Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Personal Responsibility Act

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Personal Responsibility Act

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton said it best during his Dec. 10 weekly radio address: "Work is still the best social program ever invented."

Yet rewarding work that pays enough to support indigent families isn't part of the welfare component of the GOP's Contract with America. The party would require that 1 million people - 20 percent of adult welfare recipients - enter "work programs" by 2003. A logical assumption is that GOP leaders genuinely want to move the recipients into the economic mainstream through job training and other support services. However, an article by Douglas J. Besharov of the American Enterprise Institute suggests a different agenda.

The think tank summarizes his article this way: Workfare isn't designed to save money or make recipients self-sufficient but "to make welfare inconvenient and unattractive - to discourage the younger sisters and friends of welfare mothers from thinking that life on welfare is an appealing option."

If Mr. Besharov's assessment has even an ounce of validity in GOP leadership circles, the party's real intent clearly is to use public disaffection with government as an excuse for dissolving the thinnest of safety nets. Moreover, the party's attack on welfare is based on flawed premises, one being that births to teen-age girls have reached epidemic proportions. In fact, such births are declining. A Commerce Department report on birth rates says 656,000 children were born to U.S. teen-agers in 1970, compared to 533,000 in 1990.

The federal welfare program covers 14 million people, including 9 million children, at a cost of roughly $17 billion a year. The GOP's bill proposes these key changes in the program:

Reduce illegitimacy. The GOP would seek to address this issue by denying welfare benefits to certain children born to unmarried women and setting up orphanages. …

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