America is the richest country on earth with the largest economy. The American government is well known around the world for taking good care of its own people, in terms of social welfare and socio-economic empowerment.
Most Americans, even those who are on welfare or live below the poverty level are still far better off compared to those in many other countries. However, in continuing to provide unrestricted welfare to some citizens, the government has been handicapping some of the welfare recipients by continuing to provide them with all their necessities without ever trying to help them improve their skills in order to find jobs in the future.
In achieving these goals of caring for its people, the U.S. federal government has instituted many programs designed to implement policies to achieve the highest well-being for every legal resident. The U.S. Welfare system is one of the best social programs in the U.S. designed to provide the necessities for those who are unable to work and have income to support their well-being.
The U.S. Social Welfare system was first introduced after the Great Depression in the 1930’s. The U.S. Social Security Administration website states that beginning in 1932, the Federal Government first made loans, then grants, to States to pay for direct relief and work relief. After that, special Federal emergency relief and public works programs were started. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed to Congress economic security legislation embodying the recommendations of a specially created Committee on Economic Security. There followed the passage of the Social Security Act, signed into law August 14, 1935.
The current Welfare program provides necessary food coupons, known as food stamps, and housing assistance, known as Section 8 programs, for low income families and those who are unable to earn a living because of health related issues, as well as monthly cash stipend to some recipients.
Because of the current welfare system which most observers believe has loopholes, there have been talks about reforming the welfare system for many years. In 1997 President Clinton took the initial step in reforming the welfare system with his initiatives of a Welfare-to-Work program. The Welfare-to-Work program was specifically designed to help provide welfare recipients with the needed recourses, training and skills, so that they may get jobs in the future and not continue to solely rely on the federal welfare system. In doing so, the program will help more welfare recipients to return to the workforce.
According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Welfare-to-Work program was tasked to encourage states to provide certain logistical support such as funding for transportation, vocational training, child care, and substance abuse treatment assistance for welfare recipients. However, many states have complained that they could not meet some of the requirements such as providing transportation and child care. Due to logistical and political reasons, the program abruptly ended in September 2004.
Some applauded the program while many thought that the program was designed to force people to work. In 2003, O’Neil of the New York Post wrote that politicians from both left and right perceive the Welfare to Work program as a success beyond expectations, but yet the program is nonetheless under political siege that requires it to reauthorize its basic component and it is now a year overdue and seems like it may never pass through Capitol Hill politics. In this article, O’Neil simply characterizes how some politicians from both left and right may say one thing, just to score some political points for future re-election purposes, but fail to fulfill their obligations and do the opposite.
President Clinton’s goal and purpose were to reform the Welfare system in order to better serve its purpose. He reinforced his rigorous commitment to provide welfare recipients with opportunities of attaining educational training and development that further help improve their knowledge and necessary skills in finding better paying jobs in the future and that help rid them from continually receiving welfare assistance.
However, when Bush came in the office in 2000, he had his own agendas such as the No Child Left Behind program, but not to make sure that the Welfare-to-Work program survives the political hurdle. It was also just a few months of him in office when the U.S. was hit by the act of terrorism in September 2001, and thereafter the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq followed in October 2001 and March 2003 respectively.
Thus, maintaining and continuing to fund certain programs such as the Welfare-to-Work program might not have been a priority for the U.S. government during these years of war on terror and the recession. The U.S. economy has been slowing down since the early part of 2000, and up to now, in the year 2008, the economy has really never recovered to the point where the government may want to include certain programs such as the Welfare-to-Work system in its monstrous budget to fight and combat terrorism.
The Welfare-to-Work program was designed to be a solution to the welfare system and to provide constructive benefits to the recipients. However, President Clinton’s plan collapsed because he and his advisors failed to study it more on how to make it work better, given its complex task and States’ requirement. An addition to the cause of its collapse, the House was mostly controlled by the Republican lawmakers who severely opposed and voted against most of President Clinton’s proposals.
Thus not having provided all the needed tools, recourses and funding might have helped to contribute to the collapse of the program. If it was well studied and developed, then it could have lasted for a long time to help provide better incentives to help some people and families from solely relying on the federal government welfare subsidies.
In the article “Welfare-to-Work Transition” by Jacqueline J. Kirby, which appeared in The Ohio State University’s Human Development and Family Life Bulletin, she describes the history and the after effects of the Welfare to Work program and used data and information from various sources to compare her argument such as the concern related to the inadequate federal regulations mandating matches in state funding, the lack of specific eligibility requirement for each state around the country, and no stated guidelines and specific requirements about how or where the money will be spent in each state. She depicts a program, which was implemented for a good intention but lack proper execution.
The current Welfare program needs to have a complete overhaul, not only to provide better programs for those who really need it, but to help close some of the loopholes currently ravaging the program. Some people, like Stephanie and her friend Maria, who currently work at the Columbus Port International Airport, have a familiar scheme they use to cheat the system.
Stephanie and Maria work as customer service representatives for an airline, where they make $9 an hour. They both work full-time and put in lots of overtime hours, but since each has three kids, according to their household income, they are qualified to receive welfare assistance for as long as they earn a certain salary amount per month which is below the poverty level. Therefore, each month, they report to the welfare office that they only work part-time. They don’t tell the exact number of hours they each have worked, and welfare equates their hours with cash assistance to make up what they didn’t earn at work. In doing so, they keep getting money from the welfare office plus their real monthly earnings.
Other examples of those who might be exploiting the welfare system are the cases of Angela, Jackie, John, and Helen.
