Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Welfare Reform Plans Come in Bold, Bolder and Boldest

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Welfare Reform Plans Come in Bold, Bolder and Boldest

Article excerpt

A NEW DEFINITION of courage emerged here this week, when President Bill Clinton announced his plan for welfare reform and much of Congress weighed in with their own proposals.

One advanced by Rep. James Talent, R-Mo., and other conservative Republicans would cut off benefits to unwed mothers under 21 and reduce welfare spending by $70 billion in the next five years. William Kristol, a conservative ideologue and former Vice President Dan Quayle's chief of staff, appeared with Talent at a news conference and called the proposed cuts "a bold, conservative reform agenda" and "a bold alternative" to Clinton's plan.

On Thursday, White House aide Bruce Reed defended the president's proposal, saying that in some respects it was "much bolder" than the mainstream Republican proposal because while the GOP would reduce benefits for some recipients, the president's plan would cut those people off entirely.

So it seems that if you're a politician, the more money you take away from poor people, the bolder you are.

It's unclear, though, just what kind of courage they're talking about. Not political courage, apparently. All the member of Congress who spoke on welfare said the "American people" really want the same thing they do.

"This is not welfare reform, it is an increase in spending at the expense of working taxpayers," said Sen. Lauch Faircloth, who is the main Senate sponsor of Talent's proposal. "What we hear from the grass roots," Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa said, "is that money is being wasted."

Robert Rector, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, might have been closer to the mark when he said that welfare was "an embarrassing subject for the Democratic establishment to discuss" because to change the system, it has to admit that the War on Poverty hasn't worked nearly well enough and may have even done some damage.

After his news conference, Talent assured a reporter that he wasn't giving up on government's responsibility to help the poor. "This country is affluent enough to provide for the basic needs of everybody," he said. …

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