Working on Welfare

How to reform the system


Bill Clinton's promise to reform welfare dramatically was among his most popular campaign pledges, the one that let him outflank George Bush on the right and attract swing voters in swing states. But as president, Clinton has let that pledge slide in favor of pushing his health-care program. After first dropping plans to include a major push for welfare reform in his State of the Union address, however, he yielded to pro-reform pressures, notably from Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.). He now promises to submit a welfare reform bill this year, though it, too, will take a back seat to health care.

To explore prospects and plans for reform, REASON gathered three of the issue's most incisive analysts for a two-hour discussion in late December. The moderator was REASON Editor Virginia Postrel. Our guests included:

* Charles D. Hobbs, a public-policy consultant and author who served as President Ronald Reagan's chief adviser on public assistance and other federal domestic programs from 1984 to 1989. He is now working primarily on state-level reform efforts.

* Mickey Kaus, a senior editor of The New Republic and author of The End of Equality. He has been a leading Democratic voice for replacing welfare with a program of public-service jobs.

* Charles Murray, author of Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950-1980. Last fall, Murray found himself acclaimed in the international media, courted by congressional leaders, and quoted favorably by the president and vice president when he published an article in The Wall Street Journal warning that illegitimacy rates among white Americans have reached the level that triggered Moynihan's prescient warning in the 1960s about the deterioration of the black family.

Virginia Postrel: President Clinton's campaign pledge to "end welfare as we know it" appears to enjoy broad support. Nobody has much good to say about the current welfare system. How did we get to this situation, and what do you see as the primary problem of the system as it exists today?

Chuck Hobbs: We would all probably agree that welfare is a poison and work is the antidote. The elements of that poison are a poison that discourages work; a poison that discourages families from forming and staying together; and, maybe most importantly, a poison that separates people so that they lose a sense of community, and with that sense of community, the behavior patterns that are expected when you live within a community of neighbors.

Mickey Kaus: Look at what Roosevelt did in the winter of 1934 and '35. He said, "The dole is a narcotic. It saps the vitality of our people." This was in the middle of a depression. There were millions of people on cash relief. Roosevelt ended the cash relief and replaced it with a guaranteed job. He made one mistake. He kept the categorical aid program for women in homes where the breadwinner was dead, disabled, or absent. And from that one word absent sprang our current welfare problem.

Charles Murray: If tomorrow you had the world's most successful work program for women on welfare, I don't think you would change the nature of the problem in the inner cities. You'd have working welfare mothers. You would still have a very high proportion of children growing up without fathers. I guess I'm a disciple of George Gilder, in many respects. In 1973, with Sexual Suicide, he set out, at a time when it was extremely unpopular, a whole set of propositions about the role that marriage plays in socializing men and also socializing the next generation of children. If you have very high rates of illegitimacy–which is the worst form of single parenthood–that brings social chaos. If you don't fix that, you don't fix the underclass.

Kaus: We really do have a disagreement. I think if you could change the non-working single-parent underclass into a working single-parent class–a working matriarchy–you would have gone a long way to solving the problem of the underclass. It makes a big difference if people go to work or if they don't go to work. Even male children growing up in a working household will tend to be more disciplined. They know that mommy is going out the door at a certain hour, and they really have to get up and dress by that hour. Alarm clocks have to be set. Dolores Norton at the University of Chicago has done some research that seems to suggest that the greatest factor in how well kids do at school is whether they come from a working household or a non- working household. In a welfare household, there is no rhythm, no discipline to the day. The day just sort of floats by. People watch soap operas. Nobody has to be anywhere at any particular time. And as a result, the socialization of kids is very different. The second point I'd make is that if you had a working matriarchy, the natural economic incentives to form two-parent families would reassert themselves. It's very hard to be a working single mother. If that's the only fate open to you–if the welfare avenue is closed–all the incentives are to find some man. And if you find the man, marry him, and go to work, you are not going to be poor, by and large, in this society.

