5 president reagan and limits to the great society 7

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5. President Reagan and Limits to The Great Society
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7 ISS 225 Power, Authority, Exchange Poverty By the time Reagan was president public support for some welfare programs was eroding. It was possible for Republicans to make some headway into the Democratic Party’s constituency by taking a more restrictive stand on social welfare. Defense spending and entitlement programs had increased government deficits and threatened to stifle economic growth. The working class and middle and upper income groups were seeing their incomes threatened and were looking for places to cut government expenditures. President Reagan chose to target poverty programs as one major way to cut government spending. Several problems were seen with welfare: 1. Cost may be exaggerated, but still high often especially burdensome for the states. 2. Administration of the programs is complex involving different agencies and levels of government (fragmentation). This increases cost and chance of fraud. 3. Adequacy Public assistance programs have proven to be inadequate in meeting the needs of many of the poor. 4. Punitive Features Public assistance carries a degree of degradation for the recipient. 5. Unfairness Poor persons with the same degree of need often do not receive the same degree of aid, the most needy often are not the first to receive aid, and very high benefits go to some poor while little or none go to the near poor. 6. Work Disincentives Public assistance discourages people from seeking employment. 7. Children The number of children in poverty has been growing rapidly, indicating the failure of public assistance to help this group. 6. President Clinton and Welfare Reform By the time Clinton became president, welfare reform was high on the national agenda. Conservatives and liberals saw the issue differently. Conservatives worked off of certain principles that included:
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8 ISS 225 Power, Authority, Exchange Poverty 1. Too much is spent on the poor. 2. States can spend the money better. 3. Welfare should not be a way of life. 4. Recipients should work for benefits. 5. Citizens should get help first. 6. Deadbeat parents must pay. 7. Out-of-wedlock births have to be discouraged. (deny money to unwed teenagers) 8. Some poor people do not deserve help (drug addicts and alcoholics). Traditionally liberals tended to favor a national minimum benefit by standardizing public assistance eligibility and expanding various programs such as EITC, public service jobs, housing, nutrition, medical care, and job training programs. These all reflect environmental factors as causes of poverty. However, even Democrats including Clinton realized the need for welfare reform. Most, however, opposed ending welfare as an entitlement, were critical of shifting welfare responsibility to the states, were opposed to denying welfare to certain groups (teenage mothers and legal non-citizens), and favored child care for working welfare recipients. 7. Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 After considerable negotiation and politics, President Clinton did sign a welfare reform act in August 1996. This bill effectively canceled the 60-year federal guarantee to support the poor.
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