Bush welfare reform aids families, encourages work

Diana Spatz's Feb. 24 Opinion piece "Bush welfare agenda - married to a myth" states that President Bush's welfare reform plan advocates "marriage [as a] solution for mothers who face domestic violence" and "slashes child-care funding." Not true.

President Bush's plan to strengthen welfare reform, reflected in legislation that passed the US House of Representatives and is pending in the Senate, would help families escape poverty by encouraging full-time work. At the same time, it would allow up to 16 hours of a 40-hour work week to be spent in job-supporting activities such as education, job training, or substance-abuse treatment.

The president's welfare reform plan also would offer couples greater access, on a voluntary basis, to marriage education services to help them develop the skills and knowledge necessary to form and sustain a healthy marriage. As such, the president's healthy marriage initiative is designed to prevent abusive marriages, not encourage them.

Finally, child-care spending would increase, not decrease. Welfare reform legislation includes a $3.3 billion increase in child-care spending over the next five years as part of the plan. And that's on top of the nearly $9 billion the federal government already spends annually on child care.
Wade F. Horn
Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services

The hidden high cost of oil

David Francis's Feb. 23 financial column "Hidden defense costs add up to double trouble" raises important issues of budgetary disclosure and forthrightness, but does not succeed in following the issue to its roots. The commodity that represents the lifeblood of the US economy, more than any other, is oil, and it has managed to hide its true cost in the US Department of Defense budget.

The high cost of US access to petroleum in such places as the Persian Gulf region, rather than being paid for by those who choose to make use of the commodity via a direct tax, is externalized onto every American taxpayer who funds the DoD budget.

While one would expect this sort of market distortion to be abhorrent to people committed to free markets, the utter absence of discussion on this matter is puzzling.
Michael Stieber
Boulder, Colo.

Brazil's foreign affairs

Regarding your Feb. 26 editorial "Where Is Brazil on Haiti?": Contrary to the American mind-set on international matters that seems to dictate interventionism, Brazil has never followed in those footsteps.

Although I agree that the Lula administration could play a role in Haiti through diplomatic channels as Brazil, my homeland, usually does, I disagree that sending troops would be something that any Brazilian administration would do. Nothing in our history points to that.
Carlos E. Lopes
Madison, Wis.

Tragedy of lost artifacts

Regarding your Feb. 20 article " 'Pit bull' dogs Iraq Museum looters": The ransacking of Baghdad's National Museum was one of the cultural tragedies of the US invasion. Our government appears to have given little thought to the civil consequences of the war, initially turning a blind eye to the lawlessness, hoping, perhaps, it would die down on its own.

Although Col. Matthew Bogdanos's dogged work in retrieving a portion of the museum's artifacts is admirable, it cannot make up for our government's naiveté and lack of foresight.
Bettye Dew
St. Louis

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