“I would love to read your opinion about the Welfare Reform Bill. Frankly, I’m worried.” — David Bruce (not a welfare recipient himself)

I’m worried, too, but here’s my optimist’s view:

The new law will jog 20% of the people — those who really just need a good sharp push — off the welfare rolls and onto the tax rolls. Long-term, that will be an enormous plus for them and their kids and the rest of us.

Then, with 80% still on welfare and the two-year limit rapidly approaching, weeks before the checks stop coming, the President will propose, and Congress will pass, some extensions and humane modifications. And that will be repeated in various ways as the years go on: a sort of brinksmanship, pushing people to work (and, hopefully, helping them find it), but not pushing so hard that they, and especially their kids, get crushed in the process.

Just cutting 20% out of the problem, if we do, would be a huge plus. And being then forced to come to grips with the rest of the problem will be healthy, too.

In the short run, welfare reform may cost us more, not less. Helping the remaining 80% get the kind of training or treatment they need will be expensive — as will lifelong care for those who simply can’t fend for themselves. But in the long run, it should prove to be an excellent investment. Not to break the cycle of dependency would cost far more.

To an optimist, what’s happened is that we’ve launched a process that will indeed “end welfare as we know it,” forcing those who can to work, and forcing the rest of us to come to grips with the fact that for many welfare recipients it’s nowhere near that simple.

In the spirit of “tough love,” if you will, it’s a good first step. But more steps must and probably will follow to keep it from being cruel or inhumane.

What do others of you think?


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