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Welfare Reform Essay, Research Paper

To Be…Or Not To Be

Look at our nation! We have industrial technology, an education system, advanced health care, a banking system, plenty of food available and so much more that is easily accessible. If all this is available to everyone, why are there people that don’t have places to sleep and things to eat? The fact that the United States is a rich country is the key reason why people, that are willing, will never starve or go without having shelter. The biggest objection that people have with helping others is that much of the needy does not try to better themselves and that they take a free ride through life. One very controversial program provided by the United States Government is welfare. The welfare system can be useful in society but there are also consequences to the system that must be addressed.

Welfare refers to a host of policies and programs designed to improve the well- being of the United States population. Defined it is a state of well- being having prosperity, comfort and health. Dating back to the mid 1930’s, President Roosevelt established a program to help the welfare of the poor call the Works Progress Administration or WPA. Under this attempted solution, which lasted until 1943, public jobs were provided to the able-bodied poor in exchange for assistance. When WPA began, it’s beneficiaries totaled a half million people(Cozic, 12). Since the end of this program others have been established. The most common is the Aid for Families of Dependent Children or AFDC, which is a program for unmarried single mothers and their children. In 1995, AFDC had a line up of 14 million Americans with two- thirds being children. Since the start of the War on Poverty in 1965, the United States has spent more than 3.5 trillion dollars trying to decrease the underclass. The numbers from 1935 to 1995 rose substantially, which had America looking for better ways to solve the problem of the poor.

There are many arguments brought up among partisan politics. Like every other topic faced in this nation, the Conservatives and Liberals just cannot seem to completely agree. The main goal that both Conservatives and Liberals share about welfare is the desire to move welfare recipients off the welfare roll and into jobs. That is logical but so far out of reach. People are always looking for the easy way through life such as free assistance from the government.

While the desirable outcome is common, the reasons for failure of the system differ. Conservatives believe that many welfare recipients spend long periods of time collecting government aid because the sizable help that they are receiving is more attractive than going to work. The fact that welfare provides the basic necessities without requiring work, recipients have no initiative to become self-supporting and find a job(Rector, Internet). Conservatives acknowledge the only way to encourage the dependent poor to get jobs, is to end the welfare system(Cozic,13). By ending the welfare system, the working-aged person would have nothing else to turn to but the job market, family members, friends, and public or private locally funded services(Cozic,36). The only way to prevent new people from entering the failed system is to end the program that protects them form the consequences of their actions.

On the other hand, Liberals are welfare advocates. Liberals believe that those in need are trapped in poverty because neither the system nor the low wage work available to them enables them to overcome poverty(Cozic,14). Liberals argue that if the federal government continues its traditional practice of offering free handouts, children would be better off, and the social conditions of the underclass Americans will decline or disappear. Under the system, these ideals have been tried and they have failed. Children on welfare compared to those whose families are poor but not on welfare, do less well in school and earn less(Rector, Internet).

Perhaps one of the biggest concerns dealing with the welfare system is the factor of dependency. Imagine yourself a single woman with three children living in a housing development with no money, and no job. Where do you turn? Well, like 5 million other single moms in the AFDC program you rely on the government to help you until you get back up on your feet. While on welfare, your rent is paid, there are health benefits for your children and you even get money to spend on necessities. At the same time your receiving food stamps for food and your children are getting free lunch at school. What a great life! While the kids are at school your getting paid to keep up with Jerry Springer. Sounds good, huh? Unfortunately, it sounded good for many of the welfare recipients. Who could blame them? Many people, 70 percent in some states, do actually get off the program but end up re-enrolling because of the tax burden of low wage jobs, child care costs, and health care costs(Cozic,26). Women are going out and getting jobs finding that they are only working to pay for childcare costs. Welfare aid is tax free unlike having a job where a substantial amount is taken out for taxes. Finally when a women finds a job she is asked to give up her children’s health benefits and is left paying on her own which can be costly. Welfare has created a world in which adults have abandoned their hopes for today and have found the easy way out.

