Larry Elder

Growing up, I watched my father work two full-time jobs as a janitor. He also cooked for a rich family on the weekends and somehow managed to go to night school to get his GED. When I was 10, my father opened a small restaurant that he ran until he retired in his mid-80s. "Hard work wins," Dad would tell my brothers and me. "The world doesn't owe you a living." My parents drilled into us the importance of education and self-reliance. "Go out into the world unprepared," Dad would say, "and you're going to get your behind kicked and your feelings hurt."

Studies back up the link between the explosive growth in government welfare -- begun in the '60s -- and the increase of out-of-wedlock births.

In 1960, 5 percent of America's children entered the world without a mother and father married to each other. By 1980 it was 18 percent, and by 2000 it had risen to 33 percent. Today, the number is 41 percent. For blacks, out-of-wedlock births have gone from 25 percent in 1965 to 73 percent today. The ethnic group with the next-highest percent of births to unmarried mothers is that of Native Americans, at 66 percent. For whites, out-of-wedlock births stand at 29 percent. For Hispanics, out-of-wedlock births are at 53 percent.

In every state, a woman with two children "makes" more money on welfare than were she to take a minimum wage job. The array of federal and state programs amounts to over $60K spent for every poor household. But because of costs, the recipient household ends up getting far less.

How do we know that the welfare state creates disincentives that hurt the people we are trying to help? They tell us. In 1985, the Los Angeles Times asked whether poor women "often" have children to get additional benefits. Most of the non-poor respondents said no. When the same question was asked of the poor, however, 64 percent said yes.

People, of course, need help. A humane society does not ignore those who cannot or even will not fend for themselves. But good faith does not substitute for sound policy. The welfare state is an assault on families.


Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com.