There is an overt antagonism towardnmoralism. Religion has a prominent placenbecause most of the characters are IrishnCatholics, but it is treated as a culturalnphenomenon of essentially negativenconsequence. The question of moral responsibilitynis toyed with, but the impressionnleft is that the lives of men andnwomen are largely determined by forcesnoutside their control. There are passagesnnear the end of Ironweed innwhich Kennedy seems to be on thenverge of illuminating in a profound waynthe tangled riddle of moral responsibility;nultimately his treatment is ambiguous.nThe values that animate his artisticnvision are an indiscriminate tolerancenand a fondness for energy, vitality, andnthe instinct for play in human personality.nIntegrity is important, but it is definednas adherence to the values justnmentioned.nDespite the many admirable qualitiesnof Kennedy’s fiction, his moral vision isnat times astonishing and unsettling. Fornexample, the narrator of Legs says he isn”bored by people who keep returningnlife to a moral plane, as if we were reducible,nnow, to some Biblical concept ornits opposite, as if all our history and prehistorynhad not conditioned us for whatnwe’ve become…. When we get off thenmoral gold standard, when the man ofnenormous wealth [moral wealth?] is ofnno more importance to anybody thannthe man in rags, then maybe we’ll looknback at our own day as a day of justifiablensocial wrath.” He calls Jack Diamond anpioneer, likens him to Prometheus, andnsays, “I don’t want to trivialize Jack’snachievement by linking him to lessernlatter-day figures such as Richard Nixon,nwho left significant history in his wake,nbut no legend; whose corruption, overwhelminglynvenal and invariably hypocritical,nlacked the admirably white corenfantasy that can give evil a mythicalndimension.” Or consider the climax tonthe Abraham-Isaac motif in the secondnnovel. The slogan “free the children”ncomes into Martin’s head like a war cry:n”Stop the fascists.” He concludes: “Tonfree the children it is necessary to rupturenthe conspiracy against them. We are allnin conspiracy against the children.nFathers, mothers, teachers, priests,nbankers, politicians, gods, and prophets.nFor Abraham of the upraised knife, prototypicalnfascist fether, Isaac was only anmeans to an enhanced status as a believer.nSense in a Sa^^ge SocietynBlanche Bernstein: The Politics ofnWelfare: The New York City Experience;nAbt Books; Cambridge, MA.nJoseph Sobran: Single Issues; ThenHuman Life Press; New York.nby Allan C. CarlsonnA he New York Times once labelednher “an acerbic, unsentimental, highlynschooled critic of government welfarenpolicies.” Amsterdam News dismissednher as “anti-poor.” In fact, BlanchenBernstein proved to be one of the fewndefenders of the poor remaining by thenlate 1970’s with a clear enough head tonrecognize some of the disastrous consequencesnof the welfere policies pursuednduring the preceding two decades. AsnNew York State’s deputy commissionernfor income maintenance (1975-78) andnchief of New York City’s sprawling HumannResources Administration (1978-n79), Dr. Bernstein worked to turn mattersnaround. She believed that the systemncould be run both eflSciently and compassionately,nthat fraud could be reduced,nand that the integrity of welfare programsncould be restored by vigilancenand close attention to administrative detail.nBefore being pressured out of officenby the cabal of welfare professionals,n”minority leaders,” civil libertarians, andnpolitical hacks that make up the “welfarencommunity,” she managed to prove hernpoint. The Politics of Welfare is her testimonynand prognosis for the future.nDr Carlson is editor of Persuasion atnWork.nnnGo f [—] yourself with your knife, Abe.”nJMLatthew 13 tells us how the wheatnand tares grow together in this life. IfnKennedy were one of the reapers duringnthe great time of harvest, one wondersnwhere he would apply the match. DnBernstein moved into social servicenadministration at the tail end of anquantum jump in the level of welfere dependency.nAs late as I960, there were anmere 3 million recipients of Aid to Familiesnwith Dependent Children (AFDC),nthe largest Federal welfere program. Truento original congressional intent, a heftynportion of even these recipients werenwidows and orphans. By 1976, however,n10.8 million were on AFDC, all but anhandful being unwed or divorcednmothers and their oflfepring. Similarly,nthe food-stamp program, recast in itsncurrent form in 1964, claimed 9.4 millionnrecipients in 1971 and 22 million inn1980.nWhat lay behind this vast expansionnin the scope of welfare in America? Atnone level, the system simply fell captivento bands of activists determined to redistributenincome, and the more thenbetter. The quadrupling of the welfarencase load in New York City during then1960’s, Bernstein notes, was for minoritynleaders, radical clergy, w^eLEare ^vorkers,nand liberal politicos “less a cause ofnconcern over the evidence of increasingndependency than a cause for rejoicingnthat justice was finally being done.”nAmong caseworkers, “it became somethingnof a badge of honor… to manipulatenthe regulations to build the largestnpossible grant for a client.” Food-stampnadvocacy groups, working through thenregulatory agencies and the courts, promotedn”the broadest possible interpretationnof the laws and regulations” to increasenthe number of recipients, “nonmatter what the results were in administrativencomplexity, costs, and potentialn• H ^ H H HnSeptember 1983n