You are on page 1of 8

WelfareandEducationPolicy:ProvidingforPersonalSecurityandNeed

PovertyinAmerica:TheNatureoftheProblem

Inthebroadestsense,socialwelfarepolicyincludesanyeffortbygovernmentto
improvesocialconditions

Inanarrowersense,socialwelfarepolicyreferstogovernmentprogramsthathelp
individualsmeetbasicneeds,includingfood,clothing,andshelter

Thepoor:WhoandHowMany?

AlthoughAmericansarefarbetteroffeconomicallythanmostoftheworlds
peoples,povertyisasignificantandpersistentproblemintheUS

Thegovernmentdefinesthe
povertyline
astheannualcostofathriftyfood
budgetforanurbanfamilyoffour,multipliedbythreetoincludethecostof
housing,clothes,andothernecessities

Povertyisconcentratedamongcertaingroups

Childrenwithsinglemotherfamilies

Minoritygroupsmembers

AfricanAmericansandHispanics

Geographicallyconcentrated

Southernstates

Moreprevalentinruralareas

Inthatthelevelofpovertyishigh
insomeinnercityareas

Suburbsaresafehavenfrom
poverty

MostAmericansgreatlyunderestimate
thelevelofpovertyintheUS

LivinginPoverty:ByChoiceorChance

ManyAmericansholdtotheideathat
povertyislargelyamatterofchoice

YetmostpoorAmericansareintheir
situationasaresultofcircumstanceratherthanchoice
ThePoliticsandPoliciesofSocialWelfare

Negativegovernment
holdsthatgovernmentgovernsbestbystayingoutof
peopleslives,sothattheycandeterminetheirownpursuitsandbecome
selfreliant

TheGreatDepressionchangedthatoutlook

Positivegovernment
istheideathatgovernmentinterventionisnecessaryinorder
toenhancepersonalibertyandsecuritywhenindividualsarebuffetedbyeconomic
andsocialforcesbeyondtheircontrol

ManyRepublicansleadersclungtotraditionalideasaboutselfrelianceandfree
markets

Mostprogramsthatsupportindividualsare
entitlementprograms
,meaningthat
anyindividualwhomeetstheeligibilitycriteriaisentitledtothebenefit

Individualbenefitprogramsfallintotwobroadgroups:socialinsuranceprograms
andpublicassistanceprograms

Socialinsuranceprogramsenjoybroaderpublicsupport,aremoreheavilyfunded,
andprovidebenefitstoindividualsofallincomelevels

Publicassistanceprogramshavelesspublicsupport,receivelessfunding,andare
restrictedtopeopleoflowincome

SocialInsuranceProgram

MorethanfiftymillionAmericansreceivemonthlybenefitsfromsocial
insuranceprograms

Thecostofthetwomajorprograms,socialsecurityandMedicare,exceedsone
trilliondollarsayear

Suchprogramsarelabeledsocialinsurancebecauseeligibilityisrestrictedto
individualswhopaidspecialpayrolltaxesduringtheirworkingyears

SocialSecurity

Themainsocialinsuranceprogramissocialsecurityforretirees

Runentirelybythefederalgovernment

SocietySecurityActof1935

Fundedthroughpayrolltaxesonemployeesandemployers

Althoughpeoplequalifyforsocialsecuritybypayingpayrolltaxesduring
theirworkingyears,themoneytheyreceiveuponretirementisfunded
bypayrolltaxesoncurrentworkerssalaries

Posesathreattothelongtermviabilityofthesocialsecurityprogram
becausepeoplearelivinglongerthantheyoncedid

Fewerworkersrelativetothenumberofretirees

Inflowinpayrolltaxesfromworkerswillbelessthantheoutflowof
socialsecuritybenefitstoretirees

UnemploymentInsurance

The1935SocialSecurityActprovidesforunemploymentbenefits

Unemploymentinsuranceisajoinfederalstateprogram

Thefederalgovernmentcollectsthepayrolldecidingwhetherthetaxes
willbepaidbybothemployeesandemployersorbyemployersonly

Theunemploymentprogramdoesnothavethebroadpublicsupportthat
socialsecurityenjoys

Thesituationreflectsthewidespreadassumptionthatthelossofajob,or
thefailuretofindanewonerightaway,isoftenapersonalfailing

Unemploymentstatisticsindicateotherwise

Medicare

PresidentHarrySTruman

TheAmericanMedicareAssociationcalledTrumansplanunAmerican

PresidentJohnF.Kennedyproposedahealthcareprogramrestrictedto
socialsecurityrecipients,buttheAMA,theinsuranceindustry,and
congressionalconservativessucceededinblockingtheplan

The1964electionresultwasMedicare

Theprogramprovidesmedicalassistancetoretireesandisfunded
primarilythroughpayrolltaxes

