The United States as a whole, enjoyed a decrease of 57% in those same ten years, concerning the number of families that were on welfare. Not only does this mean greater revenue for the government in the form of decreased welfare payments and an increase in the amount of taxes that it can collect, but much more importantly, it means that 1. 9 million additional families now have the opportunity, perhaps not to be rich and to live in the lap of luxury but to have self respect as they now use the money that they earned to pay for the things that they want. Such things are taken for granted by millions of Americans.
However, when that right is taken away, either by bad choices or by circumstances, to regain that simple right, one cannot help but realize that such rights parallel a person’s individuality and freedom as an American. Also, as it was highlighted in tragic form in the late summer of 2005, when more than a thousand people died in Hurricane Katrina, due in part to governmental inactivity, coupled with the learned condition of relying upon the government for help and complete assistance, the more one comes to rely upon the government, the more one will be disappointed.
There is no substitute for the independence that comes from one’s own effort. Those who have children out of wedlock, have a much greater chance of being on welfare. And before 1996, there was an even greater chance that one could learn to be content living on welfare for decades. This is no life as self respect and earning potential plummet. Unfettered welfare only increases poverty. It does little to stop or curb its effects. There are some people who, from no fault of their own, are not able to care for themselves.
This comes from infirmities that come from old age or from a mental or physical handicap. A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members. However, even in group homes across the country, jobs are sought out for members of the developmentally disabled and the greatest degree of individuality and independence is attempted for these people. In doing so, the foundations of self respect is given to that individual as a gift; one that requires that recipient to build upon such a foundation until they enjoy financial independent to the greatest degree of their ability.
There are those who will call such motivations as the ones who helped to bring welfare reform to Congress to eventually become law, cruel and unsympathetic to the needs of others while objecting the moral objections of those who believe that the moral judgment that comes in the hopes of preventing the exponential rise in the number of single parent households, results in a conflict of church and state. Yet, unfettered welfare payments which only encourage dependence upon the government and will forever keep that individual poor and helpless, is somehow acceptable.
The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act was not, is not perfect. Any law which initially affected five million families, will not be able to solve all of the problems. The government created an environment of dependence over the previous thirty years and such environments cannot be eradicated overnight. However, in the ten years since the passage of the Act, millions of Americans have realized a number of lessons whose self evident characteristic, eluded them until now.
They are as follows: First, the more one depends upon the government, the more one will be disappointed. There is no substitute for individual hard work, resolve and a self imposed work ethic. Second, welfare programs were initially designed for temporary relief and should not be seen as a substitute for one’s own hard work. Failing to realize this, will greatly impede the individual’s earning potential.
Simply put, a person will make much more money working a job, even if it is a minimum wage job, then can expect to receive in government cash assistance programs. Thirdly, with the ability to earn a living and to pay for the things that one wants and requires in order to live, comes a great sense of pride in the fact that he or she is indeed working and paying taxes; they are part of the solution and not the problem. If every person had a full time and rewarding job, crime rates would plummet.
Even though the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act is not perfect, and some believe that it goes too far and others believe that it has not gone far enough, it is a step in the right direction and fears about widespread poverty as a result of the cessation of welfare payments, has not come to fruition. Europeans can say what they want about Americans; they are arrogant and rude but the one thing that is always included about Americans hen one travels overseas, are the respect that comes from the individuality and hard work ethic that has helped to make this country as prosperous as it is.
Necessity is the mother of invention. And when the necessity is finding a job or receive no money from the government, millions of Americans have found a way to find gainful employment. The vast majority cannot be described as rich in monetary terms but they are rich in self respect and earn much more money working for themselves than in what they could expect to receive in their total reliance upon the American government.
In this, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act met its responsibility and serves as a positive and lasting aspect of the Clinton Administration.
- Burns, Ric The History of New York: New York and Thirteen Productions 1999 Goodwin,
- Doris Kearns No Ordinary Time New York: Scribners 1994 Katz, Jeffrey After 60 Years, Most Control is Passing to States Congressional Weekly Report August 3, 1996Johnson,
- Mark Where Have all the Black Fathers Gone? Ebony Magazine May 2007 Lehrer, Jim History of Welfare Lehrer’s News Hour Broadcasted August 1, 1996 www.pbs.org