Social Welfare Programs
Public welfare ... must be more than a salvage operation, picking up the debris from the wreckage of human lives.
John F. Kennedy
America's welfare system is not designed either to end or to prevent poverty. It is designed primarily to succor temporarily and inadequately those unfortunate enough to be poor but fortunate enough to be considered the "legitimate poor" in America. The system is expensive, complicated, and ineffective. It is fair to say that no one starting from scratch would design a welfare system like the one we currently have. But, of course, our welfare system did not grow out of any design. It was established piecemeal over some thirty years, primarily in response to crisis.
The welfare system's great flaw is that it reflects ignorance of, and bias and prejudice toward, the poor. In fact the primary obstacle to reform of the system is the bias of many public officials and private citizens that the current system saves money because it excludes all but the "legitimate poor," and provides even this select group with as little assistance as possible. Many believe that this harsh approach is cost effective because it limits benefits to narrowly defined groups and makes welfare as unattractive as possible.