The State of Welfare

The State of Welfare

The State of Welfare

The State of Welfare

Synopsis

This book examines the state of public welfare in the United States.

Excerpt

Few sentiments evoke more general assent in America today than President Nixon's characterization of welfare--now usually thought of as cash assistance to needy families with children--as "a failure that grows worse every day." The nation continues to struggle to find a better approach to public relief that will help those who truly cannot help themselves, while somehow causing those who can help themselves to do so. But judgments diverge sharply about who can help himself and who cannot, and they differ too about how help should be provided, and how much. The loss of the Family Assistance Plan in the Ninety-first Congress is only the most recent illustration of how difficult it is to find a public welfare policy that commands general support.

Each of the three most recent Presidents of the United States--John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon--gave the problem of the poor priority attention early in his administration. President Kennedy's first executive order dealt with improved distribution of surplus food; President Johnson, at his first meeting as President with the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, instructed the latter to move full speed ahead with work on an antipoverty program; President Nixon's first major domestic proposal was to overhaul the widely criticized program of aid to families with dependent children. Hunger, poverty, and family assistance promptly became major political issues. Yet proposed substantive solutions have foundered on the way to adoption or to implementation.

This book, by Gilbert Y. Steiner, Director of Governmental Studies at Brookings, is an inquiry into the politics of stability and of change in public relief policy. The author traces the emergence of policy proposals, and examines their interaction with the strengths, weaknesses, stakes, and strategies of proponents of various approaches to the welfare prob-

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