THE Senate's passage last week, 93-3, of the Family Security Act moves major overhaul of the welfare system in the United States a step closer to reality. The bill must be reconciled with a similar but basically more liberal House bill passed last December, and presidential endorsement of the conference bill is by no means certain. But an additional work requirement tacked on to the Senate bill at the last minute is thought likely to give the bill at least a fighting chance.

The legislation would introduce wage withholding as a means of getting absent fathers to support their children better; beef up education and job-training programs; and provide child care and health insurance benefits for those making the leap from welfare to the work force.

``Welfare dependency'' is widely decried as an evil. But a woman who declines to give up cash benefits and health care coverage and to assume the costs of child care, transportation to and from work, and so on for a job at barely above minimum wage is acting on grounds of economics, not moral turpitude.

Conversely, the current system does very little for the working poor, which is unfair. Both these situations offend American ideals about the work ethic and the value of family solidarity.

The general approach of these bills is correct. They would tend to move the poor on to the same standards as the middle classes by encouraging the work ethic and demanding financial support from absent fathers. This is not only more just in the abstract, but more practical as well.

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