Welfare politics have now been part of American life for four centuries. Beyond a persistent general idea that Americans have a collective obligation to provide for the poorest among us, there has been little common ground on which to forge political and philosophical consensus. Are poor people poor because of their own shortcomings and moral failings, or because of systemic societal and economic obstacles? That is, does poverty have individual or structural causes? This book demonstrates why neither of these two polemical stances has been able to prevail permanently over the other and explores the public policy--and real-life--consequences of the stalemate. Author Greg M. Shaw pays special attention to the outcome of the 1996 act that was heralded as ending welfare as we know it.
Historically, people on all sides of the welfare issue have hated welfare--but for different reasons. Like our forebears, we have constantly disagreed about where to strike the balance between meeting the basic needs of the very poor and creating dependency, or undermining individual initiative. The shift in 1996 from New Deal welfare entitlement to workfare mirrored the national mood and ascendant political ideology, as had welfare policy throughout American history. The special contribution of this book is to show how evolving understandings of four key issues--markets, motherhood, race, and federalism--have shaped public perceptions in this contentious debate. A rich historical narrative is here complemented by a sophisticated analytical understanding of the forces at work behind attempts to solve the welfare dilemma.
How should we evaluate the current welfare-to-work model? Is a precipitous decline in state welfare caseloads sufficient evidence of success? Success, this book finds, has many measures, and ending welfare as an entitlement program has not ended arguments about how best to protect children from the ravages of poverty or how to address the plight of the most vulnerable among us.
Gring-Pemble asserts that the role of language in shaping policy options is rarely studied and poorly understood. She seeks to analyze congressional hearings and debates on welfare to understand the role of language in framing welfare policy and contemporary welfare discussions.
She reviews welfare history in the United States and provides a rhetorical analysis of welfare deliberations. In the process she illustrates the significance of language and ideology in shaping American social policy outcomes.
Now that responsibility for welfare policy has devolved from Washington to the states, Pamela Winston examines how the welfare policymaking process has changed. Under the welfare reform act of 1996, welfare was the first and most basic safety net program to be sent back to state control. Will the shift help or further diminish programs for low-income people, especially the millions of children who comprise the majority of the poor in the United States?
In this book, Winston probes the nature of state welfare politics under devolution and contrasts it with welfare politics on the national level. Starting with James Madison's argument that the range of perspectives and interests found in state policymaking will be considerably narrower than in Washington, she analyzes the influence of interest groups and other key actors in the legislative process at both the state and national levels. She compares the legislative process during the 104th Congress (1995-96) with that in three states-- Maryland, Texas, and North Dakota-and finds that the debates in the states saw a more limited range of participants, with fewer of them representing poor people, and fewer competing ideas.
The welfare reform bill of 1996 comes up for renewal in 2002. At stake in the U.S. experiment in welfare reform are principles of equal opportunity, fairness, and self-determination as well as long-term concerns for political and social stability. This investigation of the implications of the changing pattern of welfare politics will interest scholars and teachers of social policy, federalism, state politics, and public policy generally, and general readers interested in social policy, state politics, social justice, and American politics.
During the past decade, Democrats and Republicans each have received about fifty percent of the votes and controlled about half of the government, but this has not resulted in policy deadlock. Despite highly partisan political posturing, the policy regime has been largely moderate. Incremental, yet substantial, policy innovations such as welfare reform; deficit reduction; the North American Free Trade Agreement; and the deregulation of telecommunications, banking, and agriculture have been accompanied by such continuities as Social Security and Medicare, the maintenance of earlier immigration reforms, and the persistence of many rights-based policies, including federal affirmative action.
In "Seeking the Center," twenty-one contributors analyze policy outcomes in light of the frequent alternation in power among evenly divided parties. They show how the triumph of policy moderation and the defeat of more ambitious efforts, such as health care reform, can be explained by mutually supporting economic, intellectual, and political forces. Demonstrating that the determinants of public policy become clear by probing specific issues, rather than in abstract theorizing, they restore the politics of policymaking to the forefront of the political science agenda.
A successor to Martin A. Levin and Marc K. Landy's influential "The New Politics of Public Policy" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), this book will be vital reading for advanced undergraduate and graduate students in political science and public policy, as well as a resource for scholars in both fields.