Are the poor blessed or lazy? The prevailing answer in America is lazy. The welfare revolution of the past decade put the poor to work. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 changed the social support system. As the name of the law implies, people are held personally responsible for getting out of poverty by taking advantage of work opportunities.
This work-based welfare system is now undergoing another round of scrutiny because the legislation needs renewal (see Reform, round two: Work harder). President Bush is asking the poor to work more, invoking once again the goal of moving people from “welfare dependency to self-sufficiency.”