Medicareisbasedontheinsuranceprinciple,andbecauseofthis,ithas
gainedasmuchpublicsupportassocialsecurity

Medicaredoesnotcoverallhospital,nursinghome,orphysiciansfees,
butenrolleestheprogramhavetheoptionofpayinganinsurance
premiumforfullercoverageofthesefees

PublicAssistancePrograms

Unlikesocialinsuranceprograms,publicassistanceprogramsarefunded
throughgeneraltaxrevenuesandareavailableonlytothefinanciallyneedy

Eligibilityfortheseprogramsisestablishedbyameanstests;thatis,applicants
mustprovethattheyarepoorenoughtoqualifyforthebenefit

Americansarefarlesssupportiveofpublicassistanceprogramsthantheyare
ofsocialinsuranceprograms

Americanstendtolookuponsocialinsurancebenefitsashavingbeenearned
bytherecipient,whereastheyseepublicassistancebenefitsashandouts

SupportforpublicassistanceprogramsisweakenedfurtherbyAmericans
perceptionthatthegovernmentisalreadyspendingvastamountsonwelfare

SupplementalSecurityIncome(SSI)

SupplementalSecurityIncomeisamajorpublicassistanceprogramthat
originatedasfederalassistancetotheblindandelderlypooraspartof
theSocialSecurityActof1935

Primarilyafederalprogram,thestateshaveretainedsomecontrolover
benefitsandeligibilityandprovidesomeofthefunding

Notwidelycriticized
TemporaryAssistanceforNeedyFamilies(TANF)

Beforepassageofthe1996WelfareReformAct,needyAmericans
familieshadanopenendedguaranteeofcashassistance

Aslongastheirincomewasbelowacertainlevel,theywereassuredof
governmentsupport

AFDCwasanentitlementprogram,whichmeantthatanysingleparent
livinginpovertycouldclaimthebenefitandkeepitforaslongasa
dependentchildwasinthehousehold

Creatingwhatwascalledaviciouscycleofpoverty

TANFsgoalsistoreducelongtermwelfaredependencybylimitingthe
lengthoftimerecipientscanreceiveassistanceandbygivingthestates
anincentivetoplacewelfarerecipientsintojobs

Thestateprogramsoperatewithinstrictfederalguidelines

Althoughstatescangrantexceptionstosomeoftherules,theexceptions
arelimited

Statescanevenchoosetoimposemorerestrictiverulesinsome
reas

Thebiggestchallengefacingthestateshasbeenthecreationof
welfaretoworkprogramsthatareeffectiveenoughtoqualifypeoplefor
securejobs
HeadStart

Inthe1960s,aspartofLyndonJohnsonsGreatSociety,thefederal
governmentstartedaneducationprogram,HeadStart,aimedathelping
poorchildrenatanearlyage

HeadStartprovidesfreepreschooleducationtolowincomechildrenin
ordertohelpthemsucceedwhentheybeginkindergarten

Thelowpointwasreachedinthe1980s,whentherewasonlyenough
moneytoenrolloneinthenofthoseeligible

Today,lessthan
halfofalleligible
childrengetto
participate

HeadStarthasnot
metthe
performancegoals
expectedwhenit
wasfounded
becausemanyof
theenrolled
childrenhavea
homeenvironment
thatisnot
conducivetoeducationalachievement,theiracademicperformancein
primaryschoolisnotsubstantiallyhigherthanthatofotherpoor
children

EarnedIncomeTaxCredit(EITC)

Afulltimejobdoesnotguaranteethatafamilywillriseabovethe
povertyline

TheUSBureauofLaborStatisticsestimatesthatroughly10percentof
fulltimeworkers,thesocalledworkingpoor,donotearnenoughtolift
theirfamilyabovethepovertyline

SomeoftheseworkersareeligibletoreceivetheEarnedIncomeTax
Credit

Enactedin1975underPresidentGeraldFordandexpandedduringthe
presidenciesofRonaldReaganandBillClinton,EITCnowcoversabout
10millionlowincomeAmericanfamilies

AlthoughtheEITCissubjecttobudgetaryandpoliticalpressures,ithas
morepublicsupportthanmostassistanceprograms

Thereasonissimple:EITCistiedtoemployment

Onlythosewhoworkareeligibletoreceivethepayment
InKindBenefits:FoodStampsandHousingVouchers

TheFoodStampsprogram,whichtookitspresentformin1961,isfully
fundedbythefederalgovernment

Theprogramprovidesaninkindbenefitnotcase,butfoodstampsthat
canbespentonlyongroceryitems

Foodstampsareavailableonlytopeoplewhoqualifyonthebasisoflow
income

Somecriticssaythatfoodstampsstigmatizetheirusersbymakingit
obvioustoonlookersinthecheckoutlinethattheyarewelfarecases

