Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bill May Discredit Welfare Reform

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bill May Discredit Welfare Reform

Article excerpt

So at last welfare, as we know it, is history. Now what?

For an answer, my mind turned first to the two great prophets of welfare reform: Charles Murray, whose book "Losing Ground" first marshaled the social science evidence that by encouraging illegitimacy, welfare was creating poverty, and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who much earlier braved charges of racism by calling attention to the chaos that family breakdown was unleashing in America's inner cities.

Two more discordant reactions to the welfare reform bill could not be found.

"If you think things can't get worse, just wait until there are a third-of-a-million children in the streets. . . . This bill is not welfare reform but welfare repeal," an audibly anguished Moynihan thundered to The New York Times.

"Would that it were so" more or less summed up Murray's response when I contacted him in his Maryland home.

"This is a major reform," Murray said, "but it's not perfect. I'm not optimistic about moving many women off welfare rolls; it's a tough population to get to work, for many reasons. I worry that, as the difficulties become evident, they may lead people to back off on real welfare reform."

The current reform - which consists of ending welfare's entitlement status, requiring most recipients to work after two years and cutting off all benefits after five years - rests on the faith that we can move hard-core welfare-dependent women into jobs. This faith, Murray thinks (and I agree) will probably prove sadly misplaced, in which case, the nightmare scenario raised by Moynihan of "children sleeping on grates" may succeed in discrediting welfare reform.

To avoid this fate, Murray offers this advice to governors now charged with the task of crafting the post-welfare state: Ignore those women already dependent and concentrate on discouraging new entrants in the simplest of all possible ways: End all welfare payments for women who choose to have babies out of wedlock. …

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