Safety-net reforms to protect the vulnerable and expand the middle class

By advocating an attractive, reform-minded anti-poverty agenda, conservatives have a chance to do what Great Society liberalism did not--increase upward mobility out of poverty and into the middle-class. -SCOTT WINSHIP

Though fifty years have passed since Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty, and though federal and state spending on anti-poverty programs is in the neighborhood of a trillion dollars a year, millions of Americans remain stuck at the bottom of the economic ladder without work and, all too often, without hope. Scott Winship draws lessons for the successes of the welfare reform efforts of the 1990s to offer thoughts on how we might increase upward mobility out of poverty and into the middle class.

Conservatives have advanced a number of poverty-fighting ideas in recent years, including a unified anti-poverty block grant to the states or a universal credit that would consolidate various anti-poverty programs. Regardless of which path we take, conservatives would do well couple welfare reforms with a robust economic-growth agenda and an early-childhood agenda to promote mobility.

Scott Winship is the Walter B. Wriston Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.