On social issues Dukakis, Jackson differ in style more than substance

Both Gov. Michael Dukakis and the Rev. Jesse Jackson say the federal government needs to play a larger role in solving America's social problems. Each man stresses, however, that answers will remain elusive until policymakers recognize that welfare dependency, drugs, poor health care, and inadequate education are interconnected. Governor Dukakis says he got dumped, temporarily, from his Massachusetts governor's chair in 1978 for failing to see this fact. While his first administration was able to bring unemployment down, the welfare population continued burgeoning.

The Dukakis policy had asked welfare mothers, in effect, to abandon their children for dead-end workfare jobs. The policy, he now reasons, was doomed to failure. Both he and Mr. Jackson assail the Reagan administration for implementing the same brand of failed policy.

``Where is the incentive [to welfare recipients] to work when nearly one-half of the new jobs created since 1979 pay less than $7,400 per year?'' Jackson asks. ``An economy which dashes opportunity is a root cause of babies making babies and children losing hope and choosing dope.''

Jackson is a resonant voice for the poor. This ability to articulate their concerns is the primary difference between him and Dukakis on social issues. Philosophically, they often agree.

Neither candidate lacks ambitious plans for attacking what he sees as the principal social ills facing America. It is less clear, however, that either man has identified realistic means of paying for what shape up as costly domestic initiatives - though they claim to know where the money would come from.

Douglas Besharov, an analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank, points out that the next president, whoever he is, will have to live with the ``real legacy of Reaganomics.'' Says Mr. Besharov, eyeing the federal budget deficit: ``Liberals can't spend money either.''

Here is where the two Democratic front-runners stand on key social issues:

Welfare. Both Dukakis and Jackson advocate full employment as the most effective social program. Both believe that adequate day care, meaningful job training accompanied by a job at a living wage, and continued medical benefits for welfare families even though they are working are necessities for helping people lift themselves from poverty.

Dukakis points to his state Employment and Training Choices Program (ET). He touts the program for having put to work 30,000 people on public assistance and returning $100 million in welfare savings and tax gains.

Jackson calls for increasing the minimum wage. He proposes family allowances to supplement the earnings of poor families to ensure children an adequate standard of living. He also advocates a child-care program that his staff estimates would cost $5 billion to $10 billion a year.

Drugs. Both candidates call for an all-out war against drugs, which tops their list of domestic priorities. They propose the appointment of a drug ``czar'' to lead a well-financed international campaign of beefed-up law enforcement. They also advocate comprehensive treatment and education programs at home.

Health care. Jackson says the country needs a universal health-care system that guarantees ``cradle to the grave'' protection. Its scope: ``All the care people need no matter what their income.'' In 1986 37 million Americans had no form of health-care protection. Jackson calls this ``immoral.'' Under his program health institutions would be private but would contract with the government.

Dukakis's national health-care plan is modeled after the one he plans to sign into law in Massachusetts within the next two weeks. He is the first governor to offer statewide legislation mandating employers to provide health-care insurance. Medicaid would continue to cover people at the low end of the economic scale. People without jobs or insurance, says Christopher Edley Jr., issues coordinator for the Dukakis camp, would have prepaid insurance from a pool of money funded by insurers and more-affluent health-care consumers. The Massachusetts plan is expected to cost $660 million through 1992.

Education. As president, Jackson would double the federal education budget to about $40 billion a year. He would launch a massive national campaign to recruit teachers and increase their pay. He advocates restoring and expanding college grants and loans.

Dukakis would create a ``national teaching excellence fund,'' with a first-year investment of a quarter of a billion dollars. He proposes scholarships and loan forgiveness for young people willing to go into teaching and creation of a national teachers corps, ``a domestic Peace Corps'' for teaching.

Both men advocate federal investment in children's educational programs, including nutrition services, preschool programs, Head Start, and aid to handicapped children.

Dukakis offers Massachusetts' College Opportunity Fund as a model for other states. It encourages parents and grandparents to set aside money for college tuitions in special interest-bearing trusts.

Social security. The candidates are alike in their opposition to means testing for social security benefits, and they assure the elderly that cost-of-living increases will continue. Both advocate enforcement of age-discrimination laws that protect seniors who want to keep working.

Last of four parts. Others appeared April 12, 13, and 14.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to On social issues Dukakis, Jackson differ in style more than substance
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today