NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Welfare State Still Needs Fixing

December 9, 2003

In his new book, Michael D. Tanner, director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute, exposes the welfare state's self-defeating core. He argues that redistributive income programs are unconstitutional and shows how instead of helping all 293 million Americans, both Social Security and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) harm them and tend to ruin their character.

Tanner asks the question, "Does welfare foster out-of-wedlock births?" He points to U.S. data from 1960 to 2001 showing unmarried births as a percentage of all births soaring 632 percent:

  • In 1960, 5.3 percent of all births were out-of-wedlock.
  • Among whites, the out-of-wedlock birthrate was 2.3 percent while the rate for blacks was 23 percent.
  • But by 2001, 33.5 percent of all births were out-of-wedlock, with the white rate rising to 27.7 percent and the black rate to 68.4 percent.

According to Tanner, the figures imply family breakup. He quotes George Gilder, who penned "Wealth and Poverty" (1981): "The welfare culture tells the man he is not a necessary part of the family," that he is being "cuckolded by the compassionate state."

Tanner found corroboration abroad. He cites a study on how Canada's welfare system hits the family; the study holds that "providing additional benefits to single parents encourages births of children to unwed women." British studies post similar results.

Welfare itself is the wall facing the poor in America, according to Tanner. Despite much "reform," the giant federal-state welfare maze pushes on, with 70 overlaying anti-poverty programs and a looming $25 trillion unfunded liability in Social Security. Enough, he says. It is civil society that offers "the best hope for the future."

Source: William H. Peterson (Heritage Foundation), "A Self-Defeating System," Washington Times, December 9, 2003; based on Michael D. Tanner, "The Poverty Of Welfare: Helping Others In Civil Society," Cato Institute, August 1, 2003.


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