Murray: Our disagreement is more about ideology than results. Because I think that if Mickey Kaus's work program were implemented precisely as he says it should be implemented–

Postrel: Maybe you should briefly say what that program is.

Murray: The welfare system goes away, a job is out there, the woman gets the addresses and job sites. If she shows up and works, she gets paid; if she doesn't show up, she doesn't get paid.

Kaus: There is also day care available.

Murray: So, suppose that was done precisely the way we've just stated it. Then I think that Mickey is right, that you would have a whole bunch more two-parent families forming.

Postrel: Assuming that this job would still be available if you got married.

Kaus: In my proposal, the job is available to all comers–married, unmarried.

Murray: If you did it exactly like that, there would be a lot of reasons for a single young woman not to get pregnant and have a child, because she knows that if she does that she is going to have to be working in a low-wage job, working a 40-hour week, and it is going to be no fun. Both Mickey and I are saying that you don't make big changes in this problem with incremental steps. We have to end welfare as we know it, truly.

Postrel: You used to not put that "as we know it" part on at the end.

Murray: Well, actually, it should be end welfare, period.

Hobbs: A lot of practical problems have arisen when I've tried to make that point and to make it stick. I remember Pat Buchanan used to say at the White House, "Chuck, when are you going to get one state to quit welfare cold turkey?" I tried to point out to him that it wasn't quite that easy, that there were a whole bunch of people out there who had gotten used to welfare, and that there had to be some kind of a weaning process. But I do not think that a national solution for this problem is possible. I think we must devolve the decision making about public assistance, and we must make the contacts between the employer community and the public-assistance system that have never been made.

Postrel: I would like to talk about some of the experiments that are going on in the states. Chuck has been working a lot in Oregon.

Murray: What's the latest from Oregon?

Hobbs: Oregon and Mississippi are both in Washington seeking waivers for the Full Employment Program. [Two federal departments, Agriculture and Health and Human Services, have the authority to waive federal law for welfare-reform demonstrations.] HHS has signified that waivers will be forthcoming. The Department of Agriculture is holding the line because they do not want any more cash-outs [allowing the state to pay cash instead of food stamps]. The program is very similar to what Mickey's talking about. Essentially it takes AFDC, food stamps, and unemployment compensation and puts those three pots of money together and pays anybody who wants to work the minimum wage–at a public or private job. In Oregon that's $4.75 an hour. Add to that the Earned Income Tax Credit, and somebody getting a minimum- wage job with a couple of kids is above the poverty level. At $4.25 in Mississippi they're right at the poverty level.

Postrel: The employer pays nothing?

Hobbs: The employer pays nothing on the wage, but he does pay a dollar into an education fund that can be used by the participant or the participant's kids for education in the community college system for a 10-year period. In Mississippi, because the benefit structure's so low, the employer kicks in $2.00, a dollar toward the $4.25 minimum wage and another dollar for the education or health-care fund, whichever the participant wants to use it for. We've got 10 states that have actually modeled this thing. Two of them have passed it and enacted it as law. There are bills out before four other legislatures around the country, and each case is different because the benefits are different.

Postrel: One question Mickey has always raised is where the money is supposed to come from.

Kaus: It always costs more to put somebody to work than to send them a check because you have to a) provide day care if they're single mothers and b) supervise them and provide them with materials, which adds about 40 percent to the cost of their paycheck.

Hobbs: There are already eight separate pots of child-care money, and seven of them apply to almost everybody who's in this category. Also, there are all kinds of costs in child care that shouldn't be there. If you, for instance, go over here to Maryland today and ask how much child care would cost, they'll say, "Oh, boy. It's $700 a month to take care of one kid." But if you look nationwide at how much is actually spent by people who pay for child care, it averaged in 1991 something like $70 a week. And the reason is they're not putting kids in these institutional child-care settings. But perhaps the most important thing is that many of the women in this program are going to go into child care themselves. One of our first moves will be to apprentice people to institutional child-care facilities so they can get the on-the-job training to get licensed themselves and become in-home child-care providers. Then they can make considerably more money than the minimum wage. So I think the child care is a bogus thing. And talking to employers in Oregon and other places about how much they're going to have to spend for training, I don't get a 40-percent addition.

