Welfare Reform in the United States Essay Sample

Introduction Throughout recent years the economy of the United States of America has been going through a major recession. There have been and continue to be irresponsible fiscal policies that have led to these major problems that are at the forefront of the minds and lives of the American people. Picking just one cause or problem to our nations’ economic decay is virtually impossible, yet one of the aspects of government that is considered for reform quite often can be refined to help stimulate the economy now and in the future. History in the United States.

The United States welfare program is full of a rich history that began well before the actual system of welfare was developed by President Roosevelt. The welfare ideas stemmed from a very human trait of caring for the needy. Many small programs were developed to try to help the lower class. These programs focused on “teaching a man to fish” or giving him a short term solution and education to help him have a better opportunity in his future. The programs were never designed to be a long term solution for the needs of those people who were suffering through financial difficulties.

In fact few private and government retirement pensions existed in the United States before the Great Depression. The prevailing view was that individuals should save for their old age or be supported by their children. About 30 states provided some welfare aid to poor elderly persons without any source of income. Local officials generally decided who deserved old-age assistance in their community (“welfare reform. ” 123HelpMe. com. ) ( transplant-speakers. olhblogspace. com) “”The New Deal” The emphasis during the first two years of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was to provide work relief for the millions of unemployed Americans.

President Roosevelt’s focus on helping people become working and financially responsible was an important part to the economic relief during the great depression. The “New Deal” provided a short term solution and plan for the unemployed to become financial independent. Most federal money was given to the states pay for public works projects, which employed the jobless. Some federal aid also directly assisted needy victims of the Depression. The states, however, remained mainly responsible for taking care of the unemployables (widows, poor children, the elderly poor, and the disabled).

But states and private charities, too, were unable to keep up the support of these people at a time when tax collections and personal giving were declining steeply. In his State of the Union Address before Congress on January 4, 1935, President Roosevelt said “the time has come for action by the national government” to provide “security against the major hazards and vicissitudes [uncertainties] of life. ” He went on to propose the creation of federal unemployment and old-age insurance programs. He also called for guaranteed benefits for poor single mothers and their children along with other dependent persons.

By permanently expanding federal responsibility for the security of all Americans, Roosevelt believed that the necessity for government make-work employment (make-work employment refers to the government stepping in and creating work/jobs) and other forms of Depression relief would disappear. In his address before Congress, Roosevelt argued that the continuation of government relief programs was a bad thing for the country: “lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber.

To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit . . .. ” (F D R: the words that reshaped America By Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Stamford Parker) As we reflect on these words we can see that America and her leaders have lost sight of the true purpose and plan behind the welfare program. (citizenjoe. org- Percentage of welfare spending) “The Social Security Act” A few months later, on August 18, 1935, Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act (Wikipedia. org).

It set up a federal retirement program for persons over 65, which was financed by a payroll tax paid jointly by employers and their workers. FDR believed that federal old-age pensions together with employer-paid unemployment insurance (also a part of the Social Security Act) would provide the economic security people needed during both good and bad times. Not by any means was Roosevelt implying he wanted the vast minorities or majorities in age or race to become dependent on the federal or state governments. In addition to old-age pensions and unemployment insurance, the Social Security Act established a national welfare system.

The federal government guaranteed one-third of the total amount spent by states for assistance to needy and dependent children under age 16 (but not their mothers). Additional federal welfare aid was provided to destitute old people, the needy blind and crippled children. Although financed partly by federal tax money, the states could still set their own eligibility requirements and benefit levels. This part of the law was pushed by Southern states so they could control the coverage made available to their African-American population. This is how welfare began as a federal government responsibility.

Roosevelt and the members of Congress who wrote the welfare provisions into the Social Security Act thought that the need for federal aid to dependent children and poor old people would gradually go away as employment improved and those over 65 began to collect Social Security pensions. But many Americans, such as farm laborers and domestic servants, were never included in the Social Security old-age retirement program. Also, since 1935, increasing divorce and father desertion rates have dramatically multiplied the number of poor single mothers with dependent children.

This made it much harder for the government to dole out the funds for social security. Since the Great Depression, the national welfare system expanded both in coverage and federal regulations. It has become a crutch for many of American citizens. The welfare program is not serving its original purpose. From its inception, the system drew critics. The system does not do enough to get people to work. Others simply believed the federal government should not administer a welfare system. As the system grew, so did criticism of it, especially in the 1980s and ’90s. “Additions to Welfare”.

