Budgeting Entitlements: The Politics of Food Stamps

Budgeting Entitlements: The Politics of Food Stamps

Budgeting Entitlements: The Politics of Food Stamps

Budgeting Entitlements: The Politics of Food Stamps

Synopsis

As budgetary concerns have come to dominate Congressional action, the design and implementation of welfare programs have come under greater scrutiny. This book focuses on the food stamp program to examine how the growing integration of welfare and budgeting has affected both politics and people.

Applying insightful analysis to this important policy topic, Ronald F. King looks at the effects on welfare transfers of the kinds of budgetary rules adopted by Congress: discretion, entitlement, and expenditure caps. King uses models based on these forms to interpret the events in the history of the food stamp program up to the welfare reform of 1996, and he shows how these different budget rules have affected political strategies among key actors and policy outcomes.

King analyzes tensions in the program between budgetary concerns and entitlement, revealing that budget mechanisms which seek to cap the growth of entitlement spending have perverse but predictable effects. He also explores the broader conflict between procedural and substantive justice, which pits inclusive democratic decision-making against special protections for the needy and vulnerable in society.

The food stamp program offers a valuable opportunity for studying the influence of shifting institutional factors. In an era when budgetary anxieties coexist with continuing poverty, King's book sheds new light on the increasing fiscalization of welfare in America.

Excerpt

Increasingly, U.S. welfare politics has become entwined with U.S. budgetary politics. It is now impossible to address the issues of annual government spending and total government indebtedness without considering the amounts required under current law to be outlayed as transfer payments to individuals. It is unreasonable to discuss public sector assistance to the poor without first asking the price. The fiscalization of welfare has had an impact upon the tenor of the policy debate. Attention has largely shifted from the obligations of society toward the less fortunate to the ability of society to satisfy those obligations, from the adequacy of public expenditures to the availability of public resources, from the level of individual need to the level of societal commitment. Fiscalization has affected the array of political forces, reducing the number of potential allies for welfare liberalization. It has also affected the design and implementation of welfare programs, including those with little individual impact upon budget aggregates. Thus we have seen the rise of such procedural mechanisms as expenditure caps and block grants, which have the potential to constrain payments to households otherwise entitled to benefits.

This book addresses a dimension of the American welfare state that has not received sufficient attention in many contemporary accounts. It discusses how the growing integration of welfare and budgeting has affected both strategic play and anticipated outcomes, using the food stamp program as a relevant illustration. The book is intended as a . . .

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