Reform follows reality: the growth of welfare
GILBERT Y. STEINER
THE Administration that came to power in 1961 and looked forward to being in power for eight years did not dare nor wish to deal with public assistance as its predecessor had during its last years--by holding on to the status quo and hoping for the best. A policy fashioned in the 1930's and 1940's particularly for the aged simply would not self-adjust in the 1960's to cope with the needs of unmarried and deserted mothers and their children. The changing shape of the welfare population presaged high costs without political benefits, the worst of all situations. Accordingly, formulating plans to cope with the needs of dependent families constituted a built-in, unavoidable challenge to the new Kennedy Administration just as it would have to a new Nixon Administration then, and as it did to a new Nixon Administration eight years thereafter, and a Johnson Administration in the interim.
In the key aspect of the first Presidential message exclusively devoted to public welfare ever sent to Congress, Kennedy unfortunately depended on the experts. He proposed an emphasis on psycho-social services, to be offered with a gentle touch by skilled professionals. After a full five-year run, Congressional skeptics and Johnson's systematic thinkers evaluated that emphasis, found it wanting, and displaced soft social work therapy with a tougher