price_of_citizenship.jpg (9774 bytes) The Price of Citizenship


Prologue: The Invention of Welfare

  • The most extensive and costly parts of American welfare remain scarcely touched.
  • 1996 welfare reform bill. Clinton signed this bill and ended the sixty-year old entitlement of the poorest Americans to public assistance, put time limits on benefits, tied aid closely to work, transferred the authority to set benefits and administer programs from the federal government to the states, and greatly reduced or eliminated eligibility for legal immigrants and the disabled.
  • The new legislation signaled the victory of three great forces - the war on dependence, the devolution of public authority, and the application of market models to public policy.
  • By tightening the links between benefits and employment, the late-twentieth-century welfare state has stratified Americans into first-and-second-class citizens and undermined the effective practice of democracy. Everywhere market price has superseded social justice.
  • Initially the word 'welfare' meant "well-being". Welfare rang with a progressive tune, it signified the increased assumption of public responsibility for dependence, the professional administration of programs, the rejection of charity, and the initial steps of the recognition of entitlement.
  • "the Department of Public Welfare was a new ideal just finding official favour in cities and in states as "The older idea of charities and corrections" retreated before "the newer conception of protection and... public welfare.
  • Economic Security Act of 1935 - the charter of the federal welfare state, encompassed both public assistance and social insurance. Roosevelt sought to create a system of economic security that replaced the old poor laws and their invidious distinctions with the entitlements of citizenship.
  • The positive connotations of "welfare state" were entrenched.
  • American public welfare state had split linguistically: public assistance and social insurance. Welfare now signified only public assistance. In the sixties, welfare became a despised program of last resort primarily for the "undeserving" poor. Social security, absorbed the "deserving poor". Social insurance programs often lifted their beneficiaries out of poverty; public assistance almost never did - it just helped them to survive.
  • The 1960s proved the catalytic decade for AFDC with astonishing increases in recipients.
  • Welfare became controversial in the 1950s because of its correlation with the welfare state - and through the welfare state with socialism. Welfare fell from its protected shelf as one more victim of the cold war.
  • By the 1950s, all the pieces for a narrow, derogatory definition of welfare had fallen into place. Public policy had cemented a wall between public assistance and social insurance. "Welfare" now emerged as a term ready for application to programs that aided the "undeserving poor".
  • Four related trends accelerated the transmutation of welfare into a synonym for AFDC.
  1. The social work profession underwent a radical transformation. Social workers became increasingly professionalized, public assistance offices were staffed largely by untrained workers. The split between social work and the administration of AFDC widened the separation of services from relief and, later, "welfare".
  2. The proportion of black ADC recipients increased sharply, by 1961, it had reached 40%, which reinforced the association of ADC and race.
  3. Rising number of out-of-wedlock births to mothers on AFDC.
  4. Explosive increase in the ADC caseload. Between 1950-70 it grew by 333%.
  • "welfare rights" is supported by the U.S. Supreme Court. As a result, the proportion of eligible recipients who received benefits rose from about a third in the 1960s to 90% in 1971.
  • The division of welfare and social insurance along separate discursive as well as policy tracks created fictive distinctions between categories of need and set the beneficiaries of public social provision against one another, leaving them politically vulnerable.
  • Struggles over welfare directed attention away from the falling wages, growing inequality, and erosion of public benefits that threatened everyone except a fortunate minority.
  • Today, the condemnation of welfare continues to inhibit the development of coherent policy.
  • The most extensive and costly parts of American welfare remains scarcely touched.
  • And it justifies a "welfare reform" that heightens the risks and worsens the poverty that welfare was invented to remedy.

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