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The United States has had a welfare program from 15 until 16. From the time of the Regan administration, the welfare program has been slowly diminishing. In 16 the federal government made welfare assistance available to those in need temporary. This change withdrew $55 billion that had been used to aid the poor. There was no more long term income for those families who were in need of support from the federal government (Schorr, 187, cited in Eitzen and Zinn, 18).


Prior to 16 the welfare system that the United States had was in need of a face-lift. The welfare system made its recipients very dependant on the program, recipients also would receive Medicaid. Any income that was earned while on welfare would be deducted from the recipient’s welfare payments. The welfare recipients were unmotivated to go to work because they would make better income by not working and staying on welfare, which also included the Medicaid benefit. The personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 16 gave the States the power to distribute the welfare benefits, creating many differences between benefits based on geographical locations. The welfare benefits were so inadequate that they did not provide enough income to help families out of the poverty level. According to Herbert (16) 57.6 million people would have been poor in 15. When the government benefits such as housing assistance, food stamps, school lunch support and, earned income tax credit are counted the number of poor people drops down to only 0. million (cited in Eitzen and Zinn, 18).


The 16 Republican dominated congress approved a law that ended a 61 year old safety net intended for the poor. The new law included Federal block grants for states that were in need of welfare for the poor. Each state was given a fixed amount of money along with great flexibility on how to spend the money. The new law required the recipients to obtain work within the first two years of receiving the financial assistance. All of the recipients of the government aide would only be allowed to receive assistance for a lifetime maximum of five years. The benefits would be prohibited to any unwed parents who are less than 18 years of age, who do not live with an adult, and do not attend school. There were also many federal assistance programs that were set up to help the poor that faced financial cut backs over a six year time period. Some of the programs such as the food stamps were cut by $7 million, federal funding for social services was also cut by $.5 million over six years (Eitzen and Zinn 18). The new welfare law denied a large range of public benefits from legal immigrants. Food stamps were no longer available to the immigrants. Any new immigrants who entered the country after the new law was put in place were not entitled to any of the federal programs such as Supplemental Security Income as well as some state run programs like Medicaid and temporary welfare. All federal money that is given to each state would now be capped off at $16.4 billion each year, this number will not change due to any inflation or increase in the size of the states population ( Eitzen and Zinn 18). As time goes on, states will have less federal money to spend on welfare when compared to the amount that was given to them under the old welfare laws. Conservatives believe that the welfare programs pay their recipients very generously, enough to keep them from working and have more children outside of marriage, the income is so great that it makes more sense to the recipients to stay on welfare. For each child that these families on welfare have, their welfare benefits will increase, therefore in order receive more money these poor families will make the decision to have more children. The Progressives say that the Conservatives beliefs are false; they say that the average welfare payment has decreased by almost 50% since 170, although during this time the birth rate for unwed mothers has greatly increased. Healy (17) stated that even though New Jersey passed a law in 1 that ended the practice of increasing a welfare check each time a recipient had another baby still did not lower the amount of birth rates among women on welfare (cited in Eitzen and Zinn 18). Murray (184) states that lawmakers assume that poor people will either sink or swim when in need, and will develop the determination to stay afloat, by taking these people off of welfare their only alternative would be to seek employment, creating a more dynamic person rather than a freeloading individual. Progressives make a note of the fact that the poor people will sink even if they want to swim, due to the limited number of jobs that are unable to lift the poor out of the poverty level (cited in Eitzen and Zinn 18). Many of the poor lack the experience and skills needed, which are necessary to earn a higher income. Handler and Hasenfeld (17) stated that Conservatives declare that people are in poverty and are on welfare as a result of their own poor attitudes work ethic or way of life, for most the progressives argue that for most welfare recipients don’t lack work ethic but a lack of jobs that can pay them enough money and help them become independent. Handler and Hasenfeld (18), also stated that the Conservatives will condemn the poor and those who are different based on race, religion, and ethnicity, or who violate patriarchal norms (cited in Eitzen and Zinn, 18). Progressives found that in a recent study conducted by Sociologist Kathleen Harris found that 57 percent of the single mothers on welfare bring in additional money from a wide range of activities such as house cleaning, doing laundry, repairing clothes, child care and by selling hand made items (cited in Eitzen and Zinn 18). Koretz (16), stated that the outside work is a very important supplement to the welfare payments, due to the average welfare payment with food stamps averaging only $565 each month when compared to the average monthly expenses were at $876, a difference of $11 made up by taking up income producing work, or help from relatives and friends or even absent fathers (cited in Eitzen and Zinn, 18).


A question from McLarin (15) if welfare recipients are required to work, is a single mother able to work? Traditionally women were not expected to work, the new legislation has changed that, forcing poor women with children to work, without childcare, training, and with little jobs available. Many of the politicians that want the poor unwed mothers to work are the same ones that want the middle-class mothers to give up their jobs; they feel a stay at home mother has a more positive influence on her children (cited in Eitzen and Zinn, 18). At the time of the Great Depression the federal government provided jobs for the poor and they were successful at providing not only jobs, but they would also be teaching the needy a skill and providing them with an income. In this day and age the circumstances are much different. The new legislation mandates that the poor people work, but they will not provide them with jobs. According to The Nation, (15) the new overhaul of the welfare system sends the recipients out on their own to find a job in a world of downsizing, layoffs and capital flight, how can the welfare recipients find a stable job? How can they afford health insurance and child care when all they make is minimum wage (cited in Eitzen and Zinn, 18)?


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