Kaus: In Oregon, what troubles me is that there is no requirement that any of these jobs be created. The legislation does not say, "We will end welfare by a certain date and replace it with these jobs." It says if you can gin up private employers to offer these jobs, only to that extent does the system change.

Hobbs: That's why it needs to be tested. I would also like to make one more point. Why is this going to work fiscally, when we're going to pay more to people to do the job than we were paying when they were on welfare? The answer is two-fold: One, a whole bunch of people aren't going to show up to take these jobs, because there's a massive underground economy out there. Oregon said at the beginning that 25 percent of the people offered these jobs wouldn't come to take them. But the more important thing is that they're going to compress the amount of time spent on welfare. They think they're going to cut it by 50 percent. And if they do either one or both of those things, we're going to find that there's a tremendous cost savings.

Murray: Well, I've been listening to this interchange, and part of me would really like to see Oregon do this. I would also like to see someone try Mickey's simple plan. But I'm convinced they won't work. Successful government programs are simple, they deal in great big, obvious incentives, and they have almost no mechanism associated with them at all. So if you can't get rid of welfare the way I want to–which is to dismantle the whole thing lock, stock, and barrel–I think we at least ought to put on the table Milton Friedman's old idea of the negative income tax–not as tried in SIME/DIME, the Seattle and Denver income-maintenance experiments in the '70s, but rather as a replacement for the entire social-welfare system. Everything–unemployment insurance, welfare, food stamps, subsidized housing, Social Security, everything. There would be an amendment to the Constitution which says that with the single exception of the negative income tax, the government shall make no payment of any kind, in kind or in cash, to any individual.

Kaus: Charles, I'm shocked that you say that. Your profound contribution to the welfare debate has been to say the key question is, "Do we give single mothers–non-working single parents–enough cash to sustain the underclass?" This your "enabling" theory. You are now proposing a negative income tax that would give non-working, single mothers enough cash to sustain them. Therefore, by your own theory, you would be perpetuating the underclass.

Murray: Would you like to hear why I could nonetheless hold this bizarre position? Yes, I knew you would. If you have this as a replacement for everything else, you continue to have the fundamental constants in this equation, which are that sex is fun and that babies are endearing. So, in that sense, you are in fact enabling a single young woman to have a baby without a husband. On the other hand, you have the following dynamic set up. The negative income tax kicks in at the age of 18 whether or not you have a child. This means that you have 16-year-old girls looking at their 18-year-old sisters and people in school and what do they see? They see some of these girls hitting 18 with no encumbrances in the form of babies, and, as endearing as those babies are, the 16-year-olds see that if they don't have any children they can spend this minimum income doing all sorts of fun things. They see other women who are hitting 18 and who are spending their income on diapers and baby food. If you demand a system in which the government supports people–as seems to be the case with a large part of the American population–you should offer the most innocuous form of that system, and one which provides a clear and present penalty for having a baby– namely, that you have this money out there which you could otherwise spend on yourself that you're going to have to spend on the kid. Would this be perfect? No. Would it be worse than the current system? And there I think Friedman had it right. It's going to have disadvantages, but it's a hell of a lot better than what we have now.

Kaus: I'm still shocked. I'm shocked that the foremost critic of our welfare state turns out to be for a massive expansion of the welfare state to cover–

Murray: You are talking about Milton Friedman, I suppose?

Postrel: Remember that he is getting rid of–

Murray: I'm getting rid of everything, including Social Security.

Kaus: Well, you're still enabling the underclass to survive and flourish. My question is, why is that preferable to my scheme, which ends the checks that sustain non-working families but offers a job to everybody who wants one?

