JonathanGuevaraDecember15, 2017ASSIGNMENT#4: Final paperWelfare, Rights, Stigmatization,and Persistent Inequality in the United StatesUniversityof PennsylvaniaIntroduction Welfare is a major topic ofdiscussion in poverty research in the United States today. It is important tounderstand the relationship between welfare, public assistance, and other termssuch as poverty, dependency, etc., and how these relationships have changed overtime. The New Deal was the first wide-scalefederal effort to alleviate poverty and provide a safety net to the poor. Beforethe New Deal, poverty alleviation efforts were local and charity-based.However, the Great Depression and its disastrous effects incentivized theUnited States to help the poor in order to prevent an economic crisis, andpossibly a revolution.
For capitalism to survive, the United States needed tofind a way to get the poor back into the economy. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s newdeal focused on efforts that would get the economy and the workforce back intoshape.
This marked the beginning of the national welfare state (Katz 2001). In 1996, Democrat President Clinton”ended welfare as we know it.” It gave most of the control of welfare over tothe states and reduced federal responsibility over welfare distribution.Although welfare was intended to help the poor and many other protection rightsfor children were passed during the same time, welfare does not do anything toalleviate inequality in the United States. MethodsInterestI became interested in welfare and publicassistance as it became a topic of debate in a lot of my courses at Penn.Quickly, I started realizing the stigma behind being “dependent” on publicassistance.
This was new to me as I never saw public assistance as something todepend on forever but something that helped me survive while I got my familyout of poverty. I was interested in the broad ideologies regarding welfare. Iwas also interested on my individualistic perspective on welfare versus what Iwould find in elite scholarship regarding poverty. The purpose of this paper is tointroduce the reader to welfare, public assistance, and their implications inthe current political climate. This paper uses literature to analyze therelationship between public assistance and other terms that have derived fromit and how it affects the people it is meant to help. It will describe therelationships between public assistance, universal and selective programs, thedeserving and undeserving, stigma, and the poor. It also allows us to wonder:What is the actual purpose of welfare? Does it do anything to alleviatestructural inequalities?PublicAssistance Public Assistance refers to servicessupported by federal funds.
This includes but is not limited to Medicare,Medicaid, Social Security Income, Cash Assistance, and Food Stamps. Many ofthese programs came into existence during times in which the United States struggledeconomically such as The Great Depression and other recessions. Welfare orpublic assistance serves as a safety net from an economic crisis. Many of theseprograms have eligibility criteria. Some are considered universal and someselective. Universalvs.
Selective ProgramsUniversal programs and services donot have means-testing while selective services and programs do. Examples ofselective services in the United States are food stamps, cash assistance, andMedicaid because they are distributed to clients after means-testing provesthem eligible. Examples of universal programs in the United States are SocialSecurity benefits, and Medicare. The universal versus selective debate is acurrent debate in the social welfare field because some argue that differentstructured programs may provide less incentive to work, stigmatization, andother disadvantages. This debate has created a division between those who”deserve” aid and those who are “undeserving.
“Deservingvs. UndeservingThe idea of being deserving orundeserving of aid has changed over time. In Colonial society, one wasundeserving of aid because one was an outsider.
Later, the voluntary charitymovement labeled the poor as undeserving because they lacked the neededmorality. Today, some argue that aiding the poor increases rather than helpssuffering. Others argue that able-bodied people are undeserving of aid whiledependent people are deserving of aid which has led to the increasedmeans-testing of individuals in social programs. This is a vital component ofsocial welfare because it is the start of the idea that only some are eligiblefor welfare and that only those people deserve it.
JustifyingDependencyDependency today means beingdependent on someone else. When you claim someone as your dependent on a taxreturn, you are claiming that you pay for the majority of that person’sexpenses. It means that the person cannot live without your assistance.Independent, on the contrast, means you can handle your own life. Our societyhas taught us that it is better to be independent as you do not need anyoneelse to live well. Dependents tend to be children, disabled persons, or elderlypersons.
As a result, it has become stigmatized to be dependent on anyone ifone is able-bodied. This is partly a result of the American “pull yourself upby the bootstraps” ideology. Being dependent on the government has beenstigmatized and scholars have argued that by implementing welfare, the UnitedStates allowed people to rationally choose welfare over working. Neoliberalism,or the idea of using the markets to alleviate social problems, is what ledPresident Clinton’s “end to welfare,” and the increased means-testing thatoccurs to test eligibility.
The boundaries for who is justified to be adependent have been drawn. This includes children, disabled persons, theelderly, and a few others. When a person does not fit in any of thesecategories, it is not “correct,” according to society’s standards, to bedependent because one should be able to make a living by working (Fraser andGordon 1994). Stigmatization When a person receives publicassistance or welfare that is means-tested they are stigmatized because theyare dependent on the government and society looks down on that. People onwelfare that is means-tested are labeled a lazy. Welfare has stigmatizedcertain populations by creating a system where only some are justified to bedependent and others are not. As a result, society and welfare have ignoredstructural inequalities and have failed to truly help the poor (O’Connor 2001).
Conclusion The 19th century was atime period when protection rights for children, juveniles, women, minorities,the elderly, prisoners, and the mentally ill were regulated. It was a timeperiod when many civil rights were passed. However, the welfare state’sintention to help the poor never targeted fundamental issues in our societythat traced back to slavery and oppression.
In its effort to help the poor, theUnited States has completely disregarded many structural forces that play arole in the cycle of poverty. The effects of so many years of slavery will notbe cleansed by initiatives that assume everyone is on the same starting level. Thisessay aims to combine different research analyzing poverty knowledge, welfare,dependency, and stigma over time in order to look at the broad picture of wherethe United States really stands in alleviating oppressed populations. ReferencesFraser,N. & Gordon, L. (1994). “A Genealogy of Dependency: Tracing a Key Word ofthe U.
S. Welfare State.” Signs: Journalof Women in Culture and Society 19(2): 309-336.Katz,M. (2001).
The price of citizenship:redefining the American welfare state. New York: Henry Holt and Company. Chapter 1 – The American WelfareStateyO’Connor,A. (2001).
Poverty Knowledge: SocialScience, Social Policy, and the Poor in Twentieth-centuryU.S. History (Politics and society in twentieth-century America). Princeton University Press.
Stern,M. J., & Axinn, J.
(2017). Socialwelfare: A history of the American response to need. New York: Pearson Education, Inc.