Push-Pull Effect of Welfare State

By Charles Krauthammer Copyright Washington Post Writers Group | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 5, 1995 | Go to article overview

Push-Pull Effect of Welfare State


Charles Krauthammer Copyright Washington Post Writers Group, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


In his State of the Union address President Bill Clinton declared "the epidemic of teen pregnancies and births where there is no marriage" to be "our most serious social problem" - a nice, if unacknowledged, nod to Charles Murray who wrote just that in a famous 1993 Wall Street Journal article.

Murray called for an end to welfare for unwed mothers. He argued that if you are serious about our most serious social problem, you remove the oxygen - welfare - that sustains it economically from one generation to the next.

The president, however, did not reach that conclusion. Instead, he proposed a new federal program, aimed at schools, to reduce pregnancy.

Clinton's acknowledgement of the problem is laudable. And his desire to combat teen pregnancy is sincere. Only his logic is suspect. In addition to driver's ed and drug ed, schools will now have preg ed. Consider the balance of forces:

For a few minutes a week, the federal government, through some teacher, will urge young girls and boys not to have kids. Yet that same federal government, through its policies, will be saying every day to every teen-age girl in the country: Have a child, make sure it is out of wedlock, make sure you have no job or prospects, and we will then guarantee you a monthly check, free medical care, and (under a Clinton proposal) two years' of job training and child care, also free.

Here is the core problem with neo-liberalism, the "reinventing government" liberalism Clinton represents. It wants to undo the unintended consequences of liberalism's social programs of the past - with yet more social programs. It is government with one foot on the brake to combat the other on the accelerator. The result is a system of contradiction and complexity, heat and waste.

A similar push-pull effect shows up in other kinds of welfare, the kinds highlighted in a stunning article in The Manhattan Institute's City Journal by Heather MacDonald called "Welfare's Next Vietnam." She points out that Supplemental Security Income, the Social Security Administration's disability program, is growing much faster that AFDC (mother and kid welfare). Why? Because the definition of disability has been expanded far beyond its plain meaning and original intent. …

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