Murray: Because the government will screw it up. Even if you could get through your plan as it currently stands, the day after it goes into effect we will start to see the erosion of it. The erosion will consist of all the different ways in which exceptions will be created, and the business of showing up at the job site will become a scam because it's so tough to make government bureaucrats act like job supervisors. They have no incentive whatsoever to demand performance. Over a period of a few years it will become a joke. The government does one thing quite efficiently, and that is write checks, and that's all the government does in the negative income tax. Now, by the way, let me just put on the record, and this maybe should be italicized: I would rather have the welfare system ended altogether than have a negative income tax. But the fact is that in late 20th-century America it's hard to put together a political consensus to do something that doesn't involve vast amounts of government support.

Kaus: I accept your arguments against my plan that it could turn into a boondoggle, a swamp of non- work. My argument is let's give it a try–

Murray: I'm willing to give it a try.

Kaus: It seems to me the negative income tax, in addition to not having a prayer of ending the underclass, will be subject to the same sort of erosion.

Murray: That's why you literally would have to have a constitutional amendment saying the federal government shall not dispense payments in cash or kind to individuals with this one exception. And given what happens to the Constitution, probably that won't even work. No, basically, there is no hope, Mickey.

Hobbs: I have a bigger problem with the negative income tax than its impracticality, and that is paying people not to work. Eighty-five percent of the people have already said that people should work for welfare. It finally got through to Bill Clinton and other elected officials, so they're now saying the same thing.

Kaus: Why throw that away? My plan–and Clinton's welfare plan–has big, simple, obvious ideas. I would say, "You're not going to get a check from the government if you don't work. If you do work, we may give you a variety of benefits."

Murray: Then you have a vast edifice that you have to erect to administer that.

Kaus: It's simple.

Murray: No, it's not simple.

Kaus: I just think you undermine your entire contribution to the debate and you've thrown Losing Ground in the trash can. I am more optimistic than you. First, I agree with Chuck that the American people have always been for work and against giving people cash. And Bill Clinton has realized that that's what the American people think. Clinton's proposal is a substantial proposal if he enacts it the way he talked about in the campaign. If it's really a two-years-and-out system [in which after two years a welfare recipient must take a job], that would have a big effect on the culture of the ghetto.

Murray: OK, let me be optimistic for a moment and try to retrieve Losing Ground from the trash can. There's much more room for change than I thought there was a few months ago. I think there is a good chance that the states are going to get a lot more waiver authority, and there's a good chance that states who want to eradicate the welfare system are going to establish a whole lot of restrictions which achieve some of what both you and I would like. In this regard, the initial results out of New Jersey, which I've just seen in The Washington Post, are striking.

Postrel: What happened there?

Murray: New Jersey passed a law saying you would not get any more money for the second child or subsequent children born on welfare. And a lot of people, including me, said, "Big deal. Most welfare women don't have a second child and that's only $64. How much difference is this really going to make?" Well, these are early days yet, but in New Jersey they are reporting a very large drop in second children being born. If those numbers hold up, people are going to say, "This is what you get in return for not giving 64 bucks? Gee, what would happen if you took away the whole grant?" By the way, isn't it interesting, just politically, the way that Bill Clinton is in danger of locking himself out on this issue?

Postrel: What do you mean by locking himself out?

Murray: First by his appointments. He put in place over at HHS three people–Donna Shalala, David Ellwood, and Mary Jo Bane–who are temperamentally and philosophically not on board. And Clinton himself has shown a curious reluctance to capitalize on the obvious political popularity of welfare reform. I would like to know what Mickey sees going on inside the Clinton White House and how this is going to play out.

Kaus: My impression is there are people in HHS who still cling to guaranteed annual income–and Charles, maybe you should get together with them.

Murray: They don't want a guaranteed income as a replacement for everything else.

