Regulating the Lives of Women: Social Welfare Policy from Colonial Times to the Present

By Mimi Abramovitz | Go to book overview

Conclusion

The critical analysis of social welfare policy contained in this book suggests several broad steps necessary to modify and ultimately reverse the negative effects of the institutionalization of the family ethic. First we must be aware of its presence and power within the social welfare system. Second, we must continue ongoing efforts to strengthen the features of those programs that benefit women of all races and eliminate those that discriminate against them. Third, we must develop policies within and outside the welfare state that enhance the autonomy and independence of women, thereby undercutting one of patriarchy's main props. Fourth, we must replace the current family ethic with a more positive one that recognizes different family structures, promotes equal rights and responsibilities within the family, and satisfactorily meets the needs of all family members. Fifth, we must continually support political struggles that envision a society which structures equality into the political economy rather than one which leaves the achievement of this critical social goal to shifting political winds, the ravages of the economy, or the needs of patriarchal capitalism. At the very least, we need to restore the domestic cuts of the last period and oppose further attempts to erode the right to basic social benefits.

Some changes in the major cash assistance programs discussed in this book (Aid to Families With Dependent Children, Social Security, and Unemployment Insurance) that would immediately benefit women and other recipients include raising the benefit levels in all three and tying AFDC and Unemployment Insurance to the Consumer Price Index. Social Security benefits are already indexed to the cost of living, but the minimum benefit amount, removed by recent cuts, should be restored. AFDC should be placed under a single federal administration which would be responsible for establishing a national minimum benefit that left no families living below the official poverty line, broadening eligibility to include two-parent as well as single-parent families, and creating a positive service-enriched work program that gives AFDC mothers a choice about whether or not to work outside the home. It would also develop child-support enforcement programs

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