Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Success Story

Robert Samuelson on why welfare reform worked. An excerpt:

One lesson is that what people do for themselves often overshadows what government does for them. Since 1991, for example, the teen birthrate has dropped by a third. The mothers least capable of supporting children have had fewer of them. Welfare reform didn't single-handedly cause this. But it reinforced a broader shift in the social climate -- one emphasizing personal responsibility over victimhood.

Of course, poverty endures. Some mothers are unemployable and are worse off without continuous welfare. Even those with low-paying jobs often depend heavily on other government benefits, mainly food stamps and Medicaid (health insurance). And one reason that poverty hasn't decreased more is an unending inflow of poor immigrants. Unlike non-Hispanic whites and blacks, Hispanics are the only major ethnic or racial group with more children in poverty over the last 15 years. Since 1989 the increase is 58 percent.

So: we've made a stubborn problem a bit more manageable. It's pragmatic progress, not a panacea. Why can't we do the same for other pressing problems -- energy, immigration, retirement spending (Social Security, Medicare)? Here, welfare reform's political lessons apply.

No comments: