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For the last 30 years, he has studied American social policy and welfare programs. In his lifetime, he has advised several American presidents. And last night, Richard Nathan, the director of the Rockefeller Institute of Government, spoke to a roomful of 16 professors and students -- many of whom were Political Science majors -- about the changing face of welfare in America. Part of the Fox Leadership Program lecture series, Nathan's talk entitled "Is Welfare Really Over?" began by examining the Clinton administration's role in welfare reform. "It wasn't until 1994," Nathan said, "that the Clintons got around to handing a welfare reform to the Congress." With a few students busily taking notes, Nathan explained that the responsibility of welfare has increasingly returned to the states. "New welfare is highly decentralized," he said. As the Director of the Rockefeller Institute, Nathan has spent the last 11 years collecting data from states and publishing reports about welfare reform. His recent publication, A First Look, examines the effects of the Personal Responsibility Act of 1996. Under this act, Nathan explained, the Republicans implemented a program of block grants, a way of providing money to needy families based on a formula. The act, according to Nathan, was pivotal. "Big changes have occurred," he said. He stressed that the new regime of welfare policy has strongly pushed the "work first" concept. In the effort to make welfare a temporary form of help, welfare reform has focused on "helping people become self-reliant," Nathan said. He went on to describe the Personal Responsibility Act as a way of "hitting welfare bureaucracy on the head." Nathan also discussed the current presidential election and pointed out that debate over welfare reform has typically been a long-standing issue. This year, however, features less than normal controversy, he said. "Welfare bashing has always been a hot issue in every campaign for presidency. It's curious that we've heard little about it in the 2000 campaign." Several students in attendance said they were impressed by his extensive knowledge of the topic. "He gave a really different perspective on the current state of welfare," said College junior Meg Guliford, a Political Science major. "He was a fountain of knowledge," said College senior Justin Timbie, who praised Nathan for being "well-versed in the issues." After hearing Nathan speak of the shift in control of welfare policy from federal to local hands, Timbie said he believes that "communication will need to be improved" if welfare policy is to be effective. The Rockefeller Institute of Government conducts public policy research on the political and economic relationships between state and local governments.

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