Welfare Reform, 1996-2000: Is There a Safety Net?

Welfare Reform, 1996-2000: Is There a Safety Net?

Welfare Reform, 1996-2000: Is There a Safety Net?

Welfare Reform, 1996-2000: Is There a Safety Net?

Synopsis

As editors Morris and Hansan make clear, the United States is truly the reluctant welfare state. Unlike other industrialized nations, the United States has never adopted a universal policy to support a minimum economic standard for children and their families. In this collection of essays by leading experts on welfare policy, the major issues of personal responsibility versus dependence, child development, and federal versus state, local, and private responsibility are examined in the light of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act.

Excerpt

There are few subjects that are both as compatible with our often expressed national values and as ambiguous in application as our federal policies concerning financial support for poor families. For decades, measures of national public opinion have expressed consistent support for public actions to alleviate poverty among children. Yet since the federal government assumed primary policy responsibility for cash assistance for poor children and their families in 1935, those policies have been continually, and for the most part unfairly, criticized as rewarding indolence and creating dependency. As John Hansan and Robert Morris indicate in Chapter 1, America is truly the reluctant welfare state. Unlike other industrialized countries, the United States has never adopted a universal policy to support a minimum economic standard for children and their families. With the enactment of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, the United States became the first industrialized country to return primary responsibility for cash welfare to subordinate units of government.

Our national strategy to provide an economic safety net for children cautiously began with the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935, and it was expanded through federal legislative and judicial actions in the 1950s and 1960s. the federal safety net started to fray with budget-driven policies in the late 1970s, a process which was accelerated by Reagan administration policies and which reached full speed during the Clinton years.

The passage of the 1996 federal welfare law has been hailed by proponents as a major and positive investment in the future of poor families and by opponents as a dangerous abrogation of public responsibility and compassion. As with most major legislation, the 1996 statute has been a . . .

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