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.
Funding for the 1996 law that changed welfare had an expiration date of September 30, 2002. So last year, Congress had an opportunity to renew and revise the system. The House and Senate disagreed, however, about funding amounts and changes for the system.
Welfare reform has triggered experimentation by states, which are responsible for its administration, and copious research about what works. In this search for effective answers, the prevailing way of thinking about welfare and poverty has also cast a spotlight on religious congregations and the potential support they provide.
Should we judge Bill Bennett for being an obsessive gambler, for losing over $1 million in a two-month period and $8 million over ten years? He wouldn’t have it any other way. In his 1998 bestseller, The Death of Outrage, Bennett bemoaned the wretched moral state of our nation, and said part of the problem is that we’re afraid to judge people on moral issues.