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Select another Feb. 1996 PSR article

Welfare: Fraud and Failure 

One of the most dishonest parts of Clinton's State of the Union speech was his "challenge" to Republicans to send him a welfare reform bill and "I will sign it." The fact is that the Congress already sent him a pretty good compromise welfare reform bill to "end welfare as we know it," and Clinton vetoed it!

The disaster called welfare was probably the biggest single issue that ousted the Democratic majority in Congress in the landmark election of 1994. Since Lyndon Johnson started the "War on Poverty" in the mid-1960s, it has cost the taxpayers $5 trillion. Welfare spending currently costs us $234 billion annually, plus another $100 billion in state welfare spending.

Indeed, it has been a three-decade "war" -- against families, against taxpayers, and even against the people it was supposed to help. It's bad enough that the War on Poverty took so much spendable income out of the pockets of hard-working Americans. It's worse that it is a no-win war, initiated by the same Administration that gave us the Vietnam War. (We are waiting for its perpetrators to admit, like Robert S. McNamara, that they were "wrong, terribly wrong.")

But the worst of it is that the liberal welfare system has perpetrated such horrendous damage on our society. It has broken up millions of families, prevented more millions of families from forming, produced seven million illegitimate children, created a pathetic underclass that will never achieve what we call the American Dream, virtually destroyed our great cities, and spawned the social problems that flow from illegitimacy such as drugs, delinquency, and dropouts.

The welfare system tells a teenage girl, who is doing poorly in school, doesn't know who her father is, isn't getting along with her mother, and hates her surroundings, "We'll take you out of all this, set you up in an apartment of your own, send you a check every month, and give you your own food stamps, housing allotments, health care, and commodities. All you have to do to get all these goodies is have an illegitimate baby." Surprise, surprise, more illegitimate babies were born to teenagers.

So the liberals offered another government "solution": "family planning." That's a euphemism for the massive distribution of contraceptives. Title X taxpayer funding started in 1970 for the proclaimed purpose of reducing unmarried teen pregnancies. After 25 years, every measure of teenage health is dramatically worse. Illegitimate births to teenagers have doubled, the teenage abortion rate has more than doubled, sexual activity rates are far higher and at a younger age, and sexually transmitted diseases have skyrocketed.

LBJ's Great Society set up a grossly unjust and immoral system in the mid-1960s whereby millions of people were taught that they were "entitled" to pick the pockets of lawabiding, taxpaying families if they met two conditions: they didn't work, and they were not married to someone who does work.

In addition to destroying the work ethic and subsidizing illegitimacy, another problem with the welfare system is that it pays better than jobs that welfare recipients can hope to get.

A recent Cato Institute study laid out comparative figures based on the cash payments and non-cash benefits paid by our welfare system to a single mother with two children. There are 77 different sources of welfare money, but the principal pipelines are AFDC, food stamps, medicaid, housing, utilities, WIC, and commodities.

In eight states, the average welfare mother receives cash and benefits amounting to $20,000 a year. In medium-level welfare states, she gets the equivalent of $17,500 per year. And it's all tax-free! In 39 states, welfare benefits are equivalent to an $8 per hour job. In New York and Washington, D.C., welfare benefits are equivalent to a $12 an hour job, two and a half times the minimum wage. In eight states, welfare benefits are equivalent to the salary of a first-year teacher. In 28 states, welfare benefits are equivalent to the pay of a starting secretary.

Of course, all welfare recipients don't receive this much, but some get more. The conclusion is that it pays to be on welfare and there is no real hope of getting people off welfare until the benefits are less than a minimum wage job.

When the liberals whine that the so-called Religious Right is "imposing its morals" on the rest of society, remember that they are like the thief who cries "stop, thief" to distract from his own thievery. Welfare is the prime example of the Irreligious Left imposing its lack of morals on the rest of society.

 
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