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Faulty Welfare System

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Recognizing a Faulty Welfare System by Educating the People of Our Society

As a society we are lacking the education needed to fully understand the welfare system. This naivety about the welfare system has caused it to become the least effective assistance program designed for the people of our society. Instead we have found it easier to generalize that the system is only for people who are lazy and choose not to work and therefore causing us to neglect the system. According to an article written by Elizabeth Anderson, “Survey research shows that most welfare recipients endorse the work ethic.” (2004) I know what you are thinking, how does a valued work ethic play a role if a person chooses not to work? The response is that everyone has to have a starting point. If we can believe that the majority of welfare recipients are willing to work then together we can review the current welfare system and make the changes that will benefit all the parties involved. If we can sift through the flaws and support the need for assistance we can effectively create a system that will produce results and potentially lessen dependency. So where do we begin? It all starts with an education. To support a need you first have to understand it. The goal of the welfare system is to provide cash assistance for low-income families with dependent children. The benefits a family can receive were outlined in 1996 when a law was created to design a new welfare program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). With the passing of this new law specific guidelines were set in place that restricted the eligibility of recipients. The guidelines are; limit the provision of cash assistance to families with a dependent child or pregnant woman, impose a 60 month lifetime limit on the receipt of benefits, it requires that a family’s benefit be reduced if parents do not cooperate with child support officials, denies assistance to individuals convicted of a drug felony, denies assistance (to a period of 10 years) to any person convicted of fraud in the receipt of benefits in two or more states, denies assistance to teen parents not living in an adult supervised setting and denies assistance to non-citizens who arrived in the United States after 1996. Although this new law clarified who the expected beneficiaries were it did not address the flaws of the previous system. So in the same year (1996) The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act for welfare reform was legislated. This bill contains strong work requirements, a performance bonus to reward states for moving welfare recipients into jobs, state maintenance of effort requirements, comprehensive child support enforcement, and supports for families moving from welfare to work—including increased funding for child care and guaranteed medical coverage. (The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, ¶ 1)
This act placed the main responsibility of welfare reform in the states hands. This task was eagerly accepted as the states had been actively trying new methods even before President Clinton signed the bill. Some may argue that all of the information provided here is reasonable. Without the details it seems that the reform that has taken place thus far would inevitably lead to a positive outcome. Has it? I defend the position that The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act was not a step towards reform instead it was useless plan that only leads to more problems. With that I move on with the next step in our welfare lesson. As with most new and untested systems there are defects with the reform plans put in place. For the most part these flaws have received little or no attention from Congress. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act resulted in a divided society by allowing the possibility of 50 different ways to modify and utilize the welfare system. Although each state is required to operate on the foundation of the welfare system provided by the federal government it is agreed that they can enforce modifications as defined by the individual state. For example, according to Brian Kennedy in his article The Welfare Paradise, Wisconsin has demonstrated the success of real reform: supplying cash benefits only in direct proportion to the number of hours recipient’s show up for work. Those who do not show up at all get no cash or food stamps at all. However, in California even the very worst welfare scofflaws will have their checks reduced, on average, by only $109 a month-that is, less than 25 percent. (1997)
This clearly shows that the state you live in determines the amount of assistance you will receive if needed. How can we promote a welfare-to-work system if we allow recipients different privileges based on where they live? We must realize that the current message we are delivering is that those who are headed towards financially desperate times should quickly move to California where they will receive higher wages for less work. As exaggerated as this may sound it isn’t far from reality. Consider for a moment the number of single mothers in our communities. With the high percentage of single mothers in this country it is reasonable to assume that you may even have a friend or family member in this situation. Think about the single mother that is close to you and consider if you would want for someone to be provided with more assistance than the person you cherish. Of course the response is no. It is unfair to give more to one than the other if they are both equally in need. It seems harsh that these needy members of society are almost penalized by the