War on Poverty or War on the Poor?

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WASHINGTON DC: Ignoring the passionate concerns of his fellow Democrats, President Clinton has announced he will sign the GOP's sweeping welfare overhaul bill, scheduled to clear the Senate tomorrow. At a press conference, Clinton tried to assuage his party's concerns saying the bill would give welfare families the opportunity to "succeed at home and at work." Conceding that the bill was "far from perfect," Clinton said he would try to change several provisions that he felt were too harsh, such as a provision to prohibit some legal immigrants from receiving welfare benefits. Nevertheless, he maintained that the bill represented a "step forward for our country and our values." The bill will save the federal government nearly $56 billion in the next six years, and fundamentally changes the welfare system in the United States. Setting a five-year limit on how long families can receive welfare, the bill requires healthy adults to start working again after two years on the dole and provides hardship exemptions for up to 20 percent of welfare beneficiaries. Under the bill, states would receive block grants to operate the programs, along with the right to set their own welfare rules, such as ending benefits before the five-year mark. The legislation is designed to move people on welfare back into the work force, but has eliminated a $3 billion jobs program approved by the House that would have helped unemployed Americans gain the skills they need to find work. While Republican leaders praised Clinton for his courage in signing the bill, many Democrats fear that the bill ignores the needs of children and will reduce thousands of people to poverty. "Clinton would not promise to sign the bill if this was not an election year," says TIME's J.F.O. McAllister. "The White House estimates that if he had vetoed this bill, he would have lost 5 points in the polls. He held out long enough to extract some concessions from the Republicans, but if Clinton had vetoed the bill, it would have been contrary to everything he has been doing over the last year to establish himself as a sensible moderate. Besides, Clinton's promises to reform welfare -->