Cambridge, Mass. — ``Today, you lose if you're involved in programs to help the poor,'' says Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) of New York. ``During my 10 years in the US Senate I've never heard the word welfare mentioned in a private conversation,'' says Mr. Moynihan, who is possibly the nation's most outspoken voice in behalf of the poor.
He participated in one of several symposia on America's poor which were part of Harvard University's 350th anniversary celebration last weekend.
The senator, once a professor at Harvard, recommended these actions to aid the poor:
Guarantee income, based on proposals that he called the best offered in the past 50 years. ``President Nixon proposed a guaranteed income, the Family Assistance Plan,'' he said. ``President Reagan's recent tax-reform proposal would take some 6-to-7 million persons out of poverty simply by ceasing to tax them into it.''
Give poor people the right to select their children's schools by paying them educational vouchers, particularly parochial schools.
Others submitted ideas:
Glen C. Loury, a conservative black and a Harvard professor, suggested a ``tripartisan'' approach:
The poor person agrees to act responsibly, to prepare for good job performance, to take a positive attitude toward arising from the plight of poverty. Government agencies (federal, state, and local) demand proper readiness of welfare recipients for the working world by urging legislative support of good job-training programs with adequate funding. The private sector provides help and rewards to the poor who work and study and find employment.
Professor Loury also supports educational vouchers for the poor.
``It's time for people of goodwill to hold a person responsible for his or her actions,'' Loury said. ``Public assistance too often underwrites dependency. . . . The new welfare will recognize the obligations of the client, will require a properly conceived workfare that compels welfare recipients to do meaningful work. It will have meaningful support.''
Charles Atkins, Massachusetts welfare commissioner, commented that the state's training program for the unemployed has helped 30,000 single parents study and find jobs and get off welfare. It is a program that other states can copy, he said.
But many war-on-poverty programs have succeeded, said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts. He listed legal aid, Head Start, job training, community health centers, and other programs.
One participant sounded a warning. ``I'm one bureaucrat who's not for education vouchers,'' said Mary Jo Bane, a Harvard professor on leave as executive deputy director in the Department of Social Services of New York State. ``We can't rely on education to solve all the problems of the poor. One Great Society program, Head Start, in preschool education, worked.''
Meanwhile, at Radcliffe College, Harvard's sister institution, another symposium referred with alarm to the growing feminization of poverty and the rising numbers of women and children living at the poverty level.
Radcliffe participants spoke out against the stereotype of a woman who receives aid for dependent children funds as single, lazy, unqualified to work, and having children to get more money. They proposed the establishment of preschool centers, day-care centers, and after-school care for young children of working mothers and those who study. They demanded respect and positive help for female heads of households.