state in which they live. Before you suggest that a friend or family member move you must understand that they could be faced with yet another welfare system defect. In an article written by Susan McGregor she interviews Professor Harry Holzer. Harry Holzer was consulted for a GAO (Government Accountability Office) report regarding welfare reform and in McGregor’s article he states that “…in cases where the welfare-to-work programs succeed in increasing parents’ employment and earning levels, the study notes, household incomes rarely rise.” (McGregor, 2006) The cause of the stagnant income is explained “…that the type of employers that welfare recipients are placed with often don’t offer higher-wage positions for workers to move into.” (McGregor, 2006) Under these working conditions parents are not only unable to become financially stable but their eagerness to participate in a working society has also made them “…ineligible for programs like Medicad and Food Stamps.” Simply put, a welfare recipient is asked to become financially independent but they placed into dead end jobs that will never pay enough for independence. Does this seem like a functional program? If you answered, no but unsure where we should begin with reform I will continue my welfare lesson by providing examples of suggested reform. “First, steps should be taken in US to ensure that all workers have a living wage, including health insurance.” (Anderson, 2004) This is a modest request as this should be expected by every employee in this country. If the goal of the welfare system is to provide assistance to families than it should include a health insurance for the dependents that are needed to qualify. In addition, I agree with Anderson that this first step should not be implemented through means-tested welfare. “It could be achieved through less stigmatizing broader-based programmes, such as universal health insurance, a modest increase in the minimum wage, and a more generous Earned Income Tax Credit.” (Anderson, 2004) The next step would be to assume that all of our workers have dependent-care responsibilities. “This could be done by implementing worker-based social insurance entitlements to include paid dependent-care leave, as is the norm in many European welfare states.” (Anderson, 2004) Although it may be hard to understand the need for step two it is being suggested so that workers no longer have to make choice between their families and their employment. I am sure we’ve all ran into the situation where a school nurse has called and asked for you to pick up your sick child. Or maybe you’ve had to leave work because there was a family emergency that needed your attention. As a good worker and citizen we should not be punished for the responsibilities we have. If there is an option to have dependent-care leave then this allows an employee to use the time needed to handle family needs and ensures that the employer is able to keep track of time out of the work place. The third suggestion is democratic equality. “It demands that citizens have a fair chance to compete and to participate as equals.” (Anderson, 2004) What exactly does this mean? It means that just because a person who is capable of more and is currently responsible for a more modest job, like a janitor, that we should not expect them to hold this position for their entire career. “Thus, a just welfare system should provide for people who have proven themselves, either by prior work or education attainment, to obtain publicly subsidized training and education to move out of menial jobs.” (Anderson, 2004) It is sensible to request that a person who has shown great effort be rewarded with a promotion or a chance to move forward in their career. As a participant in the work force I demand that I be recognized for my achievements and expect to rewarded for my efforts. Why should it be any different for welfare recipients? If we don’t allow them the means to move forward and expect them to forever be responsible for these menial tasks how will they achieve financial independence? These suggestions represent a true welfare-to-work program. By utilizing these remarkable ideas we will be able to lessen dependency on our welfare system. This concludes your welfare system lesson. With the information provided here I hope that you were able to understand our current welfare system. With your new knowledge, I trust that you no longer see the program as a lazy mans source of income. Instead you should view it as a program designed for those in need. It is a program that it is in unfortunate state of disrepair. Acknowledge that realistically this is a world that belongs to all of us not just the rich or the poor. In order to maintain a civil society we must accept responsibility for those who need assistance and at that same time hold them accountable for their actions. As I’ve shown this can begin with a system designed to support those in need while training them to be independent. The final outcome is an efficient welfare system and a lower percentage of financially dependent individuals.

References Anderson, E. (2004). Welfare, Work Requirements, and Dependent-Care. Society for Applied Philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. Kennedy, B. (1997, November 24). The Welfare Paradise. National Review, 49(22), 30-32. Retrieved February 19, 2006, from EBSCOhost database. McGregor, S. (2006, January 12-18). Cash assistance is down, by incomes are stagnant. The New York Amsterdam News, pp. 4. Human Health and Human Services. (2006) The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. The Finance Project. (2005). Welfare Eligibility and Benefits. Washington, D.C.:Author.…...

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