The Welfare System Must Remain
Public Welfare is an important support system of the United States
government. Welfare has its benefits, but the system has pitfalls. Instead of
abolishing welfare as critics of the system suggest, reforms can be made to
correct the problems while government, either on the state or federal level, can
continue to assist the impoverished.
The term welfare is used to describe a variety of programs that provide
income support and create a safety net for poor individuals and families. Such
benefits include Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, food stamps, housing
allowances, and Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Aid To Families With
Dependent Children (AFDC) enables states to provide cash payments to children
that are deprived of the care or support of a parent. In terms of welfare
reform, this is the program most often discussed.
The media has created many myths regarding welfare and the reasons the
system should be done away with. Stating that the majority of new welfare
recipients are poor, single mothers, claims have been made that poor women have
more children because of the incentives of welfare benefits. It has been
proven that is no correlation between women's choice to have children and
welfare benefit levels. Furthermore, for each additional child, a mother can
expect an additional $90 of AFDC benefits, far too low to serve as any type of
incentive. In addition, those states that provide higher benefits do not
necessarily show higher birth rates among their welfare recipients. Families
receiving AFDC benefits have 1.9 children, just about the same as the national
average. (ACLU 1)
Another myth created by the media concerns the amount of money spent and
the results. It has been said that after spending billions of dollars since the
mid-1960's on anti-poverty programs, there have been little or no results. To
begin with, spending on AFDC between 1964 and 1994 was only $500 billion, less
than 1.5% of federal spending for that period. Further, there have been results.
Between 1964 and 1973, the poverty rate fell from 19% to 11%. It is true that
since 1973, poverty has increased. This is due to economic forces such as
declining real wages, rather than a failure of the system itself.
A third myth regarding welfare concerns employment. It is believed that
anyone who wants to get off welfare just has to go out and get a job. However,
workforce discrimination and lack of affordable child care make it difficult for
single mothers to be employed outside of the home. In addition, the low-wage,
no-benefit jobs available to welfare recipients do not pay nearly enough to lift
a family above the poverty line. (Extra 1-3)
Welfare recipients are very aware of the system that they are involved
with. They know that without welfare, they would be much worse off. Recipients
of welfare payments know that these payments are inadequate. They must deal
with a daily strain of benefits that, in almost every state, do not even take
them near the poverty line. People on welfare are also frustrated because the
program actually penalizes employment and savings. Any money earned above what
is minimally needed causes benefits to be lost. In addition, any savings that
the family has causes the family to be ineligible to continue receiving welfare
payments and benefits.
It is obvious that welfare has its benefits. It is just as obvious,
however, that the system has pitfalls. The welfare system must not be abolished,
but simply reformed. Welfare must remain to help people get back on their feet,
but it must be reformed so that dependence on government is avoided. Job
training and education must be integrated into a new welfare system so that when
welfare payments stop, recipients have the skills to gain full time employment
to support their families.
Any reforms that are made must be responsible reforms. It must include
enhanced job training and job creation. Reforms must also assist low-income
working parents find ways to combine work and public assistance in ways
appropriate to their circumstances. (Hoehn 6)
The welfare reform bills Congress has been considering have caused some
fear, both in the eyes of welfare recipients and advocates of the system.
However, the reforms being considered are beneficial. There really is no reason
for concern. The welfare bills do not mean that the Federal Government is
giving up the anti-poverty fight. Washington will still continue to spend over
$20 billion per year on aid to the poor. The difference, however, will be that
the money is going to be distributed to the states.