Welfare Reform: Helping Whom?

Ponder for a moment the following facts:

- The purchasing power of the nation's minimum hourly wage, frozen at $3.35 since 1981, has declined by 27 percent over the past six years.

- Slightly more than half of the new jobs created in the last eight years in this country were at full-time, annual wages of less than $11,611, the federal government's poverty line for a family of four.

- Almost a third of the jobs created since 1980 have been part-time, and three-fourths of them have been filled by people wanting full-time work. Two-thirds of those would-be full-timers make the minimum wage, and 85 percent of them receive no health insurance from their employers.

- More than 40 percent of all poor people over age 14 worked last year, and the number of working poor has increased by 50 percent since 1978.

- The number of working poor people is more than twice the number of adults on welfare.

- While the national poverty rate remains basically stable at 13.5 percent, the typical poor family has fallen further below the poverty line under the Reagan administration, and the gap between rich and poor families is now at the widest level in more than 40 years.

- The official, September 1988 national unemployment rate was 5.4 percent, and employers in many industries complain that they cannot find enough qualified and willing workers.

And now consider this: In the past few months the U.S. Congress rejected, again, a proposal to raise the minimum wage, while it overwhelmingly passed a "welfare reform" bill designed to "break the cycle of poverty" by forcing welfare mothers off the dole and into the workforce. Anyone who studies the above figures can see that for millions of Americans, jobs do not bring an end to poverty.

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