|IS WORKFARE MORAL?|
Join the debate over whether workfare is modern slavery....
in this forum:
Would mandatory drug testing be more moral than workfare? What should religious organizations do to ease the plight of the poor? Is workfare new or simply WPA and CCC projects repackaged? Weren't slaves treated better than welfare recipients are today? How can the religious community help change the public discourse on what is moral in this unfair and unjust economy? Your additional questions and comments
July 1, 1997:
How states are complying with new federal guidelines.
June 11, 1997:
The transition made by of hundreds of people who've moved from welfare to work as part of corporate programs to hire people on assistance.
April 14, 1997:
New California laws link food stamps to work.
Browse the NewsHour's index of Welfare stories.
Rev. Sirico's New York Times editorial defending workfare.
Labor unions critique the effects of workfare on employment opportunities.
Douglas G. Scott of Wayne, NJ
The current debate over the morality of welfare reform completely misses the issue. The most vocal supporters of draconian measures that force recipents back into the labour market maintain that such action is necessary to get "lazy" people to break their welfare habit. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every American wants the same thing; a secure job that pays well. When the American economy begins to create such jobs the welfare problem will solve itself. Until then any talk about welfare to work or workfare schemes are just political policies created to win the votes of an increasingly mean spirited American voter.
Frederick H. Bartlett of Mercerville, NJ
I should like to point out to Rabbi Bretton-Granatoor that, in the world of Leviticus, many -- perhaps even most -- of those now on welfare or workfare would not be elgible for any form of help at all; rather, they would be outcasts on racial, religious, moral, and behavioral grounds.
Any argument claiming that workfare is slavery must have a firmer foundation that that!
Where, for instance, is the element of coercion that is a principle part of slavery? I don't see that the "coercion" involved in workfare is in any way different from the "coercion" that keeps me showing up for work every day.
J. Pierre Gontier of E. Chatham, NY
The word "slavery" is used alto often; to misconstrue the term "slavery," is to demean all those who where brought to this country against their will. I urge you not to forget the indentured slaves, from Ireland, China and other countries, who had little control over their life. The people who where brought from Africa and sold in public market places and lived and died at the masters will; surly can't be likened to someone who is abusing a welfare program.
To say that it's OK to continually take from a system and never give something back, is wrong. Having friends who where in the C.C. ‘s during the depression and knowing the pride they took in their work, for the few dollars they earned; has proved to me that work in exchange for public assistance is a good thing.
When you're against workfare you send the wrong message to those people trying to do the right thing; the working poor. Who are trying with little or no government help to make in this life, and set an example of self reliance for others.
Let us look upon workfare as an apprentice's program, a way to get people back into the mainstream of life and their benefits check as apprentice wages to do so.
Stephen G. Sikes of Jacksonville, FL
No one asked anyone to be their slave-drivers. This idea that workfare is another form of slavery is preposterous. Slavery is founded upon one principle alone that sets it apart from workfare, from servitude, or from any other form of service. That is, in slavery, the individual does not choose. The program did not force hundreds to quit college, hundreds chose workfare as a higher priority than their continuing education. Nothing in the world is free. And if people have to sacrifice some of their time or effort or goals in order to get by, then I think they'll always come out of the experience with a better work ethic than if the State just rushes in and says, "take my hand... I'll feed you."
I also do not believe it's fair to the rest of the community, who pays takes, works week after week, year after year, some at jobs they thoroughly dislike, but stick with it because it pays their bills. Why should they work so dilligently just to have a portion of their taxes given to people who refuse to work. If there is no outstanding reason why a person should not be working, I see workfare as the only viable option. He who does not work, also shall he not eat.
Larry Williams of Fairfield, Texas
I agree with Rev. Sirico that slavery is the wrong analogy.
In the bible it says if one does not work then he does not eat. Proverbs 16:26--A worker's appetite works for him, For his hunger urges him on. In the old testament the poor came and gleaned from the fields that had already been harvested Ruth being one such person. What was in the fields was free but they had to work to get it. There should not be hand outs from the government when that is the duty of the church.
Mark Redman of Orange, CA
When an individual has a crisis, a civilized people should provide a measure of relief. When an individual has an ongoing need and makes little or no effort to help themselves, on going relief serves to undermine the willingness of the helper to help and to destroy the self esteem of the needy person.
Workfare is an idea long overdue.
Brad of Homer, Alaska
I have a question for Rabbi Bretton-Granatoor. Genesis tells of God's intent for man to work in order for him to have the means to feed himself. According to your logic, God could also be accused of being a slave driver, as He clearly would have an able bodied person work rather than waste his life idly collecting money from others. How do you reconcile your position with God's?
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken; for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return." (Genesis 3:19)
David M. Hallow of Arlington, TX
There is not even the slightest leaning toward slavery in "workfare". This is merely requiring people to work for their money. What a concept! Actually requiring that people work for their money instead of just having it doled out to them with no return to society being given.
Slavery inplies the ownership of one person (or more) by another person. That is not the case here. The recipients are allowed to go wherever they want at any time they want. However, if they want to keep money coming in, the will have to work for it.
If working for money is considered slavery, then nearly all of us can be considered "slaves"...slaves to our jobs, our companies, our bosses. It's the same here. Work: get paid. Don't work: don't get paid. It's the American way.
Robert Berger of Pasadena, Calif.
Obviously, we have entered the era of limits in our Government spending. I question the morality of able-bodied people who continue to accept public assistance even though they are able-bodied citizens who are capable of working! Don't you feel that some people are taking advantage of a system designed to help poor people who cannot provide for their own basic needs? What about our Christian responsibilty to "speak the truth in love?"
As much as I believe in Christian charity, I feel the question isn't about slavery, but about turning people into self-supporting and productive members of our society. We should reserve welfare for those who truly need it! Giving someone a chance by requiring them to work is, to me, a form of Christian action. Let's fill people with hope and enable them to do for themselves. If it fails, i'll be the first to send a check, or my extra food, to a local church-run relief center. Is it moral to take advantage of the system? Is it Christian?
M D Brosnan of Silver Spring MD
Why are custodial parents who receive aid forced to work, while the actions of absent parents are being ignored? It seems to me, the custodial parent (usually she) should be home taking care of the children, particularly if there are children under 5, which are the most influencial years of life. Why aren't the actions of the noncustodial parents being scrutinized as carefully as parents who stick around and take the responsibility of raising their children?
Nancy of the Bronx, NY
1) Why are single parent college students being sent to work after attending college full time every day (9-5)? Is this not costing tax payers extra money by having to pay for childcare,(because there are no after school programs available after 5p.m.),and extra carfare? Also, this interferes with family time together and with the student's study time. Why is going to college while your children are in school not considered Workfare?
2) Why are single parent college students put on workfare over the summer while not attending school but then obligated to work when the school year commences, (welfare recipients are told that they have to complete a 6 months program.)
3)Furthermore, welfare recipients are not being assest before being sent to participate in workfare. The Dept. of Social Services is sending college students to "maintainace" jobs (cleaning). Don't you think that college students are a bit over-qualified for this type of job?