As Brooks points out, “Volumes of research have shown that Great Society welfare policies — such as public housing and aid to families with dependent children — fueled family dissolution, community fragmentation, generational joblessness and government dependency. Many of Mr. Obama’s welfare and redistribution policies are encouraging a return to these conditions.”

It’s worse than that, actually. Present policies are expanding those conditions to an ever-larger swath of society, swelling the constituency for government benefits that Senator Gramm worries about in his op-ed. These policies are creating a land of dependency and economic lethargy, reenacting the failures of the welfare state on the largest stage on which they have ever been attempted in America’s history.

Brooks offers an antidote: Focus on education, on how people of modest means can better their lives through hard work and private enterprise, and on how a culture of family and work is the road to happiness and prosperity…