Letters to the Editors; February 1997; Scientific American Magazine; by Staff editor; 1 Page(s)
I am always sorry to see Scientific American stray from science into politics, as you did in October 1996 with the article "Single Mothers and Welfare," by Ellen L. Bassuk, Angela Browne and John C. Buckner. You are not very good at it, which perhaps is not surprising, since scientists are not in general any better at such issues than anyone else. There is no reason, though, why people with credentials in psychiatry and psychology should not say something sensible about welfare economics. But when an article is obviously a tendentious piece of political pleading, you should at least attempt to solicit some contrary remarks from actual economists.
I read "Single Mothers and Welfare" with great interest because I spent seven years as a social worker in a public welfare agency in Alabama. I left the field of social work, however, because of a profound sense of disillusionment with the welfare system. One problem I never see addressed is that welfare bureaucracies actually benefit from having unsuccessful clients. If a caseworker gets her clients to find jobs and become selfsupporting, she works herself out of a job. The authors of the study--who reveal their own bias against the recent welfare bill, labeling it "draconian"--fail to address the problems with a system that encourages self-destructive behavior and a bureaucracy that requires more clients so it can exist and grow.