International -- Readers Report
RUSSIA'S GENERAL IS A POLITICAL STRAIGHT SHOOTER (int'l edition)
Thank you for the fine reporting on Alexander I. Lebed ("Behind the showmanship, Russia's Lebed has a bold plan," International Outlook, Sept. 9). His "refreshingly blunt" personality, I predict, will elevate him to Russia's presidency. Here is a leader who is willing to risk his political future to forge a workable peace agreement with Chechnya--a boiling cauldron that was made worse by Yeltsin's policies and his military advisers.
The West should be happy that Russia finally has a leader who is plain-speaking and who visibly works for peace. Maybe some of our leaders can emulate General Lebed and forge ahead by taking action on their promises--regardless of polls and the advice of political handlers.
Jerome R. Bulkan
Coconut Creek, Fla.Return to top
WHERE IS THE HARD EVIDENCE ON WELFARE? (int'l edition)
I agree, in general, with Gary S. Becker's commentary, "What makes the welfare bill a winner" (Economic Viewpoint, Sept. 23). But his main point--concerning the way welfare corrupts people financially and psychologically--brings up a problem that I see in many public-policy opinion pieces. Becker suggests that "prolonged exposure to welfare severely harms many children." This is a point that should be supported with empirical evidence.
After 50 years of welfare, one should be able to point to studies that have looked at the incidence of continuing welfare in families that use welfare extensively. For example, studies could be done that examine, in families on extended welfare, what percentage of children go on to receive welfare themselves. That could be compared with the percentage of welfare recipients among children of families with short-term stays on welfare, and with the percentage of welfare recipients among children who came from families that did not receive welfare. Supporting statements such as Becker's with empirical evidence would make them stronger and more meaningful.
Michael A. Eierman
College of Business Administration
University of Wisconsin
I take great exception to most of what has been said and written about welfare, and I take exception to your article. I have been on welfare, and I make no apologies. My hard-earned tax dollars paid for that program, and I needed to use it.
After my $300-a-month apartment was paid for--which covered everything, including the phone--and with $115 a month for food stamps, my welfare payments left $21 a month in cash to meet all my other needs. Senator Daniel P. Moynihan (D-N.Y.) said it best: With this legislation, we are courting disaster. If anyone out there thinks welfare is expensive, wait. It will get worse.
Becker's commentary is seriously flawed. First, he tells us that "long periods on welfare erode work skills." In truth, most welfare recipients do not have the skills necessary to compete in today's job market. Second, he blames means-tested government programs for the rise in welfare recipients over time. Are we to assume that the programs drive the need? I know of no data that support this conclusion.
Third, he feels that children of welfare recipients "begin to accept that it is more normal to be supported by the government than to be financially and psychologically independent." I suppose that he is using the high correlation between welfare dependence as a child and welfare dependence as an adult as "proof." However, in the course of my own investigation, all welfare mothers said they hoped that their children would avoid welfare and explicitly told me that they counseled their children to avoid the mistakes they made that led to welfare dependence.
In the final analysis, solving the welfare "problem" will require more, rather than fewer, financial resources. Without the provision of skill development, job placement, tax incentives, and child care, any program is doomed to failure. Mr. Becker points out several states as "exemplars" of how to implement reform, but few of these programs have successfully reduced poverty without a considerable investment. In the end, several states continued the old programs because it was simply cheaper.
My advice to Mr. Becker is to go out and actually talk to a welfare mother. He will find that her values are not much different from his--just her opportunities.
School of Business Administration
University of Portland
Portland, Ore.Return to top