The Welfare Mess
SANGUINE PREDICTIONS OF declining caseloads and costs ignored actual rising caseloads and costs, not to speak of strident warning signals of public disapproval of welfare programs, particularly ADC and general assistance. Not since WPA days had there been so much sensational welfare news.
The first wave of criticism began in 1947 and lasted five years. Welfare not only returned to page 1 of the newspapers but was featured in popular magazines, on radio, even on that new powerful media instrument, television. "Welfare boom" stories zeroed in on chiselers and cheats, runaway husbands, live-in boyfriends, unmarried baby breeders, loafers, and drunks. But these articles also contained numbers, big numbers--$2.3 billion yearly going to 5.7 million persons "in the midst of record prosperity," noted U.S. News and World Report.
The taxpayers, many of whom had become liable for federal income taxes for the first time during World War II, now saw state and local taxes climbing also, with sales taxes on necessities one of the newer ways to raise revenue.1 For married couples the federal income tax filing requirement dropped from $5,000 in 1939 to $1,200 in 1942, where it remained. The first tax bracket, which stood at 4 percent in 1939, reached 22.2 percent in 1952, dropped slightly to 20 percent in 1954, and remained at