Kaus: They're writing all sorts of proposals for a fall-back benefit even if recipients don't get a job. And there are the public-employee unions, who are terrified that if you really do have a system where people go into public jobs at the end of two years, they will be doing all sorts of jobs that union people could be doing. And then you have the legislative bottleneck, where Clinton doesn't think he can get both welfare reform and health-care reform through Congress at the same time. And his wife is more interested in health- care reform. Those three factors are conspiring, I agree, to have him lose control of this issue and lose the political advantage.

Murray: Chuck, what do you think?

Hobbs: I guess I really don't care what–as long as he holds to two things which he has already said. One is to promise the governors he'll give them maximum flexi-bility to try different approaches. I also think he has to maintain the two-years-and-out promise. The way he does that is not nearly as important to me as how the states react to flexibility in designing those two-years-and-out programs. It seems like everybody is looking for what they call the other door. At the end of two years if there's no job, what do we do with these people? The Full Employment Program, or Mickey's program, is an answer to that. It says that the other door is that you don't wait two years. You start working right now.

Murray: To what extent, Mickey, are there a whole bunch of public-service jobs of the 1930s WPA type that could be created?

Kaus: It's a very good question. But just looking around us, we can see there are playgrounds that are overgrown by weeds. There are basketball hoops without nets. There is visible filth on urban streets. There are streets with potholes. There are bridges that need painting. There are schools that need painting. The big problem is not that there isn't enough to do. The big problem is when you try to do them, AFSCME and the other public employees go berserk.

Postrel: The idea is increasingly popular that there are some people who are just unable to work even if you offer them a job–that they don't have the necessary personal organization and work habits.

Kaus: There's been a tremendous shift in elite opinion about this. The liberal opinion used to be that work requirements were gratuitous. People wanted to work. All they needed was a job. That argument has now flipped 180 degrees. When you suggest to a paradigmatic liberal, "Why not replace welfare with work?," they will say in effect, "Don't you realize these people are so screwed up they can't hold down a job even if you offer it?" That may be true, and undoubtedly is true for a certain percentage of the population. But that just shows how entrenched the culture of poverty is. If you have a group of people who can't hold down a job even when it's offered to them, you have a culture of poverty. And that shows how disastrous the current system is and why it needs to be replaced. The second point is, we need to find out what that percentage is. I've talked with people who work in the ghetto, and they say a third of the people just can't hack it. That seems high to me. But one of the reasons we need state-by-state efforts is it's important whether that number is 1 percent or 50 percent. We need to find that out before we impose a nationwide solution.

Postrel: What is, "just can't hack it"?

Murray: It goes back to some of the things Mickey was saying earlier. If you grow up in a house where time just flows by, the odds that you can get to work on time every day are pretty low. And if you've grown up in a situation where if anybody says anything critical to you, he's "dissing" you, and that is perhaps grounds for shooting him, then it is real hard for you to deal with a supervisor who says, "Hey, get your butt in here." You get in his face or you quit. A lot of people literally do not know how to work. But we don't know what the number is.

Hobbs: I think you have to look at a larger population than the AFDC population on this issue. There are a lot of people who are classified as totally and permanently disabled who can and want to work. I know that from personal experience. There are also a whole bunch of people who are not categorized as people who are eligible for work–over 50 percent, by the way, of the AFDC population is federally excluded from work programs. They have a kid under the age of 3, or they are taking care of an older sister or brother or someone who is disabled. But even when you include all of those other categories of people, the proportion of people who can't work is less–much less–than 50 percent, and probably not much more than 5 percent. People can all do something, particularly if they want to do something, and if the society around them–and I don't mean the federal government, I mean the neighborhood–says, "We really need your help." That's why the example of resident management groups around the country is so dramatic. They have totally obliterated this argument that the flight of the black leadership from the public housing developments has left a vacuum, because they have created the leadership among those people who are part of that vacuum. If they have the right incentive structure there, and if they have the opportunity presented, they are going to provide not only that leadership, they are also going to provide the bulk of those jobs and the work ethic to go with them.

