The Failure Of Welfare Reform Essay, Research Paper
The Failure of Welfare Reform
In August of 1996, the Personal Responsibilty and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act was signed by our president. According to the Washington Post, since that time, there are seven million fewer people on welfare. The welfare roles have been cut in half.
This result seems promising, but should it be used to evaluate welfare reform s success? This question divides the issue among party lines. Generally, republicans view this outcome as a reliable way to measure reform s success. In contrast, democrats probe deeper into welfare, considering additional data. This includes knowing that one third of children in America are living in poverty. This value has varied little since 1996. The question then rises, what is it about this reform that is not getting our children out of poverty? To answer this question, a few facts must be considered. Including, how reform has changed welfare and the characteristics of a welfare recipient.
One change in welfare is an increase in state s rights to create individual welfare programs. In Texas, aggressive welfare to work programs have been implemented. The focus is to advance recipients out of the welfare system and into the workforce. Additionally, this transition is given a time limit. The federal government gives one person, over the span of their life, five years of welfare benefits. Exercising state s rights, leaders in Texas have reduced this time limit to one year. This allows a recipient one-year to make the transition from welfare to work. To most people this seems reasonable. But, the characteristics of welfare recipients need to be considered here.
According to the Texas Department of Human Services, the average welfare recipient is a woman. She has one or two children under age eleven. She dropped out of school by the eighth or eleventh grade. She has no job skills and is unemployed. It is obvious that she needs to improve her education, gain job skills, find adequate and affordable day care, and acquire transportation. However, she is given less than $200 per month, one year to find a job, and the classified ads.
As a result, of the seven million people that stopped receiving welfare benefits since 1996, three-fourths of them have jobs. These jobs provide no health benefits and offer an average wage of $6.50 per hour. Consequently, in order to pay their bills and avoid eating smaller meals, they must supplement their income with food stamps and Medicaid. Not only are they still living in poverty, we are still buying their groceries, thus revealing the failure of welfare.
Considering these factors should lead to a plausible solution to welfare s failure. The solution seems simple; resources to education, job training, day care, and transportation need to be offered. These resources are prerequisites to achieving gainful employment. Yet these resources are in effect being hidden from welfare recipients. In welfare offices across the state, the theme of the posters on the walls is; get back to work and get off welfare. No mention of local school financial aid programs or day care programs. No community bulletin board with information such as in-home day care or car pooling in the neighborhood. These bulletin boards are reserved for mentions of job openings. Jobs for which either do not pay enough to support a family, or require qualifications that a majority of welfare recipients do not have. The paradox is obvious.
Even though this paradox is obvious, solutions are not being considered. Even though, according to Time Magazine, up to four billion dollars of federal money allocated to the states for welfare programs has gone unspent, solutions are not being considered. The problem has been stated. Solutions can be seen. The money is available to fix it. Yet, action is not being taken. Thus, revealing yet another paradox. What is holding back the implementation of these solutions to welfare reform s failure?
The reason that plausible solutions are not being implemented goes beyond facts and figures and into the realm of attitude. This attitude, which has existed for over a century, must be relinquished. In the 1890 s Edward Devine, general secretary of the New York s Charity Organization Society, said that, We may quite safely throw overboard, once and for all, the idea that the dependant poor are our moral inferiors, that there is any connection between wealth and virtue, or between poverty and guilt. This idea has yet to be thrown overboard. Over a century later, we have made no progress toward ending this social bias. It is this bias, this attitude that hinders the implementation of a successful welfare program.
In conclusion, it can be seen that solutions to the current failing welfare program are not as simple as providing needed resources to welfare recipients. Before offering these resources can even be considered a century-old attitude must be changed in the minds of our leaders. Which ultimately comes down to relinquishing a social bias across our nation. This is a task we have yet to master.