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HEARTS of the CITY | Navigating the Real World

A rotating panel of experts from the worlds of philosophy, psychology and religion offer their perspective on the dilemmas that come with living in Southern California.

August 07, 1996|Larry B. Stammer, Times religion writer

What is our moral duty as individuals in view of the agreement by Congress and the president to end the federal Aid to Families With Dependent Children program and replace it with lumpsum grants to states? A five-year lifetime limit on benefits would also be imposed, most adults would have to get a job within two years, and food stamps would no longer be given to legal immigrants.

The Rt. Rev. Chester L. Talton

Suffragan bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles

My faith calls me to help those who cannot help themselves. I raise a voice of alarm as an advocate. It is dangerous to completely replace a program with something new, administered by the states, that we are not sure will be successful. It is an experiment with those who are least able to help themselves. What is to happen to children of parents who try but cannot find work? What is to happen to children of parents who will not work? It is innocent children who will be punished. It is also wrong to punish legal immigrants because they are poor. Cutting them off of food stamps, which are used in most instances to supplement meager incomes, is wrong. Most of them work and pay taxes and should not be denied benefits that are provided to other poor working people.

Sharon Presley

Executive director of Resources for Independent Thinking, Oakland

Natural human empathy leads most of us to want to help those in distress or need. Without such individual concern, society will break down. But charity toward others comes out of the heart and conscience, not from the barrel of a gun. It isn't moral to force people to "love their neighbors." Nor is it practical to force taxpayers to fund inefficient government programs that line administrators' pockets more than the poor. Community sponsored self-help programs help the poor at less cost and with higher rates of success than government attempts. My conscience tells me to help those in need but I want to do it in ways that directly help them, not multitudes of bureaucrats.

Maher Hathout

Physician and spokesman for the Islamic Center of Southern California, Los Angeles

Stopping federal aid and replacing it with lump sum grants to the states is literally "passing the buck." We are withdrawing federal protection, which keeps us a harmonious nation, from the vulnerable and the poor. Guaranteeing the minimum level of human rights to our citizens is moral, ethical and constitutional. The least to be done is to develop a supervisory mechanism over the states. To put a time limit on aid is absurd. Stopping the aid should [depend] on the availability of work training and jobs. Withholding food stamps from legal immigrants is like inviting--or at least allowing--someone into your house on the condition that you eat but he is not allowed a sandwich.

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