After many debates and after vetoing two previous versions of welfare reform, President Clinton finally signed the congressional reform bill into law. The new law still abides by the same structure as the previous one but indeed reformed in four major ways. First, the reformed law would eliminate improper financial incentives for state governments. Under the old legislature, AFDC was funded accordingly to the number of persons enrolled in each state. If a state enrolls more they get more or if they decrease the number they get less. In essence the states that reduce the number of recipients are penalized and the states with an increase in number are rewarded. Under the reform law, a new funding system was established. Each state will be given a fixed dollar amount which will be increased gradually from year to year and if a state reduces its number of beneficiaries, it’s federal grant will not be cut. The state keeps any surplus of the grant and can then apply the funds to other assistance programs to help the poor. Conversely, any state that has an increase of recipients will have to bear the added cost. Second, the reform slows the growth of welfare spending. The reform legislation will slow the rate of growth to around 35 percent from 50 percent over the next seven years to permit future common state spending in programs such as AFDC, Food Stamps, Supplemental Social Security Income, child nutrition programs, Foster Care, Social Services Block Grant and Earned Income Tax Credit, to expand faster than the rate of inflation. The third advancement will provide incentives to reduce illegitimacy. With the collapse of marriage, the number of babies born out of wedlock is nearly at one-third of all American children. The reform bill combats illegitimacy in three ways. 1) The reform bill requires each state government to set a numerical goal for reducing the number of babies born out of wedlock over the next ten years. 2) The bill offers an incentive of bonus funding to the state if it decreases the number of illegitimate births without the abortion rates increasing. 3) The law funds a 50 million-dollar program to educate abstinence to youth. Finally, the fourth major way of reform is that the law will establish work requirements. Remember the main goal of welfare is to reduce the number of people receiving aid by putting them into jobs. Under the new law, AFDC recipients will be required to take private-sector jobs. If there are not enough private-sector jobs, recipients will be placed in community service and will not be paid until the service has been accomplished. If an individual fails to work the assigned number of hours, his welfare benefits will be reduced(Rector, Internet). Although the new reform legislation is not going to cure all the problems with the system it is a start.

Another reform, the Welfare Reform Act of 1997, was passed generally maintaining the old system’s special needs and also has four key differences, as did the 1996 reform act. The first being the recipients being required to be in workfare for more hours being calculated using minimum wage instead of the set wage of welfare. Second, more placements of infants and toddlers in day care will help ease the costs and promote more work ethic. Third is the use of non-cash aid instead of cash to be sure of necessity usage. Finally, the previous rules exempted those with children less than three years old and the new rules exempt only those caring for a child less than 1 year old and only for a maximum of 3 months(Rector, Internet). With careful consideration, the welfare system will continue to improve as long as there are people in need.

Many people are mad at the government because they feel that they are victims of the system. In personal opinion, everyone is a victim. Taxpayers are victims because they have to pick up the bill for failed programs. Mostly, are the poor themselves. They are trapped in a system that destroys their dreams and the hope for their children. The fact that welfare is such a degrading system, many people are ashamed to step forward and claim the help they need. One example is the homeless. The availability of welfare must be combined with active outreach by caseworkers(Roleff, 195). As degrading as public assistance is, it is less degrading than people begging, stealing and starving on the streets.

Poverty appears to depend on economic growth. It is necessary to create good paying jobs and to improve the economic factors that cause poverty to help the needy. Since the formation of the welfare policy, we have seen that economic growth in itself will not eliminate poverty, but it may decrease it(Roleff,194). Congress needs to rebuild America’s inner cities, and encourage business opportunities and job creation in the poorest communities. There is no reason why in the land of the plenty we should have such a high number of people living in poverty. Once the problems of welfare are addressed, it will serve its purpose to the deserving needy of our nation. When it comes down to the just of the problem, it is up to the individual to take control of his or her life. Where there’s a will there is definitely a way.

Cozic, Charles P. & Winters, Paul A. (Ed.). (1997). Welfare: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego, CA, Greenhaven Press Inc.

Roleff, Tamara L. (Ed.). (1996). The Homeless: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego, CA, Greenhaven Press Inc.

How Congress Reformed the Welfare System. (1996).

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