the second-floor balcony and smoke cigarettes--tossing the butts on the ground, even though Ms. Evans has specifically asked them not to--their teacher's other messages appear to have made a stronger impression.

The women discuss job prospects with what seems like a sincere eagerness to find work. The woman in the army jacket, who has one arm in a sling, explains that she has repeatedly broken her wrist during the past 15 years. "I can't make beds and wash dishes," she says, "but I can use an adding machine and type."

When the class resumes, Evans concocts a fun assignment. She divides the class--all women on the first day--into five teams and asks each to write a recipe for a "self-esteem cake."

"We are not an English class or grammar class as long as we can read it," Evans tells the groups as they huddle over large pieces of paper with multi-colored markers. "Um-ummm," Evans says as she wanders from group to group, looking over their shoulders. "I smell something good cooking."

The students take their assignment seriously, particularly Denise Phillips, a trim woman in a well-tailored maroon suit whose hair is pinned in a neat bun. Phillips, 40, wants to be the first to present her cake recipe to the class. She reads the ingredients: "A cup of motivation, a cup of appearance, 1/4 cup of good listening..." And then Phillips adds with a smile, "It don't matter what the cake looks like."

A Denver native who moved to Dallas two months ago to be close to friends, Phillips is raising a 9-year-old boy. She receives $198 a month in food stamps and has been getting government aid off and on for the past three years. She obtained her GED in 1977, and for many years worked in food service, but wants out of that field. "I got tired of using my feet all day," Phillips says. "I wanted to use my head."

Before she left Colorado, Phillips participated in a 12-week job-training program sponsored by a private nonprofit agency. Phillips credits her Colorado training for the job she eventually gets in Dallas--one of the highest-paid positions in the class. Phillips will earn $8.50 an hour to assist at an accountant's office.

"I know how to talk for myself," Phillips says about her good wage.
If she stays on, she'll eventually get health benefits for herself and her son. But she knows these dividends didn't come from sitting just six days in a Lockheed Martin seminar.

Ms. Evans' personal dedication aside, Lockheed Martin is obviously in the welfare business for money.

Not that it shouldn't be.
For the huge multinational company, welfare reform represents significant economic opportunity. Federal, state, and local governments spent more than $250 billion on welfare in 1996. About 28 percent of that was administrative costs. If privatization takes hold nationwide, there's some $28 billion in potential revenues for Lockheed Martin, according to a Harvard Business School study.

Texas has provided Lockheed Martin with some of its biggest opportunities. The company has contracts to administer welfare programs--like the ones it has negotiated in Dallas--with the counties surrounding Austin and those in the Gulf Coast area.

Ideally, Lockheed Martin would like to crowd as many government social services as possible under one roof, providing one-stop shopping for the needy. But the real reason is profit: A Lockheed Martin caseworker of the future might collect child-support payments for a single mother, then turn around and assist her in a job search to get off the welfare rolls.

Two years ago, Lockheed Martin made an extremely audacious--though ultimately unsuccessful--bid to overhaul Texas' entire system for determining eligibility for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and more than 25 other programs.

The state Legislature, with the urging of Gov. Bush, had passed a bill to get the project--known as the Texas Integrated Enrollment System (TIES)--up and running. Lockheed Martin teamed up with IBM and made a $500 million bid for the contract.

The proposal gained national attention as the first attempt to privatize an entire state's welfare system. But the controversial bid eventually became moot in 1995 when the Clinton administration nixed the TIES proposal, saying it went too far.

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