Kaus: I'm worried that, at the moment, Clinton is holding up the process. Everybody is waiting for the Clinton welfare reform. In the meantime, the states aren't doing the things that they could be doing if they just were given carte blanche. Clinton knows welfare reform is popular, and he doesn't want a bunch of Republican governors, or even Democratic governors, radically reforming their welfare systems and getting the popularity that comes with that. So he is saying, "I have a program, but you're just not going to see it for a year and a half." And that's a problem.

Hobbs: I have to disagree. First of all, the states don't seem to be waiting. In the past three months, we've gone from two states to 10. Therese Murray, a liberal Democratic feminist state senator in Massachusetts, took the bill through the Senate, with [president of the Senate] Billy Bulger, who makes things run in Massachusetts, guaranteeing it will get through the House, and the Weld administration saying they'll put it into effect. We have interest in Virginia, in New Jersey, in Pennsylvania, in the state of Washington, in Arizona even while we are waiting around for what Clinton is going to do. Then we have Missouri, Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa. I think that there are now something like 18 waiver packages in front of HHS from the states, all of them headed toward work. They aren't really waiting around for Clinton, even though he might hope they are.

Postrel: Suppose you were starting from scratch, what should the goal of welfare programs be? Should there be welfare programs?

Murray: The historical era that I think needs to be studied much more closely than it has been is the late l9th, early 20th century, in both Britain and the United States. I'll state it as a hypothesis that the network that developed in the private sector then, translated into late 20th-century economic terms, is the best way to deal with this problem. That you don't need government for this. That, in fact, in a free society, you get lots of voluntary associations which deal with the problems of poverty. And they do it a hell of a lot better than the government knows how.

Kaus: I tend to think that voluntary associations are not strong enough to deal with downturns in the business cycle. The place I would want to end up, if I started from scratch, is the place I want to end up after we reform welfare, which is there are no benefits to people who don't work–you've 85-percent public approval for that–but the government offers work to anybody who really can't find a job–and you've got 75- percent approval for that, or maybe 65. That means big government. That's, I think, the best we can do until we eliminate the business cycle.

Murray: I am a wishy-washy libertarian in this regard. The business cycle is something that the individual can't do a whole lot to compensate for. So I am not philosophically averse to having the government do something about that. And the principle of unemployment insurance seems, to me, to be appropriate.

Postrel: Let me raise a question that bothers me if the government guarantees you a job. The jobs would be available throughout the business cycle?

Kaus: Right. They just don't pay very much. So in good times nobody would show up to claim them.

Postrel: If you're a person of low skills, there are two ways in good times you can get a low-paying job. You can go stand on the corner, on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, and wait for construction contractors to come and pick up day labor, which may pay more but is risky–they may not pick you–and requires a fair amount of initiative. This is, of course, what a lot of immigrant laborers do. Or you can go to a government office where a job will be guaranteed to you for which there is not actually value in the economy. If you are laboring on a construction site, it's actually worth whatever you're paid. It seems to me that you're rewarding people who have less initiative and contribute less value. Does that bother you at all?

Hobbs: It's relatively easy to adjust the incentive structure so that a person is a lot better off taking a job from the street corner than that government job. But the answer to your basic question is yes. I think that it's worth having that kind of a fall-back position, and not just for the business cycle, but just because it's a lot better for people to work than not to work.

Murray: The question that you're raising is peculiarly a problem of wealth. I could give you many reasons why I think that providing these jobs from the government disrupts some very valuable dynamics– dynamics that create niches for people where they're not trudging off to rake leaves in front of the courthouse and proclaiming to the world what a loser they are. Valued niches. And I can talk about that at length, and I believe it. Then I back off and I say to myself: The fact is that individuals are differently blessed. Some people come up with the short end of the stick, and that genuinely is not their fault. Here is this extraordinarily wealthy country. Is it really that awful to provide a fall-back position? That is one of the reasons why the liberal agenda has held sway for so long, because of that fundamental, bothersome contrast.

