Cal Thomas: Welfare reform and poverty fighting


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, April 17th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

RYAN: Earlier this week, the president signed an executive order aimed at increasing opportunities for those in need.

EICHER: House Speaker Paul Ryan referring to an anti-poverty executive order President Trump signed back on the 10th. Among many other things, the order aims to strengthen work requirements as part of federally funded welfare programs.

REICHARD: The goal is to reinvigorate welfare reforms started back in 1996. Here is WORLD Radio’s Cal Thomas.

CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: Back then Newt Gingrich was House speaker and Bill Clinton was in the White House. President Clinton signed welfare reform and when he did, many of his political allies on the left claimed people would starve.

They didn’t.

Instead, according to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the overall poverty rate declined. Many able-bodied people who once relied on a government check found jobs and started earning a paycheck.

I’m glad for President Trump’s executive order on poverty-fighting. But the sideshow that has attached itself to so much of the Trump administration has distracted many from things like this that actually affect people’s lives.

The president’s order seeks to reduce poverty in America “by promoting opportunity and economic mobility.” Some of that is already happening with unemployment numbers the lowest they’ve been in 17 years.

It’s good to see Speaker Ryan and House Republicans paying at least rhetorical attention to these issues:

RYAN: And when you have a fast-growing economy like we have right now, when you have wages rising, and you have new jobs and careers being offered, this is exactly the time when we need to pull people out of poverty, off of welfare, into the workforce, so they can get good careers, so they can get good livelihoods.

Conservatives like to say they measure success not by how many people receive government assistance, but by how many don’t. It is more than a sound bite. Helping people become independent of government is real compassion.

The executive order addresses the need to build on the successes of the 1996 reform. It also stresses the need for better social networking to become more involved in helping able-bodied people to acquire the skills, education, child care and especially motivation to work.

Much of this requires a change in attitude and a sense of self-worth. I would add this should include encouraging churches and religious institutions that benefit from tax breaks to do more to help poor people find work.

Education choice should be another component of welfare reform. A good education for a child currently living in poverty is a ticket out of the system towards a better life.

What the administration should do to help sell its welfare reform initiative is locate people who benefitted from the 1996 legislation and who are working and supporting their families and feature them at public events.

Optimism almost always overcomes pessimism and the story of people overcoming odds is America’s story.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Cal Thomas.


(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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