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Sounding Off: Perceptions of the less-fortunate remain skewed

October 18, 2010|Jean Forbath

In his Sunday commentary on our welfare system, Judge James P. Gray has touched all of the welfare myths raging for years and has blatantly suggested we go back to the Dickensian era of the "poor house" with all of its admirable attributes ("It's a Gray Area: The trick of current welfare system"). His essay is filled with so many factual errors that it's hard to know where to begin.

Let's first look at the system he proposes that would lift people out of poverty and "restore their dignity." First, don't trust them with any money; give them only the necessities of life, such as dormitory living, group style meals, health care in government clinics, clothing and other "similar essentials."

They would have to earn this largess by doing required chores. (Sounds like the 19th century "work houses.") He goes on to say that while providing basic needs, this system would also provide incentives to move beyond welfare because "there would be a logical and necessary stigma" attached to living in such publicly supported places.

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Judge Gray states that he and his fellow Libertarians would provide this help, not because they have to, but because they want to. "That is the type of people we are."

I wonder if they realize that 75% of those receiving welfare aid are children?

Now let's look at the factual errors. He states there are few incentives in the present system to get off welfare and if a woman wants to receive aid, all she has to do is get pregnant, and if she wants more money, just have another baby. He repeats the old myth that families remain on the dole for generations.

If Judge Gray had studied the present Cal Works Program ( a reform of the old aid to families with dependent children), he'd find that in order to receive cash assistance, the parent has to spend 32 hours a week in job-related activities — working, looking for work, taking skills training classes, etc. If she doesn't follow through, she is sanctioned. Rather that staying on welfare for generations, the lifetime limit to receive aid is 60 months.

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