U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala assured a Baltimore audience yesterday that welfare and health care reforms of the Clinton administration will reinforce such traditional American values as the "work ethic" and the "sanctity of the family."
"We can no longer afford a one-size-fits-all bureaucratic method," Ms. Shalala said.
"We need an approach tailored to the individual needs of each family . . . that respects the sanctity of the family . . . that keeps families together."
Her speech at the downtown World Trade Center was one of a series of celebrations across the country to mark the 150th anniversary of B'nai B'rith, the international Jewish service organization.
Ms. Shalala, former chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, said that ending the "welfare lock" on "thousands of people who want to work but can't" is now a primary goal of the White House.
She suggested that a major reason why recipients are reluctant to get off welfare is because the available low-paying jobs do not have health insurance.
Ms. Shalala said that health care and welfare reforms go hand-in-hand, that "providing health insurance for everyone" is "another way we'll reduce the welfare rolls."
In line with the president's "national commitment to strengthening the American family," she said, are "four principles which guide our welfare reform strategy":
* "First, we must make work pay. Work is the foundation on which our plan will be built.
"Work must be more rewarding than welfare. And we've put the wheels in motion already by increasing the earned income tax credit."
* "Second, we must bolster child support enforcement.
"It's a tragedy that 12 million children have parents who could pay child support but don't. As a society, we simply have to send the message that everyone is expected to provide for their own children."
* "Third, we must strengthen education and training and provide other support necessary so that [welfare] recipients move into jobs and stay in their jobs."
* "Finally, we have to expect people to work in this country.
"Once the major elements of welfare reform are in place, it is critical to set time limits after which we would require able-bodied recipients to find jobs in the private sector or, if necessary, in community service."
A cornerstone of administration planning, she said, is the desire to make government responsive to "people who have a work ethic."
Ms. Shalala said that the administration "is sending a clear message to young people in this country: 'Even if it's a minimum-wage job, we expect you to get up in the morning and go to work.' "