Fixing Welfare

A consensus is emerging on the need for radical reform

The criticisms are such timeworn staples of conservative oratory that by now anyone who reads about welfare can reel them off from memory. The system is a monstrous mess: it breaks up families, traps the poor in degrading idleness and breeds a self-perpetuating cycle of illegitimacy, poverty and government dependency. It must be changed by training or even forcing people who get public assistance to become productive members of society. Move them off the welfare rolls and onto payrolls.

So what is new about welfare reform? Three things: 1) such rhetoric now resounds across the political spectrum, from Ronald Reagan to...