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GOP Welfare Reform Proposals

March 29, 1994

* I read with interest your March 9 article on Republican welfare proposals.

The article did a good job covering a long-overdue debate about what must be done to reform our welfare system; however, it seemed to imply that in raising the issue of out-of-wedlock births I am adding something new to the mix of welfare reform. But the truth is, it is the President who has said that welfare reform must deal with the fact that one out of three children born in America are in homes without fathers.

In an interview last year, President Clinton said, "Once a really poor woman has a child out of wedlock, it almost locks her and that child into the cycle of poverty which then spins out of control." The solution, according to the President, is that "government's going to have to adopt some very firm pro-family policies to encourage the preservation and the development of strong families."

If the President means what he says, he will support the efforts of conservative Republicans to deal with this crisis. We have not raised the issue of illegitimacy to scuttle the President's welfare reform effort; rather, we are offering substantive proposals which, with the President's help, really can pass the Congress this year. What stands in the way of accomplishing what the President says he wants to do is the leadership of his own party in Congress. In the absence of presidential leadership, the Democratic leadership in Congress will either prevent real change from coming to a vote or twist enough arms to prevent a real bill from passing.

It is time for a little of what President Harry Truman would have called plain speaking. President Clinton has spoken, often with passion, of his desire to reinvent the federal government. Given that he was the governor of a small state for 12 years--a job which, unlike service inside the Beltway, occasionally brought him into contact with the real world--it is likely that his passion is at least partly sincere. The status quo in Washington is a liberal status quo. Nowhere is this more evident than in the welfare system. On this issue the President has a chance, maybe his last chance, to re-create a vital center for the Democratic Party and align himself with two basic values of middle-class Americans: work and marriage. His alternative is to continue shilling for an elite that is philosophically bankrupt and that must eventually collapse politically as well.

REP. JIM TALENT

R-Mo.

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