The poor aren't the only ones on the doleSo, Congress has...

LETTERS

August 16, 1996

The poor aren't the only ones on the dole

So, Congress has passed the welfare reform bill that will ''end welfare as we know it.'' That's probably a good thing. We really don't want poor families to spend their lives on the dole -- not the way tobacco growers do. Not the way cattle ranchers do. Not the way farmers do. Not the way dairymen do. Not the way the mining companies do. Or homeowners, churches, utility companies, the military, the Israelis.

Don't tobacco growers get money from the federal government to support the price of tobacco? Don't cattle ranchers get to feed their cattle on government lands for very little money? Don't farmers get government funds not to grow certain crops? Don't dairymen get milk subsidies? Don't the mining companies get to mine public lands for next to nothing? Don't homeowners get deductions for property taxes and interest?

Every time someone can receive a deduction for a gift to the churches, don't the churches profit? Don't the utilities go hand in hand with government and get price increases whenever they want them? Didn't Congress give the military a budget beyond its wildest dreams? Doesn't every Israeli family receive a monthly sum for every child it has -- Israel, the largest receiver of foreign aid?

The American middle class, the most spoiled group in the history of the world, has turned into a petulant bully. It now picks on the underdog. Granted, welfare is a problem and should be addressed, but not alone.

Arthur Miller

Baltimore

Pee-Pop remembered

I was not quite one year old when County Executive Dale Anderson began serving his 13-month prison sentence. Although Michael Olesker probably disagrees, I think that after living for 79 years, it is only fair that Mr. Anderson be remembered for more than a trial, conviction and prison sentence that occurred over 20 years ago.

I never knew County Executive Dale Anderson, I knew Pee-Pop. Pee-Pop was the man who gave the best hugs when my family visited his at their home on the Eastern Shore. Pee-Pop always made sure we left with the juiciest strawberries, biggest zucchinis and most golden ears of corn grown in his garden.

If you ever wondered how much he loved his family, all you had to do was catch him looking at his wife of over 50 years or watch him supervise his grandsons while they did yard work together.

Although Mr. Olesker chooses to remember Dale Anderson as a politician "possessed by his conviction," I remember Pee-Pop as a true friend who loved his family very much. Perhaps Mr. Olesker should consider the possibility of being dead, not yet buried, and having his one really unpleasant memory dug up and advertised for all to remember him by.

Nancy Budacz

Towson

End welfare by making work pay

Both Congress and the president would like us to believe the welfare reform bill was a difficult but necessary decision.

In Sen. Barbara Mikulksi's words, ''. . . the alternative is to do nothing and that is unacceptable.'' On the contrary, it was too easy to pass this bill.

One reason is because it simply pushes the boundaries of what's already in place.

It limits lifetime welfare assistance to five years. Assistance over a lifetime currently averages six years.

It requires able-bodied adults to work after two years. Almost 70 percent of welfare recipients already accomplish this.

States may exempt up to 20 percent of recipients from the above two requirements based on ''hardship.'' About the same percentage are currently unable to work and on welfare more than 10 years.

Legal immigrants are barred from receiving food stamps, Social Security benefits or Medicaid under certain conditions. They are currently ineligible for most forms of public assistance for up to five years after their arrival to the states.

Welfare mothers can lose benefits if they refuse to help identify fathers. This sounds like it's intended to benefit the children. Wrong. Under current rules, mothers on AFDC receive only the first $50 of a father's child support payments. The rest goes to the state to ''reimburse'' welfare payments.

A more disconcerting reason this legislation sailed through the political process, however, is because it ignores the single largest chunk of welfare spending: health care.

Medicaid expenditures for families receiving ADFDC comprise of 40 percent of the welfare expense pie. Replacing ADFDC with a block grant will allow states to set up eligibility requirements that not only push more people into poverty, but deny them health care coverage as well.

Can we economically and morally afford such callousness?

If we are truly committed to changing the nature of welfare by turning it over to the states, then our Congress and president must be committed to changing things that are outside the welfare system in order to support such a devolution.

Increasing the minimum wage was a good start. It's now time to revisit and strengthen the Earned Income Tax Credit for low income families.

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