International -- Readers Report
OFF WELFARE--AND THEN? (int'l edition)
I am absolutely appalled by the views expressed in Gary S. Becker's article "The best reason to get people off the dole" (Economic Viewpoint, May 1). The advantages of everyone contributing to the common good far outweigh the disadvantages of dependency cited by Becker.
People who live on welfare need more than money--they need good schools, good housing, and opportunities for further education. Becker writes of society's essential values such as initiative and responsibility. To these, let me add compassion, understanding, and sharing. He has forgotten, or never knew, a lot.
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 that Gary Becker, who has doubtless never missed a meal in his life, suggests 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. The poor don't think that supporting a family on welfare is akin to spending weekends in the Hamptons. The poor don't find comfort in being the scourge of white society. Becker's logic would appear to be: Ignore them and cut off their welfare, and they'll just go away.
The jobs Mr. 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.