The Baltimore Sun

New welfare rules do promote work

The Sun's recent editorial opposing the Bush administration's new welfare regulations stated: "The new rules will only exacerbate the problem of a core group of people cycling on and off welfare" ("Messing with success," Sept. 18). That's not true.

President Bush believes we should help welfare recipients get and keep good jobs, and not merely allow them to languish on the welfare rolls.

To that end, the purpose of the administration's new rules is to ensure that states are engaging as many adult welfare recipients as possible in activities that lead to work.

Why? Because, according to the most recent data reported to the federal government by the states, a majority of the adult welfare caseload nationally is not engaged in even a single hour of job preparation, job search or work activities in a typical month.

How can you help recipients escape welfare dependency if you do not engage them in activities that lead to work?

Moreover, the editorial claimed our approach focuses solely on work for welfare recipients "regardless of their readiness or qualifications."

Here again, that's not true.

In addition to vocational education and other job-readiness activities, which the new regulations permit as work activities, the rules explicitly allow, for the first time, substance abuse, mental health and rehabilitation treatment services to count as job preparation activities. This will help remove barriers to employment.

Welfare recipients deserve better than the status quo.

The new rules build on the success of welfare reform and are designed to ensure states are engaging as many needy families as possible to help them escape poverty through paid employment.

Wade F. Horn


The writer is an assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Wall is wrong way to stop the illegals

I believe that building a fence on the border to stop illegal immigration would be about the same as putting up a fish net to stop bugs from flying into an outdoor light at night ("Congress looks at immigration bills," Sept. 21).

A few will be stopped accidentally, but most will slip through.

If you really want to stop the bugs, turn off the light. Get rid of the incentive.

I would rather see the many millions of dollars spent on a force of marshals to go after the employers who create the incentive by hiring the illegal immigrants.

But we apparently need these workers after using them for such a long time.

So we need to legalize these workers at the same time that we stop more illegals from coming.

Surely we are smart enough to accomplish this without putting up the kind of wall we helped to tear down in Berlin, Germany.

Mitchell Thompson

Royal Oak

Immigrants aren't devaluing our votes

The Republican excuse to put the illegal immigration issue in the forefront during the midterm election season was made clear by Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana, who stated, "Every illegal vote takes away the right of one American's vote" ("Congress looks at immigration bills," Sept. 21).

This argument rings hollow.

We have just witnessed a primary in which at best only one in three registered voters chose to exercise his or her right to vote.

It is clear that the problem in the voting booths is not illegal immigrants.

The enemy here is us.

Mark Beytin


Ban the big signs and recorded calls

I thank City Councilman Robert W. Curran for his proposal to ban supersize political signs in the city ("Ban on large campaign signs proposed," Sept. 19).

Not only are these temporary, oversize signs an eyesore, they are also traffic distractions, and, once uprooted, they become traffic obstructions as well.

They are also environmentally wasteful.

Rather than depending on name recognition to attract voters, politicians need to find more creative and financially efficient means to promote their platforms.

And one other important rule should be passed: Let's ban candidates' use of automatic, pre-recorded telephone solicitations.

Karen Rosenberg


Cast absentee ballot in privacy of home

During this year's primary election, I was vacationing in New England. As a result, I cast my vote by absentee ballot.

I had the ballot in my possession for about a week. In that time, I familiarized myself with the candidates and came to my decisions in a calm and relaxed manner.

After reading about the electronic voter rolls repeatedly crashing on Election Day ("Election woes elicit calls for firings," Sept. 16) and recalling my experience in the 2004 election, when I waited in line for more than one hour to vote, I will be requesting an absentee ballot for the general election as well.

No, I won't be out of town. I'll be in the comfort and privacy of my living room while I vote for my state and federal representatives.

I encourage all those who were frustrated by Maryland's "new and improved" voting system to do the same thing.

David Coyle


The pro-torture vote can't be that large

I think Cal Thomas' contention that "Sen. John McCain of Arizona may have severely hurt his chances for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination by suggesting the United States should be bound by the Geneva Conventions in dealing with stateless terrorists" is inaccurate ("A wisdom and judgment deficiency in terror war," Opinion

Commentary, Sept. 20).

I hope that the pro-torture vote is small, even in the Republican Party.

Chris Conn

Bel Air

A haunting image of stoic grace

As the fall fashion shows played out on dozens of runways in New York, it was not any one of the countless images inspired by some famous designer or supermodel that captured our attention but, as Tom Dunkel points out in the article "A little girl reflects a nation's loss" (Sept. 17), the photo of a little girl attending a 9/11 remembrance ceremony, one at which her mother was one of the fallen heroes honored.

Patricia Smith appeared demurely in a pink-and-white smocked dress, her only accessory a single, red memorial rose held gently in her right hand.

But long before most fashion models can be taught to do it on demand, this child had somehow unconsciously perfected the art of enchanting others with her presence and appearance, while revealing not a single clue as to her own secret thoughts, feelings or emotions.

I suspect that in Patricia's case, it will take many years for these same thoughts, feelings or emotions to begin to come clear, even to her; in the meantime, however, her photograph has provided us with a timeless and beautifully haunting image of stoic patience and grace in the face of overwhelming and life-altering tragedy.

Anne Huppmann Kidwell


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