Poverty in America: The Welfare Dilemma

By Ralph Segalman; Asoke Basu | Go to book overview
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POSTSCRIPT

POVERTY in America has changed in both structure and context. Structurally, value transformations in the meaning of poverty have become institutionalized. The status of the poor has come to be viewed as a function of socioeconomic imbalance. Historically, man strove to maximize long-range security and life satisfaction for himself and his family. He viewed institutionalized guidelines and social prescriptions as a means of upgrading status and the right to control his own life through productivity in society. The most widely sanctioned goal was that of being in the mainstream of societal activities. The current attitude, particularly with respect to the residual poor, is the reverse of this picture. Welfare measures, largely directed to ameliorate poverty, have created transgenerational poverty. They have engendered a situation in which governmental policies have helped to perpetuate a status immobility of hopelessness and alienation. The blame for this seemingly persistent and intractable condition has been placed on the structural forces of our government and, finally, the "power elite."

Contextually, the incentives of motivation and normative guidelines have been replaced by increased subsidies, guaranteed security, and, now, the rhetoric of some social scientists who plan to homogenize welfare by merging public assistance with social insurance benefits. We maintain that the self-reliant and self-supporting population is best served by separating social insurance from public assistance programs. Such a measure will ensure the constraints appropriate to the poverty population, which also needs to be provided with a meaningful chance of entry into mainstream society. As argued in Chapter 8, a multistep pattern of assistance and services needs to be formulated for welfare, housing, education, and employment. Services and constraints should be commensurate with the readiness of that segment of the population to utilize both to their own and society's advantage.

The gap between the growing residual poor and mainstream America is becoming wider both qualitatively and quantitatively. Since taxpayer resistance has become a strong contemporary political force, welfare grants

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