Kaus: You mean in part because the liberals have a point?

Murray: In part because the liberals have a point, you confrontational devil, you.

Postrel: Where will we be in 15 years?

Hobbs: Another 15 years in the future we're going to find ourselves, I hope, in a situation where we have virtually nobody who's not working at a job, public or private, in our society. Two things are going to drive that. One, the welfare side we were talking about. The second is the business side or economic side. Because I can't see how we can sustain ourselves as a competitive force without converting people who are not productive into people who are productive. I also think that the further we get into this, the more momentum we're going to see, because the sort of thing that's happened in Kenilworth Parkside [where tenant management of public housing transformed the community] the last 15 years is capable of happening in many places in the country. If we convert welfare to a system of work, then we're going to begin to see the evidence of social disruption, the evidence of illegitimate children being born–that's going to diminish. I think crime will diminish, too, because the men will become part of the family again instead of being substituted for by the government. So I am really optimistic.

Kaus: I'm probably not quite as optimistic as Chuck, but I'm basically optimistic. There are self- correcting mechanisms. One is that people vote with their feet. The ghettos are emptying out. They're now so violent that anyone who can get out is leaving. Washington, D.C., for example, lost population between the last censuses. Detroit has lost half its population. The second corrective mechanism is the political dynamic, which is that people realize the current welfare system doesn't work and are in the process of changing it. The larger problem when you look at 15 years out is not the problem of the underclass but the problem of stratification in society in general along the lines of wealth and brains. We live in a world economy where unskilled labor is not enough to make a lot of money. Pay correlates very closely with skills and smarts. We're coming into decades when people who are rich will be very tempted to say, "I'm rich because I'm smarter than the people who are poor." When I look 15 years out, that's what actually troubles me more than the underclass.

Murray: This stratification issue is a fundamental one 15 years out. As for the chances of dealing with the underclass, I actually have been stunned by my experience the last two months. There is simply much more potential for radical reform out there than I thought. Maybe in 15 years the world will look more like Chuck thinks than I would have thought. But suppose you say that a lot of the crime and disorder in the inner city right now is created by the breakdown of the family. In 1993, the 18-year-olds were born in 1975. That means the generation which is committing an awful lot of crimes grew up in neighborhoods where maybe half of the families still had fathers. Fifteen years from now, the 18-year-olds will have been born in 1990, at a time when maybe 20 percent of those kids had fathers. So, insofar as family breakdown is a cause of a lot of problems, we ain't seen nothing yet. I published an article in '88 called "The Coming of Custodial Democracy," where I envisioned a situation in which the rich folks and the smart folks don't want these people on their consciences any more. So they consign them to outer darkness, or to the equivalent of Indian reservations, and throw whatever goods over the walls they need to keep them quiet. I still think there's a real potential for that. That sounds like a very dangerous situation to me if you want to sustain our democratic system. If you then add in the possibility that the white underclass is going to start to mushroom–and I'm dead serious when I talk about that–then all bets are off.

Hobbs: Let's hope, Charles, for once you're wrong.

Murray: I hope so too.

NEXT: Reading Between the Lines

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  1. Apart from state-by-state differences, total school spending in the United States is routinely underestimated because of other measurement problems. As Lieberman and other analysts have pointed out, official school spending statistics leave out an awful lot. A partial list of expenditures excluded from federal data includes business and foundation donations, donated time, pension contributions, the cost of negotiating contracts, the cost of training teachers, remedial education in colleges, judicial costs, out-of-pocket parental expenses, and federal educational programs in departments other than Education (such as Head Start). Since real per-pupil spending even as currently measured shot up 62 percent from 1973 to 1993 (according to the ALEC study), an accurate analysis of total spending would no doubt find an even bigger jump.

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