IS WELFARE REFORM REALLY A SUCCESS?
Is Welfare Reform Really a Success?
While election-time GOP press releases claim welfare reform a victory, reality proves that Republicans left the most crucial aspects of the war on socialism unmitigated. The bleak election prospects for Republicans this fall, highlighted recently in the Evans-Novak Report, suggest this may well be because Republicans promised many things in the Contract For America that voters wanted but were not delivered.
Deborah Pryce, Chair of the Office of the Republican Conference claimed welfare reform a tremendous success last week, despite a wide variety of key social indicators moving the very wrong direction and large sections of the social conservative base disaffected and detached from the party.
Why is welfare reform a failure? Because we took Baghdad, called it a victory, and left without finishing the job. PROWA did reduce welfare caseloads, and the work requirement did reduce poverty for poor women by about 20%. But it also caused an explosion of child support cases (which is just another way to entitle illegitimacy and rampant divorce).
In short: marriage is still on the rocks, and federal funding continues to hyper-stimulate everything except marriage. This is quite short of the goals set forth in the Contract For America.
The shortfall is easily visible in social data. The overall birth rate is at record lows, while the proportion of all births to unmarried women increased to 35.8 percent in 2004, the highest ever recorded. More Americans are cohabiting in weak relationships, and fewer are marrying to begin with, a fact that the House Ways and Means Committee interprets as a success. Divorce rates are still very high, at 3.8 per 100,000 population (the small decline in divorce rates parallels declining marriage rates).
Illegitimacy rates have increased substantially since PROWA was passed. Illegitimacy was a mere 4% in the early 1950’s. It exploded with the Great Society, reaching 25% in 1998. In 1999 it rose to 33%, and reached 35% by 2003. There is no question that welfare reform is a failure where it continues to strongly stimulate illegitimate births.
This failure becomes self-evident when we look at illegitimacy amongst the poor, which for blacks stands at an astonishing 68%. The low-income sector is where welfare continues to buy-out marriage, widening the broad population of young men who are born without social legitimacy with little chance of establishing it on their own. The hyperactivity of welfare entitlements thus leaves poor families weaker and poorer than they would otherwise be, in a morass of uncivil men and women unable to pull their own communities up by the bootstraps.
In “Losing Ground,” Charles Murray thoroughly proved the theorem that welfare drives illegitimacy (which has been fairly well known since the days of Daniel Patrick Moynihan). But Liberal conservatives (who are inured to feminist policy) squarely rejected Murray by arguing that if he was right, welfare reform would have caused a decline in illegitimacy.
My argument proves precisely the single major element Murray did not point out: Welfare reform would have been successful had we stopped entitling illegitimacy. I spent the past twelve years warning Republicans that the welfare state has been a “child support” state since 1968 and that PROWA only made this worse. It is now the task of the radical middle to make Republicans deal with this ongoing disaster whether they want to or not.
Federal reports do not reflect the fact that poverty is a greater problem than ever for poor men because we placed the burden of the welfare state on them and criminalized their poverty if they cannot pay an arbitrary amount of “child support” that some bureaucrat decided they must pay. There are few poor men who can support two households, much less one. Yet, this is what the current federal model demands.
In the final analysis, We cannot call welfare reformed until marriage is restored as the social norm, in both poor and middle class families. The bulk of the problems are yet to be addressed, as evidenced by many astonishing facts:
From a 2000-foot view, here is the status of welfare reform:
To complete welfare reform, Republicans must enact the following styles of legislation, all of which will strengthen marriage and extricate government from anti-family entitlement programs. Federal funding currently drives many abuses of adults and children, which can only be ended with sensible, clear directives limiting what funds may not be used for.
rebuild a political base for 2008, Republicans must acknowledge that
it is the social conservative grassroots base that repeatedly put
them in office since 1992. Without finishing welfare reform, Republicans
should know there is no chance of winning in 2008. Perhaps the lessons
that will be learned in the 2006 election cycle will help Republicans
re-commit to finishing crucial welfare reforms still begging for attention.
© 2006 David Usher - All
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David R. Usher is Legislative Analyst for the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, Missouri Coalition And is a co-founder and past Secretary of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children
In the final analysis, We cannot call welfare reformed until marriage is restored as the social norm, in both poor and middle class families. The bulk of the problems are yet to be addressed, as evidenced by many astonishing facts...