American Social Welfare Programs
The present welfare system has to be judged a colossal failure. It breaks up homes. It often penalizes work. It robs recipients of dignity. And it grows.
Richard Nixon, 1969
By the mid- 1970s social welfare expenditures for such programs as health care, education, old-age security, nutrition, unemployment compensation, and aid to the poor had become the most expensive package of items in the federal budget. By the 1970s the federal government was also administering thousands of programs to help businesses, to aid agriculture, the cities, and public transportation, to encourage and subsidize home ownership, to improve the quality of public education, and to aid the economically needy. While its birth had been labored, the welfare state had arrived.
By the 1970s all the major Western industrialized nations could be labeled welfare states. Most, as a matter of fact, spent considerably more of their wealth to aid their commerce and their citizens than did the United States. Wilensky's analysis, for example, showed that in 1965 the United States ranked twenty-first out of the twenty-two richest Western industrialized nations in its expenditures for the aged and disabled, sickness and maternity, unemployment, work injury, and family allowances. Additionally, only Japan spent a smaller proportion of its GNP on social security. By the early 1970s increases in outlays raised the United States to seventeenth in social security expenditures. 1