In 1992, Democratic candidate, Bill Clinton, ran for president promising to “end welfare as we know it. ” Yet a complete mend to a federal and state entity that provided support and stability to thousands would cripple the economy and leave all those in the system to fend for themselves after being on a system that did everything for them. Then in 1996, a Republican Congress passed and President Clinton signed a reform law that returned most control of welfare back to the states, thus ending 61 years of federal responsibility (“Constitutional Rights Foundation” http://www.

crf-usa. org/bill-of-rights-in-action/bria-14-3-a-how-welfare-began-in-the-united-states. html ). When the federal Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program began in 1936, it provided cash aid to about 500,000 children and parents. By 1969, the number had grown to nearly 7 million. Over the years, Congress added new programs. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” provided major non-cash benefits to AFDC recipients as well as to other needy persons. In 1964, Congress approved a food stamp program for all low-income households.

The next year, Congress created Medicaid, a federal and state funded health-care system for the destitute elderly, disabled persons, and AFDC families. In 1974, during the Nixon presidency, Congress established the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program to provide aid to the needy elderly, blind, and disabled. This program made up the last major component of the federal welfare system. By 1994, more of the nation’s needy families, elderly, and disabled received federal welfare than ever before. Aid to Families with Dependent Children alone supported more than 14 million children and their parents.

By the 1990s, AFDC supported 15 percent of all U. S. children. In most cases, these children lived at home and were cared for by a single parent, usually the mother, who did not work. In August 1996, after 18 months of debate, Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act. This welfare reform law ended 61 years of AFDC guaranteed cash assistance to every eligible poor family with children. The new law turned over to the states the authority to design their own welfare programs and to move recipients to work.

Under the new law, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, funded by federal block grants and state money, replaced AFDC. States are given wide discretion in determining eligibility and the conditions under which families may receive public aid. But Congress tied a number of strict work requirements to the federal block grants: • Adults receiving family cash-aid benefits must go to work within two years. States may exempt a parent with a child under 1 for no more than 12 months. States had to have 25 percent of their welfare caseloads at work in 1997 and 50 percent of their caseloads at work by 2002.

States who fail to meet these requirements will lose 5 percent of their federal block grants (http://www. welfareinfo. org/history/). Each adult is limited to no more than five years of cash assistance during his or her lifetime. But states may exempt up to 20 percent of their caseloads from this limit. A 1995 study by the Cato Institute revealed that the value of the total benefit package received by a typical welfare recipient averaged more than $17,000, ranging from a high of over $36,000 in Hawaii to a low of $11,500 in Mississippi. In 9 states welfare pays more than the average first-year salary for a teacher.

In 29 states welfare pays more than the average starting salary for a secretary. In 47 states welfare pays more than a janitor makes. In the 6 states benefits exceed the entry-level salary for a computer programmer (http://www. heritage. org/ and www. cato. org). America can be on her way to economic stability and growth once again if we obtain a complete understanding of the rich history of the public welfare system. We can come closer to helping our citizens be financially independent, we can become a more cultured and sophisticated society.

When we embrace the true purpose behind the original establishment of welfare programs and provide people with an opportunity to live within their means when they need assistance, and teach them how to provide for their future, then we will be able to further help our country and our economy. We will once again become the world’s leading economic power and our citizens will be the force behind that great power. PROPOSAL A Plan for Modern Reform One of the greatest ways we can help America regain the great power it once had is by electing a leader who can help us solve some of the financial issues we face, specifically welfare.

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is that person. Regarding the current welfare problem he stated, ““Fundamentally, this is a debate about the best way to help someone lead a fulfilling life. We know that the best system isn’t about a handout but a hand up. ” –Source: press release on welfare reform (July 2005) “People want a chance to work so they can build self-sustaining lives instead of relying on a welfare check that will keep them trapped in poverty. By providing support services and incentives where necessary, we want to give welfare recipients the opportunity to achieve independent and fulfilling lives.

” –Source: press release on welfare reform (January 2005) We must not allow people to abuse the welfare system. We need to establish and follow strict guidelines and laws for receiving welfare. We must also develop a system to help people get off of the program and stop abusing the system. Mitt Romney has offered a full-fledged detailed economic plan when he announced a 59-point job and economic proposal during a speech at the McCandless International Trucks dealership in Nevada, Las Vegas on September 6, 2011.

Called ‘Day One, Job One’, the plan’s main objective would be to “restore America to the path of robust economic growth necessary to create jobs. “. If elected, Romney pledged to initiate 10 major actions on the first day of his presidency, consisting of five Bills and 5 Executive Orders, which are 5 Bills For Day One • The American Competitiveness Act Reduces the corporate income tax rate to 25% • The Open Markets Act Implements Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea • The Domestic Energy Act Directs the Department of the Interior to undertake a comprehensive energy review • The Retraining Reform Act.

Consolidates federal retraining programs and return these programs to the states • The Down Payment on Fiscal Sanity Act Immediately cuts non-security discretionary spending by 5 percent ($20 billion) 5 Executive Orders For Day One An Order to Pave the Way to End Obamacare • Secretary of Health and Human Services to return the maximum possible authority to the states An Order to Cut Red Tape • All agencies to initiate the elimination of Obama-era regulations that burden the economy or job creation An Order to Boost Domestic Energy Production.