JOHN PALMER


7
Jobs versus Income Transfers

CONCERNS over the work disincentive effects of income-transfer programs and the provision of "jobs not welfare" are themes that currently dominate discussions of social-welfare policy.1 These are not new concerns, but they now have a strength that has not been in evidence since the depression. Employment and training programs have expanded considerably over the past several years and are being increasingly redirected toward income-maintenance objectives. After more than a decade of federal welfare policies that did little more than pay lip service to work rhetoric, Congress is debating an administration welfare-reform proposal that virtually guarantees a job or training slot to one adult in all low-income families with children. States and localities wish to experiment more with "work relief" programs for Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) recipients. And several proposals to reduce work disincentives in public retirement, unemployment insurance, and disability programs either already have passed Congress or are receiving serious consideration.

Contemporary American society clearly has both ambivalent and evolving views of the "jobs-versus-income-transfers" controversy. National polls repeatedly show that a large majority believes that government should guarantee every adult a job, while an equally large majority opposes a government-guaranteed income. Yet our social-welfare policies have brought us much closer to the latter than to the former. Why is this? In part

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