Welfare programs won't work without a strong economy

Regarding the Jan. 11 article "Wyoming's two-edged welfare experiment": Two key issues remain poorly addressed in the welfare-to-work concept.

First, the economy within an area must at least be stable, and preferably growing. Second, the prospects of cheap labor must be addressed. Kicking the poor off the welfare rolls when the job market is dead or dying is essentially inhumane. Expecting them to work and survive on an income less than welfare provides is similarly inhumane.

The bottom line is that states must be as dedicated to boosting their economies and creating new jobs as they are to moving people off welfare. These two efforts need to be closely synchronized with careful attention to real statistics. Having a pool of newly trained and eager-to-work citizens is an asset, but it must be balanced with realistic job-growth forecasts.
Waddell Robey
Harrisburg, Pa.

This article touches on the basic flaw in the welfare-to-work program: Its requirements embody a callous and practical disregard for the rights of a child to be reared by its parent. Requiring a mother to effectively abandon her child in its formative years so that she can take a low-paying job is cruel and profoundly shortsighted.

Even if child care were in a child's best interest, a parent at the lower end of the economic scale is not likely to be able to find or afford quality child care.

Children in single-parent families who are in need of welfare already have many strikes against them. Now our government takes away what may be the one constant in that child's life - a loving parent.

It is much easier to quantify and tabulate how much money is spent or saved in welfare program reforms than it is to evaluate the good or harm done young families.

But our children are precious, and strong, intact families are the bedrock of our society and our future. It is past time for our government to cease being in the business of breaking up families. The welfare system certainly needed an overhaul, but separating parents and children is not the answer.

Make every effort to strengthen familial bonds, not sever them. Enough is enough.
Maureen Helms Blake
Spearfish, SD

Schools at heart of civil rights issues

Regarding the Jan. 4 book review, "The civil rights movement must water its spiritual roots": The most overlooked place to move toward reconciliation between races is the American school system. Sadly, this is often where segregation first sets in, because of a lack of actual desire for multicultural education in a system already struggling with enough problems.

I am a senior at a private secular high school in Seattle. In addition to making extensive searches for teachers of color during last year's hiring round, my school recently changed its humanities curriculum to encompass a more global perspective. The school has also made continued, conscious attempts to open a dialogue between people with different experiences, to noticeable effect.

Many of my friends attending other schools aren't as lucky. Their schools are plagued with outdated stereotypes that make it taboo for minorities to hang out with the white kids for fear of being labeled a poser and for white kids to ask ignorant questions because of the dreaded racism label. I am not naive enough to assume these problems don't continue at my school as well.

Christian charity should be focused on stopping the problems before they start. What better way to do this than to turn our attention to the American institution children must attend every day?
Frank Paiva
Edmonds, Wash.

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