Friends, Today I examine the morally and politically complex question of who deserves public assistance. Just click below, and you’re in the class. I reach back into history — to the 14th century, as well as to the last 40 years in America — to see how this question has been answered differently over time. And contrast the dominant view since the Clinton administration with a remarkable experiment America conducted between July and December 2021.
Among the most neglected poor are the mentally ill who are typically automatically denied disability coverage by Social Security and do not have the resources or knowledge to file an appeal using an attorney. Disability is normally only provided by Social Security upon attorney appeal, despite the obvious disability of the applicant. This verges on criminal abuse by a federal government agency.
Canada tried out a minimum income strategy in 1975 in my hometown of Dauphin Manitoba. It lasted 4 years until a government change and it was shut down. It reduced poverty, unemployment, and improved health in the population of about 9500 people. It was seen as too socialist at the time, but the analysis of the data indicates only positive results in the overall cost of social services.
We all get public assistance. I remember when my 3rd daughter said she got all she had done by herself. I reminded her of the room, bed, house, food, support she got from us but also the public schools, roads, activities, and such. When a businesswoman or businessman say they did it all they used roads, flew safely, received subsidies, and more. So when we talk of assistance to the poor it is a small slice of the pie. They need help especially the working poor. The rich get subsidies already through all the government provides, tax breaks the republicans provide, and courts that rule in their favor. They get more than I do! Don’t begrudge the support as a safety net for the poor. The rich still get mire but with all their crying you would not think so.
During my time as an Administrative Assistant or secretary there were times I did the same job as the men. However many years ago women were not paid a living wage therefore they, in their old age,get less social security which in today's world is not a living wage.
How can we have the kind of society we want when we have 800 military bases abroad and a huge military budget, Democrats have failed to see the connection between social well at home and our military build-up overseas. Let's bring a sane foreign policy back into the discussion
Thank you for sharing your class with us.
Loved this class, thank you. I want to add some comments to the 'welfare' section. After I retired from teaching science I worked for a California County Department of Social Services from 1989 until 2003. I experienced the transition from AFDC to TANF. There were multiple problems. First the public concept of 'welfare' recipients as given by Ronald Reagan are both false and incomplete. TANF did not take this disparity into consideration . As you so aptly pointed out, Professor Reich, the majority of recipients are white. This is especially so in more rural areas as opposed to urban areas such as Los Angeles County. A few recipients have had a recent negative major change in their lives, such as death of one of the parents, or divorce or desertion. Next, to receive either AFDC or TANF there must be at least one child under the age of 18 in the family. Most families on assistance have two children, In my personal caseload I had a few with one child, most with two, three or four and one with 16 children. Those with better educations were on assistance no more than 2 years, usually less, they just needed help to get over a major change, get some assistance in finding a job and then became self supporting. I had two cases where the only parent was a father, most were households headed by a mother and a handful had two parents. Another problem not recognized is several of the parents were handicapped. Some were so intellectually deficient, as to be unemployable. Some had severe illnesses - cancer, multiple sclerosis, loss of one or more limbs.
With the advent of TANF, only 10% of our total Department caseload could be excused from the five year lifetime limit. In our County we had two DSS offices, several miles apart, Between the two offices, closer to 20% of the entire caseload were unemployable.
Next, the work requirement. As I said I had been a teacher for several years and had taught career training during that time. In smaller Counties, the majority of Eligibility Workers had only high school education. Employment and Training Workers were promoted from this base. (including me) So, when they moved to Employment and Training, they received higher salaries and smaller caseloads,. But their idea was to get the recipients off welfare and into a job as quickly as possible. They pushed their clients into fast food part time work. Are you aware that your tax dollars subsidize the fast food industry? Well they do. Minimum wage is insufficient in itself, and more so if the employee works less than 32 hours per week, which is routine in fast food industry. A mother with two young children cannot even pay their rent on that amount of money. Result: they make too much money for TANF, but still qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Allowance Program (SNAP) which replaced food stamps. And they also qualify for Medicaid. [MediCal in California] Hence YOU are subsidizing fast food, Amazon, Walmart, and all retail industries that pay minimum wage and reduced hours (less than 32 per week) 32 is the magic number of hours where employers are not required to pay any benefits - no sick leave, no vacation, no health insurance.
And the same socio/economic sub-section of our populace, being the ones who rail against the notion of assisting those most in need, happen to be the ones hip deep in the fresh wave of Bible thumping hypocrites infecting our nation as of late. To paraphrase, " Lo as you do to the least of my brethren, so do you do unto me ." Like I said, HYPOCRITES. JC is said to hate hypocrites.
Republican (what passes for) thinking: It's too difficult to identify "deserving poor," so let's just give everything to the very deserving rich.
You left our teachers….not a living wage for a one-income family.
Robert, this is a difficult issue to conquer. As many factors are involved with it. Issues like Unemployment, Physical Disabilities, Mental Illness, Immigration, Drug Addiction, Bankruptcy, Obesity, to name some, specifically. Who decides who should address these social calamities & where should the resources come from, directly? Should the Federal Government, Local, State, or Municipalities, or an independent entity manage these processes? It's should NOT be taken from the Middle Class!! Must be taken directly from those that have an overabundance of wealth. Those that manipulate their wealth with greed for their own benefit. Corporations, Banks, Wall Street, top 1% class! Who have the necessary resources to bankroll lobbyists in Washington to do their glutton bidding. It's these entities that regularly pillage for their own benefit and always want more. This must stop, Inequality has crippled the Middle Class. While those listed entities continue to prosper but are never satisfied nor willing to share.
What is "poor"? In time, space, being? David Graeber suggested we ask the wrong questions. Marianna Mazzucato wrote a book with a title that poses "The Value of Everything". Oxford economist Kate Raworth spends her time with "Donut Economics", Jason Hickel on degrowth econ, Thomas Piketty on "Socialism Now" after years like Elizabeth Warren as a capitalist. My current favorites for "poor" are Clara Mattei "How Economists Invented Austerity and Paved the Way to Fascism" and Gary Gerstle "William Clinton, the Fabulous Failure" and then there is Bill McKibben on Obama's Oral History that he never felt the president thought deeply. Paul Krugman has said the exact same thing about Bernie Sanders. Is David Graber on what is "poor"? I live on ~$1487/mo. Since I literally cannot rent anywhere my family, I set out in 2009 on the heels of a debilitating infectious disease to write about the gravity of climate change in an effort to wake up my dear country. Backpacking from the Canyon to Alaska, lecturing on law and science in Beijing's finest universities, spending several years in France and UK national libraries. Not even close to success. And probably must end in a few months. Am I "poor"? No American and I mean no American will hire a civil rights environmental lawyer in the Golden Era of Neoliberalism. I might sue them. Am I "poor"? Heavens no. I have had purpose. As for those without housing, food, healthcare it is disgraceful for the country.
One thing I never see discussed is how aid to the poor actually subsidizes major corporations by allowing them to pay less than living wages to their employees who must then depend on the aid programs.
I knew poor, but was not on assistance. However my best friend growing up, his mom was. My buddy and his sister did not choose their situation but what help they got in the 50s 60s helped keep a home and food for them.
Whom ? .
_EVERYONE_ who can maintain a 'C' grade average .
I'm a Blue Collar guy who didn't finish high school, I wish I had but that's on me, no one else .
One of my foster boys is about to graduate high school and he can't sign his own name .
America has plenty of money, they give so much to the rich why not give some to the little guys so they can stop needing food stamps and all that ? .
Reagan loved the deserving poor, and he decided who was deserving.