The House and Senate have each passed deficit reduction bills that trim spending for federal entitlement programs. The separate bills now have to be reconciled and they are very different.
For example, as far as welfare is concerned, the Senate bill makes no changes. The House proposes numerous changes, One change is increasing minimum work requirements for single parents with children younger than 6 from 20 to 40 hours a week. It is important to note that this particular change has no budget impact. So, why is it there?
In a Washington Post story on the welfare work hours Jonathan Weisman writes, "Democratic lawmakers and governors from both parties say such broad changes should be debated and voted on separately." Weisman further explains that the president has an agenda and increasing work hours is the centerpiece. If the administration believes this policy change is for the best, why hide the issue from discussion and debate?
Policy analysts from the Heritage foundation say the increase of hours is necessary because the poor work fewer hours and that's why they are poor. Does the Heritage Foundation suggest that increased workfare hours will lead to family increased income? Not in New York City where we have the wrong-headed 35 hour of work activity requirement already. Poverty is increasing and there is no evidence that families are moving out of poverty through work from NYC's version of workfare, Work Experience Program (WEP).
The two federal budget bills are very different. The philosophy behind one is that poverty is an individual family's problem. The other bill's philosophy is that poverty is an important issue that affects us all. Sparked by new questions of honesty in the current budget bills and the public's outcry over Katrina, legislators may find it harder to hide the implications of their actions from the public.