Moreprevalentcriticismarethattheprogramistoocostlyandthattoo
manyundeservingpeoplereceivefoodstamps

Lowincomepersonsarealsoeligibleforsubsidizedhousing

Likeotherpublicassistanceprograms,housingsubsidiesarecriticizedas
beingtoocostly
Medicaid

Medicaidprovideshealthcareforthepoor

Itisapublicassistanceprogram,ratherthanasocialinsuranceprogram
likeMedicare,becauseitisbasedonneedoffundedbygeneraltax
revenues

Ashealthcarecostshavespiraledfaraheadoftheinflationrate,sohave
thecostsofMedicaid

ItabsorbsroughlyhalfofallpublicassistancedollarsspendbytheUS
governmentandhasforcedstateandlocalgovernmentstocutother
servicestomeettheirshareofthecosts

Medicareisnowthefirstorsecondbiggestbudgetitemformoststates

Medicaidhasbeencriticizedforsupposedlyhelpingtoomaypeoplewho
couldtakecareofthemselves
TheSCHIPProgram

Enactedin1997attheurgingofPresidentBillClinton,theState
ChildrensHealthInsuranceProgramprovideshealthinsurancefor
uninsuredchildrenoflowerincomefamiliesthatdonotqualityfor
Medicaidinsurance

Statescanoptoutoftheprogramandhavesomeflexibilityinsetting
eligibilitycriteria

AdecadeaftertheCHIPprogrambegan,enrollmenthasrisentomore
than6millionchildren

Whentheprogramwasreauthorizedin2009attheurgingofPresident
Obama,itwasexpandedtoincludeanadditional4millionchildrenand
alsopregnantwomen

Anincreaseintaxesontobaccoproductswasusedtofundtheexpansion

The2010HealthCareReformAct

AlthoughtheheathcarereformbillpassedbyCongressin2010
expandedtheMedicaidprogram,itaimstoincreasehealthinsurance
coverageprimarilythroughmandatesonindividualsandcompanies

Startingin2014,individualAmericanswillfaceataxpenaltyiftheydont
havehealthinsurance

Lowincomeindividualswillbelegibleforafederalsubsidyinorderto
enablethemtoaffordinsurancecoverage

Mostcompanieswithmorethantwohundredemployeeswillbe
requiredtoprovidetheiremployeeswithhealthinsuranceandmost
companieswithfiftytotwohundredemployeeswillhavetoprovide
insuranceorpayataxpenalty

Holddowninsurancecostsinordertoeasetheburdenonindividuals
andfirms

Statebasedinsuranceexchangesthatwillnegotiatewithinsurance
companiestoobtainthelowestinsuranceratespossible

Prohibitsanumberofinsurancepractices

CriticshavechallengedtheCBOsestimateandhavederidedtheprogram
asthefederalizationofhealthinsurance

CultureandSocialWelfare

MostAmericansareconvincedthatpeopleonwelfarecouldgetalongwithout
itiftheytried

Thereisconstantpoliticalpressuretoreducewelfareexpendituresandtowee
outunderservingrecipients

Theresultisawelfaresystemthatisbothinefficient,inthatmuchofthe
moneyspendonwelfareneverreachestheintendedrecipients,and
inequitable,inthatlessthanhalfofsocialwelfarespendinggoestothepeople
mostinneed

Inefficiency

TheUShasthemostinefficientwelfaresystemintheWesternworld

Theunwrittenprinciplethattheindividualmustsomehowearnorbein
absoluteneedofassistancemakestheUSwelfaresystemheavilybureaucratic

ThebureaucraticcostsofwelfarearesubstantiallylowerinEuropebecause
mostEuropeancountrieshaveunitaryratherthanfederalsystems,which
eliminatesalayerofgovernment,andalsobecauseeligibilityisoftenuniversal,
asinthecaseofgovernmentpaidhealthcare

Inequity

TheUSspendsasmuch,oremore,onassistanceprogramsforthenonpoor
thanitdoesforthepoor
EducationasEqualityofOpportunity

AlthoughfewAmericanswouldsupporteconomicequalityforall,mostAmericans
endorsetheprincipleof
equalityofopportunity
theideathatpeopleshouldhave
areasonablechancetosucceediftheymaketheeffort

Equalityofopportunityisanidea.Americansdonotstartlifeonanequalfooting

PublicEducation:LevelingthroughSchools

Duringthenationsfirstcentury,thequestionoffreeeducationforallchildren
wasadivisiveissue

Wealthyinterestsfearedthataneducatedpublicwouldchallengetheirpower
Egalitarians,ontheotherhand,saweducationasameansofenablingordinary
citizenstogetahead