Jackie is a 45 year old woman, who has two grown daughters. Her husband passed away when the kids were 19 and 17. She lives in a nice apartment in a Section 8 division where she doesn’t pay any rent. She never graduated from high school and only has had a few odd jobs on and off, in her whole life. If you go in her apartment, you will not think that she is a welfare recipient, because she has a large TV screen, DVDs for almost every movie ever released, and she smokes about two packs of cigarettes every day. Jackie is completely healthy and is capable of finding and having gainful employment, but because she chose not to, she doesn’t have to work because she relies on her welfare benefits.
Helen is a 29 year old young lady and has 6 kids. Her oldest daughter is 13 years old and each child has a different father. Helen doesn’t have to work and she probably never will, because she receives welfare. For each child, she receives a certain amount of money each month, and she too lives in section 8 housing where she doesn’t have to pay rent.
John is 52 years old and has 5 kids. Each of his children live with their different mothers. For years, he has been in and out of jail for selling drugs, and now lives with his girlfriend in a one-bedroom apartment in section 8 housing, where they don’t have to pay rent for as long as they have no income. His girlfriend works, but she gets paid under the table and she doesn’t have to file her federal income tax, because of fear of losing their welfare benefits. John still sells drugs, and they have three different cars, except not one car is in their names, but in his brother’s name and his oldest daughter’s name.
Angela is a 46 year old lady, who has been legally deaf since she was in the 8th grade. She doesn’t have to work, never has, and probably never will, because she is legally disabled and therefore she receives federal welfare, which are housing, food and money each month.
As portrayed in the above examples, the current welfare system does not have the needed tools in place to help forcefully combat welfare fraud. It also handicaps and makes people to become lazy, because the longer they stay on welfare and don’t have to work, then the more they lose the will to ever look for a job. In addition, they may even forget any work they might have done when they were employed. These are the people who could be out there working, helping to contribute to the national economy, but they simply chose not to work and live off of welfare without having to ever worry about working and paying for rent, utilities and food.
There are a few federal programs that are well-managed and strictly designed to make it hard or almost impossible for anyone to cheat or take advantages of them. Programs such as the educational Pell grant and some states have programs such as unemployment benefits, which have some of the best controlling programs designed to measure and check qualifications for anyone who may apply for either.
The educational Pell grant has two prominent and strict rules – felony and time cap for completing the first undergraduate degree. Under these rules, when someone applies for the federal financial aid, in order to qualify for the Pell grant, the applicant must not have a drug felony on his or her record and must graduate for the first undergraduate degree within eight years. If one applies for the financial aid and has a drug felony on his or her record, then that applicant will not be qualified to receive Pell grant for his or her education. Also, if the financial aid recipient does not graduate with his or her first undergraduate degree within eight years, then after eight years, he or she will not be eligible to receive a Pell grant.
For unemployment, when someone has been laid off work for any reason other than quitting or resigning, when that person applies to claim unemployment benefits for every week, then he or she must provide complete details of him or her looking for work for each week claimed. If he or she fails to look for a job, then he or she is not eligible to claim unemployment for that week or any other weeks he or she has not looked for a job.
These two programs work fine and they have tools and resources in place that help prevent fraud and make it hard for anyone to continually receive the benefits. They encourage their recipients to make sure that they must follow and abide by their strict rules in order to be eligible for their benefits. However, the current welfare system does not have a limit of how long someone can continue to receive welfare benefits.
In some European countries such as Denmark, the government provides their citizens with government income subsidies, but they have an incentive program that encourages the citizens to work or do anything that may generate income for their households. In the U.S., it is different. For as long as one is unemployed and has a reasonable excuse to convince welfare officials, then he or she can perfectly and safely have access to government sponsored (section eight) housing without ever having to worry about paying rent.
Therefore, if the Welfare-to-Work program is reformed to equally and efficiently serve the needs of both the federal government, the states, and the welfare recipients, then it will help more welfare recipients to find jobs, which in turn will help them to become productive and that will help increase the GDP. A portion of the money spent in the program can be used towards other social programs.
Reforming the Welfare system has been a subject that has been discussed by many pundits over the years, but putting it into action yields little. Even our current presidential candidates, McCain, Clinton, and Obama rarely talk about it. But it is one of many issues that need immediate attention.
It poses no fair compliment to those who get up each morning going to work, just to help fund the welfare system for those who simply chose not to work, because they just do not want to work for as long as the welfare system finances their well-being.
In an article titled “Reforming welfare with work” Gueron decries how our country has been debating the question of how well to redesign the welfare system, especially the federally supported welfare Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, which is equipped and is tasked to provide them with cash assistance for single-female-parent households. Gueron questions whether the welfare program should be continued with focus on providing broad assistance or it should simply become a “reciprocal obligations” program, whereby recipients must be required to find work within a given time period.
There are many Jackies, Johns, and Helens in most neighborhoods around the U.S. Let’s reform the Welfare system in order to help rehabilitate and empower them, give them the necessary training and skills and put them to work in order for us to further strengthen our economy.
Welfare-to-Work (1996, June). U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved Wednesday, April 9, 2008, from http://www.opm.gov/wtw/index.htm.
O’Neill, J. (2003, April 14). Welfare Reform Works. New York Post, pp.A11, A14.
Kirby, J. J. (1995). Welfare-to-Work Transition. The Ohio State University’s Human Development and Family Life Bulletin, Volume 1, Issue 4, Winter 1995. Retrieved Wednesday, April 9, 2008, from http://fcs.osu.edu/hdfs/bulletin/volume.1/bull14a.htm.
Gueron, J. M. (1987). Reforming welfare with work. New York: Ford Foundation.