Ending welfare as we knew it

August 03, 1996|By DANIEL BERGER

MANY PEOPLE believe that the trouble with this country is that its rich are too poor and its poor are too rich.

Never mind that the gap between them is the greatest in modern times and growing: It is too small and must be made larger.

NBA salaries and CEO stock option plans help make the rich RTC richer. The welfare reform bill passed by Congress will complete the equation.

There is tremendous resentment of the poor in this country. It focuses on children of single mothers. Too many have mothers at home tending to them. That must be stopped. Every reform proposal of the past decade has focused on getting that toddler's mother out of the home.

There is a feeling that the poor are too well nourished. We must make their bones weaker. This can be accomplished by denying food stamps and school lunch.

What we have is envy of the Third World. Cities like Baltimore lack villages of children preying on society, as Rio de Janero has, and rogue police wiping them out. Apparently, we want those things.

The welfare reform bill produced for the election, which President Clinton will sign, is a step in that direction.

It will make the poorest chiled and dirtier. The theory is that this will make them better people. It will have more roaming the streets.

Don't waste it on the poor

Have no fear. This will not remove the social safety net from the middle classes. If you lose a job or divorce the family bread-winner, welfare will help you back on your feet. But if you exhausted food stamps and have no skills, nada. The safety net is too valuable to be squandered on the true poor.

The bill reflects people's anger at illegal immigrants by discriminating against legal ones. If you got your green card and paid taxes to support the system for nine years and lose your job, tough on you. Those taxes were your charity to U.S. citizens, sucker!

The aim must be to end the reputation the United States has enjoyed for fairness. To raise unfairness to crude extremes might really discourage immigration.

The odd thing about legal immigration is that much of it was mandated by anti-Communist foreign policy. The law played favorites for Cubans, Soviet Jews and ethnic groups deemed loyal to our side in the Vietnam war. To the extent that new immigrants were coached on getting benefits from Day One, it was in these groups.

One pretense of the bill is that jobs are bountiful, and lack of one a character flaw. In fact, governterest rates to deconstruct it.

Maintaining joblessness to hold wages down is a cornerstone of government policy. "Downsizing" is a fad throughout industry and government that has not run its course. The aim is to enlarge unemployment.

President Clinton guaranteed passage of the welfare reform bill by promising to sign it. Poor Clinton wants to be seen as a liberal by liberals and a centrist by conservatives. That's how he gets elected.

Centrist Clinton promised to end welfare as we know it. Liberal Clinton promised to protect the children. He cannot do both. He hates having to choose, but those scheming Republicans made him.

The bottom line is that Bill Clinton will not let Bob Dole bash him with welfare. Period. He is Centrist Bill till Election Day. People who despise this bill have no one else to vote for.

The new law will create more Third World poverty here. That may increase the number of adults willing to weed your garden for the minimum wage, but it should also send more children into crime.

The bill will, indeed, curtail if not end welfare as we know it. Yet another political promise kept.

Daniel Berger writes editorials for The Sun.

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