Almost everyone agrees that welfare reform needs to incorporate the private sector. One experiment that has received much attention is the Wisconsin W-2 program. Here is one Wisconsin pastor's perspective on this program.

There is common agreement that welfare in the United States has become a monstrous consumer of public money from which society receives little payback. In recent months the Wisconsin welfare reform program has been lifted up as an example for others to follow--but not by me.

I serve as pastor in a small urban area of about 30,000 people. The neighborhood around our church is lower middle class, with the "underclass" scattered among us. About 99 percent of our county is Caucasian; our poor are as likely as anyone to belong to our town's "old families." For many, a missed paycheck drops a family from the lower middle class to the underclass.

Once in a while, strangers from the neighborhood come to our parsonage door in financial distress. We give them emergency help for gas, food, or other necessities. But recently, a letter from the county interrupted our routine. Entitled "The Role of the Churches in Welfare Reform," it was enlisting me, as a local pastor, to become an integral part of the new W-2 state welfare program.

Henceforth, the letter said, applicants for Aid to Families with Dependent Children must solicit their relatives, other agencies, and local churches for support before applying to the government. The letter then asked us to join a list of those to whom applicants could come for help--not emergency help, but continuing help.

The next step, the letter said, was "Pay for Performance." AFDC benefits would no longer subsidize most stay-at-home parents caring for their dependent children but only those ...

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