July 30, 1994


Over the next three months, I will endeavor to emphasize
the central theme of my campaign -- in speeches, in ads, in
meetings around the state. It is my belief that the problems
facing our nation today cannot be solved at the same level of
thinking that has dominated the political debate over the last
thirty years.

In this Congress alone, the House of Representatives has
introduced over six thousand legislative measures -- 4,857 bills,
499 House resolutions, 395 House joint resolutions, and 276
House concurrent resolutions. Given the seriousness of the
crises facing our nation, most of this legislative activity
amounts to little more than reshuffling the deck chairs on the

The debate we need to have cannot be waged simply in sound
bytes and thirty-second commercials. We must have a dialogue
with the political reporters and the public that goes beyond
the "he-said-she-said" aspect of the campaign in order to address
the central core of our beliefs and principles. And that brings
me to what I believe to be the defining philosophical difference
between Senator Feinstein and myself. Whether we are talking
about welfare or health care or the economy, Senator Feinstein
believes that more government is the solution. I believe
that more government is not part of the solution; the government
we have is a large part of the problem.

In the past thirty years, the federal government spent five
trillion dollars on the welfare state. The results? Violent
crime is up 560% . Teen pregnancy is up 200%. SAT scores are
down 80 points. Homelessness has reached epidemic proportions,
and poverty remains intractable.

Whether one is liberal or conservative, Democrat or
Republican, the failures of the welfare state have become too
glaring to ignore. Simply spending more money and creating
(or, as is now the vogue, "reinventing") new bureaucracies is
no longer a credible answer to these mounting challenges.
Indeed, the defenders of the welfare state mimic the classic
definition of insanity: the belief that by doing more of what
you're already doing you'll get a different result.

The challenge, then, for political leaders revolves around
this question: how can we help the poor and disenfranchised
without, despite our best intentions, creating a permanent

More than anything, real change will begin with a change in
thinking. Not just "better" or "smarter" thinking -- but rather
a shift in who we think of as the problem-solvers of society.
Instead of reflexively relying on the federal government to
solve our problems, I believe we must strengthen and encourage
civic institutions -- neighborhood associations, volunteer
organizations, church and synagogue groups -- to re-weave the
fabric of community.

What I am proposing is a far cry from President Bush's
calls for a "thousand points of light." I'm calling for something
far more radical: the replacement of the welfare state with a
renewed and revitalized civil society.

This does not mean that we stop all welfare payments
tomorrow, and shut down all related federal agencies the following
day. Unlike one extreme in the welfare debate that is driven only
by the desire (however legitimate) to stop wasteful social
spending, my objective is to empower those now indentured into
the current welfare system, while recreating the bonds and
affiliations that help us live together in community. As
Professor Marvin Olasky has observed: "The major flaw of the
modern welfare state is not that it's extravagant with money,
but that it's stingy with the help that only a person can give:
love, time, care and hope."

I also take issue with the other extreme of the welfare
debate that defends the status quo in the face of unequivocal
evidence of failure. Senator Feinstein clearly has both feet
planted in this camp. For evidence, one need not reach as far
back as her term as mayor of San Francisco -- during which the
general assistance budget skyrocketed 400% and the number of
recipients on the dole more than doubled -- one need look only
to a scarcely reported yet very significant vote she cast this

Feinstein voted to kill an amendment that would have
prohibited taxpayer funding of groups that lobby to block
welfare reform in the states. This vote was all the more critical
because it came only a week after the 9th Circuit Court of
Appeals dealt a serious blow to California's own fledgling
attempts at welfare reform, ruling retroactively that the state
was wrongly granted a federal waiver to reduce welfare payments,
and jeopardizing the state's innovative workfare programs. The
amendment Feinstein voted to kill would have prohibited the
Legal Services Corporation from funding these retrograde attempts
to undermine welfare reform. Indeed, the Western Center on Law
and Poverty, which brought the suit against welfare reform in
California, is funded by the very corporation Feinstein voted
to protect!

At the very least, we must grant states the widest possible
latitude in experimenting with bold welfare reform. We must
also begin to ease off the government lever that mindlessly
converts tax dollars into social welfare programs. The results
of this system, I hope we can all agree, have been inadequate to
say the very least. As John Fund of the Wall Street Journal
recently asked: "If you had a financial windfall and wanted to
help the poor, would you even think about giving time or a check
to the government?" The current system not only squeezes
the amount of income that citizens could, much more efficiently
and imaginatively, use to help the disadvantaged -- it also
sends a very real message that big problems are best left to big

Cynics will argue that we should not expect a lower tax
burden to translate into increased giving. I disagree. In
fact, because of my faith in the greatest of all our natural
resources -- the generous spirit of the American people -- I
have introduced legislation containing incentives designed to
spur charitable giving. It would permit direct deductions of
charitable contributions for Americans who do not itemize --
many of whom are lower- and middle-income taxpayers. The United
Way of America calls the bill "an important step" in correcting
current tax law, while providing "an economic stimulation for
lower- and middle-class taxpayers."

I also support legislation that would require welfare
recipients to work for their benefits. This restores fairness
to a system where now too many people work hard for modest wages
so that others can be idle. Just as importantly, it would
reaffirm the value of the work ethic while reinforcing lifestyle
habits -- discipline, industry, responsibility -- that are
essential to leading productive lives. It is also time to stop
granting extra benefits to mothers who have children while on
the dole -- while encouraging welfare mothers, under the age of
18, to live with their parents in order to receive benefits.

But such legislation is merely a first step in my ultimate
goal: the replacement of federal welfare programs with private,
community-based, volunteer solutions. I plan to offer this
message to the voters between now and November. It is an example
of the grand philosophical divide that separates me and Mrs.
Feinstein. I plan to advance this argument not only on the
grounds of cost-effectiveness, but rather with appeals to
community engagement -- an invitation to awaken what Lincoln
called the better angels of our nature. In short, what I'm
offering is a new populist vision -- for California and for the
nation -- based not just on getting one's fair share, but on
giving it.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss these ideas with you,
and look forward to seeing these themes reflected in your
coverage of the campaign.


Michael Huffington


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