Welfare Essay, Research Paper
On October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed. The crash sent a shock-wave throughout the economy. Banks failed. Businesses closed. Millions found themselves out of work. The Great Depression, which would last through the 1930s, had begun. [Bill of Rights in Action, "Welfare," 1998 pg. 1 paragraph 1]
When the Great Depression began, about 18 million elderly, disabled, and single mothers with children already lived at a bare existent level in the United States. State and local governments together with private charities helped these people. By 1933, another 13 million Americans had been thrown out of work. Suddenly, state and local governments and charities could no longer provide even minimum assistance for all those in need. Food riots broke out. [Bill of Rights in Action, "Welfare," 1998 pg. 1 paragraph 2]
The effects of the Depression on poor children was severe. President Franklin D. Roosevelt focused mainly on creating jobs for the masses of unemployed workers, he also backed the idea of federal aid for poor children and other dependent persons. By 1935, a national welfare system had been established for the first time in American history. A Federal welfare system was a radical break from the past. Americans had always prided themselves on having a strong sense of individualism and self-reliance. Many believed that those who couldn’t take care of themselves were to be blamed for their own misfortunes. [Bill of Rights in Action, "Welfare," 1998 pg. 2 paragraph 5-6]
In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt called a White House conference on how to deal with the problem of poor single mothers and their children. The conference declared that preserving the family in the home was preferable to placing the poor in institutions, which were widely criticized as costly failures. The emphasis during the first two years of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was to provide work relief for the millions of unemployed Americans. [Bill of Rights in Action, "Welfare," 1998 pg. 3 paragraph 1 & 5]
By expanding federal responsibility for the security of all Americans, Roosevelt believed that the necessity for government make-work employment and other forms of Depression relief would disappear. In his address before Congress, Roosevelt argued that the continuation of government relief would disappear. In his address before Congress, Roosevelt also argued that the continuation of government relief programs was a bad thing for the country. [Bill of Rights in Action, "Welfare," 1998 pg. 3 paragraph 7]
In addition to old-age pensions and unemployment insurance, the Social Security Act established a national welfare system. Additional federal welfare aid was provided to destitute old people, the needy blind, and crippled children. Although financed partly by federal tax money, the states could still set their own eligibility requirements and benefit levels. The need for federal aid to dependent children and poor old people would gradually disappear as employment improved and those over 65 began to collect Social Security pensions. [Bill of Rights in Action, "Welfare," 1998 pg. 4 paragraph 1,2,3]
Since the Great Depression, the national welfare system expanded both in courage and federal regulations. From its beginning, the system drew critics. Some complained that the system did not do enough to get people to work. Others simply believed the federal government should not administer a welfare system. As the system grew, so did criticism of it, especially in the 1980s and ‘90s. Aid to Families with Dependent Children had drawn the greatest criticism. By the 1990s, AFDC supported 15% of all U.S. children. In most cases, these Children lived at home and were cared for by a single parent, usually the mother, who otherwise did not work. This situation brought on complaints that welfare let able-bodied adults avoid work and become dependent on government handouts. Some of those criticizing AFDC were recipients themselves, 70% of whom collected a welfare check for less than two years. For many of these people, going on welfare was a humiliating experience of struggling through a maze of bureaucratic rules in order to feed, clothe, and house themselves and their children. [Bill of Rights in Action, "Welfare," 1998 pg. 4,5 paragraph 4,11]
In 1992, Bill Clinton, ran for president promising to “end welfare as we know it” In August 1996, after 18 months of debate, Congress passed and Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act. This welfare reform law ended 61 years of AFDC guaranteed cash assistance to every eligible poor family wit children. The new law turned over to the states the authority to design their own welfare programs and to move recipients to work. The act clearly proves that Welfare Reform is necessary to “build up” a society. The states are now trying to develop their own programs to move welfare recipients to work.[Bill of Rights in Action, "Welfare," 1998 pg. 6 paragraphs 3 & 4.]
In comparison to the United States Welfare System, Sweden’s welfare state is based on the idea that everyone has a right to health care, family services, old-age pensions, and other social benefits regardless of income. Since everyone is entitled to these benefits, everyone must pay for them through their taxes.
