Does America Hate the Poor? The Other American Dilemma: Lessons for the 21st Century from the 1960s and the 1970s

By John E. Tropman | Go to book overview
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rated a public welfare agency poorly in comparison to a private agency. Directors are probably somewhat biased where their own agencies are concerned.

The directors report positive attitudes toward their agencies and toward their welfare clients, whom they view as morally upright and hard triers. They represent, as noted, the reverse of the attitudes they ascribed to people in general. What is possible, however, is that the positive mythology also serves a function or purpose for the director. Everyone needs to feel that they are making a contribution to society. Welfare directors, as advocates for the disadvantaged, need to feel positively toward their clients and toward the role their agency plays in assisting them. These views protect them against accusations that welfare is harmful. They also believe external control is necessary, a viewpoint which protects their job and makes it meaningful. The logical inconsistencies inherent in these two views should not be overlooked (D1, D3, and D4; there is no control dimension of people in general). Perhaps they are saying that the clients are of good moral status and do try to improve their lot, but, since external control elements are so crucial, their efforts have limited value. Self-help is thus beyond their control and, by implication, help is beyond the control of the welfare directors as well. It is as if they can see themselves as able to assist a flood victim but powerless to stop the flood.

These data were collected in 1969. From the perspective of more than twenty-five years, we can see, during the very time of the Great Society, the perception of public negativity. County directors were putting a good face on it and keeping their chin up, but even they recognized they were bucking the tide. Even their friends did not think as they did. It is no surprise, then, or should be no surprise, that "ending welfare as we know it" in 1996 can be seen as a case of structural lag catching up. The culture is more negative than the structure. The structure changed; not right away, but in time.


NOTE
1.
These results concerning the impact of social structure on policy attitudes is essentially the same tape of finding as reported in the book, Public Policy Opinion and the Elderly ( Tropman 1987).

-71-

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