If ever there was a need in 1997 to abandon the splintering partisanship spanning American politics, that time is now, during a period when federal and state lawmakers are earnestly searching for a way to alter the welfare reform overhaul to protect themselves from the backlash of those being disenfranchised by such action.

At last month's national conference of governors, many state executives, including our own Gov. Wilson, did a turn-about, calling for the continuation of Social Security Insurance benefits for mostly blind, disabled and elderly legal immigrants.

Most who are scheduled to lose their benefits may never go to work because of their infirmity. Who will be expected to provide accommodation for these elderly and disabled?

Even by the most conservative estimate of 87,000 legal immigrants who face the loss of public assistance in California, nowhere in America will the loss of benefits be felt as significantly as in Los Angeles County. The seriousness of welfare reform on our culture warrants bipartisan consideration.

It is time once every 10 years or so to put partisanship aside and do what is right. That time is now.

We witnessed the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when lawmakers abandoned party interests to advance the notion that all Americans are granted equal protection under the law, and are endowed with certain unalienable rights, including voting rights.

In 1983, Congressional leaders departed from the politics of division and reached a compromise that has preserved the stability of the Social Security system well into the early part of the next century.

Now in 1997, record numbers of our fellow citizens are moving off welfare, because the law gives them no choice. Whether they are moving permanently into the realm of work or toward the uncertainty and despondency of poverty remains an open question.

To our leaders in Sacramento and Washington: let's establish tax credits and other meaningful incentives to place welfare recipients into jobs.

California's economy is healthy enough that those who have benefited from extraordinary economic growth can use their resources to invest in our people. Are there any factors in corporate America that motivates business leaders other than profit?

We in the non-profit world are aggressively working with businesses throughout Southern California to hire people on welfare. Through joint partnerships with California businesses to provide job training, affordable before and after-school care for children of working poor and middle income families, and case management counseling new arrivals, we are committed to ensuring that all Californians be given an opportunity to build better lives.


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