The welfare state has been the vision of the Swedish Social Democratic Party(SDP), which was founded in 1889. The SDP aimed at building a system that would provide workers with health insurance, old-age pensions, protection from unemployment and other social benefits financed by taxes on workers and employers. The SDP called its vision for a welfare state the “people’s home.”
The SDP government greatly expanded the welfare state. It provided a long list of benefits for all citizens and even immigrant workers. It introduced a national compulsory health insurance system, which was later expanded to include dental care and prescription drugs. It passed into law low-cost housing, child-support payments to parents, child-care subsidies, a mandatory four-week vacation for all workers unemployment insurance, and additional old-age pension benefits. Most of these things were financed by sharp increases in employer social security taxes. But a booming economy with unemployment usually less than 1% made the new social welfare programs possible. [Bill of Rights in Action, "Welfare," 1998 pg. 9-10 paragraphs 1-10]
The Swedish welfare state has all but eliminated poverty, especially among the elderly and families with children. The typical married retired couple receives pension and supplemental payments that almost equal their pre-retirement income. This is much more than what a Social Security pension provides in the United States. The infant mortality rate in Sweden is five deaths for every 1,000 live births contrasted to seven deaths in the United States. Also, both male and female Swedes live longer than Americans. [Bill of Rights in Action, "Welfare," 1998 pg. 10 paragraph 4]
While there is little doubt that the Swedish people have benefited from the “Swedish Model,” they also have one of the heaviest tax burdens in the world. Today, and average Swedish working family pays about half its earned income in national and local taxes. Swedes also pay taxes on investment income.[ Bill of Rights in Action, "Welfare," 1998 pg.10 paragraph 5]
In America, the government is trying to spend less tax dollars into the welfare system by putting “welfare to work.” One example of putting “welfare to work” would be the state of Wisconsin. Before congress acted in 1996, the state had already begun major reforms on its own. Wisconsin’s governor, Tommy Thompson, together with Democrats in the state legislature, vowed to abolish welfare by 1999. [Bill of Rights in Action, "Welfare," 1998 pg. 7 paragraph 3]
Wisconsin’s welfare reform effort, called “Wisconsin Works,” had the nation’s strictest work requirements for adults receiving public aid. By the end of 1997, all adult welfare recipients had to be involved in some work-related activity. Even “unemployables,” like the mentally ill and drug addicts, had to report to therapy or rehabilitation sessions to try to make themselves job-ready. New welfare applicants had to first look for a job before collecting any cash aid. As a result of these requirements, Wisconsin succeeded in cutting 60% its welfare caseload by the end of 1997. [Bill of Rights in Action, "Welfare," 1998 pg. 7 paragraph 6]
Wisconsin pays for both child care and medical services for all low-income working families. The state also provides job training, helps pay the wages of certain workers in “trial jobs,” and places those who cannot get hired into community-service work. [Bill of Rights in Action, "Welfare," 1998 pg. 7 paragraph 8]
A year after Congress passed the welfare reform act, the nation’s welfare caseload had fallen almost 25%. A number of issues had remained:
? Should there be lifetime limits of five years or less on the welfare benefits families may receive?
Some people argue against lifetime limits. They say some parents and their children may need more than five years of benefits because of unforeseen events beyond their control. Others argue for lifetime limits. They say limits will prevent people from staying on welfare too long or going on and off throughout their lives.
Another example of Welfare reform is New York City. City officials say that “many people find jobs and that those who nee welfare get it. Even those who leave the centers without jobs or welfare often go home with food stamps and Medicaid that will help stabilize their lives while they search for work, city officials say. ["Stiff rules Gut Welfare Rolls At Two Offices" New York Times METRO Monday, June 22, 1998]
I personally agree with the “welfare to work” policy, because it is one of the best ways to get people away from government assistance. After years of receiving government assistance, people tend to become “indolent.” They are constantly looking for something for nothing, at the expense of the tax payers. By getting welfare recipients to work, it provides them with a chance of succeeding, without government assistance. The less the government helps them, the more they begin to help themselves.
“Welfare reform has been a huge success in the short term. The U.S Labor Department credits the influx of former welfare recipients into the nation’s workplace with extending the country’s economic boom, and the percentage of Americans on public assistance is the lowest it has been in more than three decades. Between January 1993 and September 1998, the number of welfare recipients in New Jersey dropped by 46%.”["Fine-Tuning Welfare Reform" The Bergen Record August 29, 1999]