Legislative Success and Failure: The Social Welfare Policies of the Nixon Administration
The Nixon Administration is probably best remembered for its foreign policy initiatives and for the scandals surrounding Watergate, which brought about the only presidential resignation in our country's history. However, the changes in domestic policy that occurred in the five and one-half years of the Nixon government should not be underestimated.
During fiscal years 1970-75, military expenditures declined as a proportion of total federal outlays, and social welfare programs 1 came to represent over one-third of all monies budgeted by the national government (see Tables 8.1 and 8.2). Undoubtedly, many of the increases in social welfare expenditures represented a natural growth in the number of recipients of government aid as a result of the expansion of entitlement programs enacted during the 1960s and early 1970s by Democratic Congresses. Nevertheless, the Nixon Administration also proposed and supported significant expansions in the welfare responsibilities of the federal government in its first four years.
From 1969 to 1972, the president and his chief advisers recommended the federalization of assistance to the needy aged and handicapped, the indexation of Social Security payments to reflect increases in the cost of living, and the expansion of aid to students wishing to enter institutions of higher learning. All of these measures were approved by Congress. However, the administration also proposed an expanded program of aid to low income families and considered recommendations of a special presidential commission for changing the form of federal assistance to elementary and secondary schools. Although neither of these proposals was enacted, they each suggest that the executive branch was not fundamentally hostile to an expanded role for the national government in domestic policy.
Of course, not all Nixon Administration proposals were favorable to an ex-