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Fifty demonstrators from the Massachusetts Welfare Rights Organization briefly disrupted a talk by Robert H. Finch last Friday night in Sander's Theatre, charging that the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and his administration were ignoring the needs of the poor.
The group of disgruntled welfare recipients, supported by young sympathizers, swarmed onto the stage while Finch was completing a formal talk sponsored by the Harvard Law School Forum.
Finch stopped his talk, and agreed to let spokesmen for the group have the podium to deliver prepared statements.
In the debate that followed, Barbara Dulaney, second co-chairman of the Massachusetts Welfare Rights Organization(MWRO), charged that the welfare legislation proposed by the Nixon Administration is "a farce and a sell-out by liberals in this country."
The Nixon proposal, announced last July, would have the Federal Government guarantee a minimum welfare dividend to needy families, on the condition that all those able to work either obtain employment or enter work training programs.
Another spokesman scored, the plan's proposed outlays as inadequate to the needs of the poor. "This is where we exit from," said Ray Hurley, national representative of MWRO. "$5500 [for a family of four] not $1600[the proposed dividend]."
"Mr. Finch knows he feeds his dog better than that," said Bruce Thomas, a third spokesman. He educates his dog better than that."
Finch responded to the group, which began leaving the platform as soon as its representatives finished talking, by denying that the Administration had the resources at its fingertips to end poverty. "We have a thing called Congress, you know," he said.
He said that a substantial portion of the burden for raising the level of the poor rested with the states, not the Federal Government, which has expensive commitments in foreign affairs and elsewhere.
"We have never suggested." he added,"that this is a living income, a livable income."
The topic of Finch's formal talk, the problem of preserving the world's natural environment from the destructive effects of industry, technology, and population growth, aroused little controversy. Buthe was challenged on a number of issues in a question and answer period after the speech.
Responding to one inquiry about the Administration's policy toward school desegregation in the South Finch defended the Administration's posture. "Within the next two years." he said, beating his fist on the podium, "we'll have broken the back of that problem."
Finch also predicted that the end of the Vietnam war would be followed by a period of "neo-isolationism" in which the U. S. would try to solve "these terrible problems" at home.
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