price_of_citizenship.jpg (9774 bytes) The Price of Citizenship

Chapter Three

Chapter Three: The Family Support Act and the Illusion of Welfare Reform

The FSA, the first major legislative overhaul of AFDC since the 1930s, brought together:

  1. outdoor relief
  2. work relief
  3. child support


  1. deserving/undeserving
  2. impact relief might have on work incentives (cheap labour) and family life.
  3. limits of social responsibility

Family Assistance Plan (Richard Nixon/Jimmy Carter)

  • negative income tax - a guaranteed minimum income for all.
  • elimination of specific disincentives to work.
  • elimination of welfare bureaucracy to determine eligibility and monitor compliance.


Work Relief

Solution: Federal economic and welfare policy commitment to full employment.

Problem: After 1980, the newly ascendant Republicans rejected the notion that the government could - and should - directly intervene in the economy to ensure adequate employment for its citizens.


Child Support

During the 1980s, a new class-based child care system could be divided into four groups:

  1. Publicly funded centres or family caregivers struggling, with declining resources, to provide child care for poor and low-income children.
  2. family child care with a primarily working-class and lower middle class clientele
  3. Voluntary or proprietary centers for middle-class families.
  4. in-home caregiving by nonrelatives, supplemented by nursery schools, for the well-to-do.

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The Family Support Act (FSA), 1988

FSA enhanced the collection of child support from noncustodial parents and strengthened federal support for child care, education, and job training as part of public assistance. However, by failing to create jobs or address the inadequacy of wages, the FSA repeated the historic failure of American social policy to link public assistance with labour markets. Inadequate federal funding and reluctant state governments has resulted in a new, punitive, market-directed era of welfare reform. Money aside, the FSA foundered on the historic separation of welfare from the labour market in American social policy.

What undermined it, ultimately, was a shift in the welfare debate. By every indication, public sentiment had turned  harsher and more punitive. New benefits, through FSA, reflected an out-of-date paternalism, a failed liberal reliance on big government, rather than on the market principles already being applied in state and city government, the nonprofit sector, and the private welfare state.

The FSA strengthened the federal role at the moment when state governments had begun to clamor for more independence and authority. By the 1990s, the initiative in welfare reform had shifted to the states. On the day it was passed, the FSA was already an anachronism.

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Chapter Summary

American social policy continuously fails to link public assistance with labour markets. Inadequate federal funding and reluctant state government buy-ins, along with the notion that government could - and should - directly intervene in the economy to ensure adequate employment for its citizens being rejected, has resulted in ideology rather than reason ruling the day.

My Thoughts

Family Assistance Plan

  • Implement a negative income tax (Guaranteed minimum income for all). Eliminate disincentives to work (e.g. child care, medical)
  • Education (The Art of Study by Edmond Bordeaux Szekely)
  1. Techniques of a healthy life, to maintain good health and prevent disease.
  2. Professional orientation and vocational improvement.
  3. Leisure and Creative Hobbies.
  4. Family life, sexual harmony, eugenics and child psychology
  5. Social cooperation and community life.
  6. Right method of thinking.
  7. Spiritual aspect of life and the great teachings of all ages, philosophy, metaphysics, and religion.

On the basis of giving adequate knowledge and help to the individual, in this way, do we adequately help him/her to solve his/her problems in these seven basic departments of life.

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