A middle road for welfare's least reformed?


A middle road for welfare's least reformed? Your article "Now, the hard part of welfare reform" (April 6) raises an important question: Is cutting welfare rolls the way to help those individuals who make up the tough cases in the system?

By most standards, welfare reform is a success. However, the ultimate success of welfare reform will depend on its consequences for the chronically dependent.

Both conservatives and liberals tend to oversimplify the problem. Applauding workfare, conservatives advocate shuttling off untrained or uneducated workers into the work force regardless of their employability. Liberals emphasize income support and services including "job training" -mere fig leaves covering the failed 30-year war on poverty.

We suggest helping the chronically dependent by tapping into the large reservoir of nonprofit organizations, churches, and civic organizations in local communities that stand ready to help society's hardest cases.

These organizations could provide welfare recipients with the kind of training and discipline they need to enter the modern work force.

A little-noticed provision in the 1996 federal welfare-reform law, called charitable choice, has enabled faith-based organizations to deliver innovative services on a contract basis.

But it's only a first step. Expanding the role of local charities and nonprofits usually means expanding their sources of revenue, which are primarily private. The easiest way to increase contributions is through a tax credit.

Funded by new giving, nonprofit organizations could establish programs that mentor, monitor, guide, encourage, advise, and help welfare recipients obtain the services that lead to self-sufficiency. Taxpayers could choose to support the nonprofits that reflect their own standards and preferences.


David G. Tuerck, Boston
Executive director The Beacon Hill Institute


David G. Tuerck, PhD, is chairman and professor of Economics at Suffolk University where he also serves as Executive Director of the Beacon Hill Institute for Public Policy Research.

This article appeared in the April 30, 1999 edition of the Christian Science Monitor.

Format revised on August 18, 2004