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Businessweek Archives

Off Welfare And Then?

Readers Report


One cannot help but notice that all of BUSINESS WEEK's columnists have two things in common. No, make that three: They're white, they're male, and they're not on welfare. These demographics coincidentally apply to those who govern this nation. So it's no wonder Gary S. Becker, who has doubtless never missed a meal in his life, suggests, in "The best reason to get people off the dole" (Economic Viewpoint, May 1), that the best way to make this country's poor self-reliant and get them off the dole is to shorten the time they can receive welfare.

Becker's solution is incredibly simple. Or is it simplistic? Like solving the drug problem by just saying no. Or solving the homeless problem by legislating them off the streets.

This may come as a surprise, but the poor don't aspire to be poor. They don't think supporting a family on welfare is akin to spending weekends in the Hamptons. They don't find comfort in being the scourge of white society. Becker's logic would appear to be: Ignore them, cut off their welfare, and they'll go away.

The jobs Becker would have them take (by cutting off their "assistance") don't exist (not in this country at any rate), and if they do, the poor lack the education and skills necessary to qualify. The poor are caught in the middle of a lose-lose situation.

Gary W. Priester

Black Point, Calif.

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