For Crying out Loud: Women's Poverty in the United States

By Diane Dujon; Ann Withorn | Go to book overview

DEPENDENT ON THE KINDNESS
OF STRANGERS

Issues Behind Welfare Reform

Mimi Abramovitz

FEW OF THE POLICY ISSUES INITIATED SINCE THE NOVEMBER 1994 election have been as controversial as those pertaining to children. The Contract with America, which has bipartisan support, is hell-bent on cutting programs set up to help the nation's families -- and that means that children, especially, will be hurt. If enacted as originally proposed, the Contract's plan to balance the budget without raising taxes will throw some 10 million children off the welfare rolls. Other features will put still other children in harm's way. For this reason, many critics refer to the Republican plan as the Contract on America.

The current drive to dismantle the system of entitlements established by the Social Security Act of 1935 does not make sense. This act was designed to protect individuals and families against the normal risks of an industrial society, the life contingencies over which people often have little or no control. Over the years, Congress created programs such as retirement and unemployment insurance, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), Medicaid, and Medicare to protect the American people against the risk of losing income due to old age, joblessness, illness, disability, and family dissolution. The oldest of these programs has been in effect for 60 years. Although their provisions are far from perfect and much less generous than those in other Western nations, they are all we have. Eliminating these programs will put personal and societal well-being at enormous risk.

____________________
This piece is excerpted from an interview conducted by Jay Kaplan and published in culturefront, vol. 4, no. 2 (summer 1995).

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