Equalitycontinuestobeaguidingprincipleofpubliceducation

Unlikethesituationincountriesthatdividechildreneventhegradeschool
levelintodifferenttracksthatleadultimatelytodifferentoccupations,the
curriculuminUSschoolsisrelativelystandardized

TheUSthroughitspublicschoolsseekstobroadlyeducationitschildren

PubliceducationinAmericawaslabeledthegreatlevelwhenitbeganinthe
early19th

century,andthetraditionhasbeenmaintained

Thenationseducationsystempreservesboththemythandtherealityofan
equalopportunitysociety

Thebeliefthatsuccessis
withinthereachofanyone
whoworksforitcouldnotbe
sustainedifthepublic
educationsystemwere
designedtoservethe
privilegedfew

Moreover,educational
attainmentisrelatedto
personalsuccess,atleastas
measuredbyincome

Infact,thegapinincome
betweenthosewithandthose
withoutacollegedegreeis
greaternowthanatanytime
inthecountryshistory

ImprovingAmericasSchools

BecauseAmericaspublicschoolsplaysuchakeyroleincreatingan
equalopportunitysociety,theyarescrutinizedclosely

Parentsofschoolchildrenarenotshyaboutsayingwhattheythinkoftheir
localschools

Parentstendtoratetheirownchildrensschoolsmorehighlythantheyrate
otherschools

Americasstudentsarenothighperformers

USstudentsrankbelowstudentsinCanadaandmostEuropeancountries
onstandardizedreading,math,andsciencetest

OnereasonisthattheUShasallargerportionofnonnativespeaking
children

MoresegregatedresidentiallybyincomethanareEuropeancountries

Poorchildrenaremorelikelytogotoschoolswheremostoftheother
studentsarealsopoor

Becausethewealthofacommunityaffectsthelevelofschoolfunding,
schoolswithahighproportionofpoorstudentstendtohavefewer
resources

SchoolChoice

Advocatesofschoolchoicesaythatastudentshouldhavetheoptionof
leavingapoorlyperformingschoolinfavorofonethatmightprovidea
bettereducation

Thestudentsnewschoolshouldgetthefundingthatotherwise

wouldhavegonetothestudentsformerschool

Thispolicy,itisclaimed,forcesschooladministratorsandteachers
todoabetterjob,orfacethecontinuedlossofstudentsand
funding

Opponentsofthepolicydonotdefendpoorlyperformingschoolsbut
insteadarguethatschoolchoicewillonlyservetoweakentheseschools
further

Theyclaimthatthepolicybenefitsmiddleandupperincome
studentsbecausetheparentsofpoorchildrenlackthemeansto
transportthemtoabetterbutmoredistantschool

Schoolchoicehasgainedmomentuminrecentyears

Theemergenceofcharterschoolsisacaseinpoint

Operatebydifferentstandards

Havegreaterfreedomindeterminingtheircurriculaandinpicking
theirstudents

Mustmeetspecifiedaccountabilitycriteria

Schoolvouchersareanotherwayofexpandingstudentchoice

Proponentssaythatvouchersforcefailingpublicschoolsto
improvetheirinstructionalprogramsorfaceapermanentlossof
revenue

Opponentsarguethatvouchersweakenthepublicschoolsby
siphoningoffrevenueandsaythatvoucherssubsidizemany
familiesthatwouldhavesenttheirchildrentoprivateofparochial
schoolsanyway

Vouchersareoflittleusetostudentsfrompoorfamiliesbecause
vouchersfamiliesdonothavethemoneytopaytherest

Althoughthecourtshaveupheldtheconstitutionalityofvouchersin
somecircumstances,pollsindicatethatAmericansaredividedoverthe
issueofschoolvouchers

Thequestiongetsmajoritysupportwhenitisframedinthecontext
ofgivingstudentsachoiceamongpubicschools

Butopposedbythemajoritywhenprivateandparochialschools
areincludedinthechoices

MandatoryHighStakesTraining

In2001,PresidentGeorgeW.BushpersuadedCongresstopasstheNo
ChildLeftBehindAct

Schoolsthatshownoimprovmentsinstudentstestschoresaftertwo
yearsreceiveanincreasedamountoffederalaid

Iftheseschoolsshownoimprovementbytheendofthethirdyear,their
studentsbecomeeligibletotransferelsewhere,andtheirschoolsfederal
assistanceisreduced

Thenationaltestingprocesshasnearlyforcedpublicschoolsto
concentrateontestedsubjects

Lawforcesteacherstoteachtothenationaltest,underminingtrue
learning

Democratshaveclaimedthattheprogramhasfailedtoprovide
strugglingschoolswithenoughfundstoimprovetheirqualityof
classroomeducation

Republicanshavegenerallysupportedthelaw,sayingthatitholds
teachersandschoolsaccountableforstudentperformance
TheAmericanwayofPromotingtheGeneralWelfare

Foronlysomecitizens