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Why The Way We Helped, Needed Help

2798 words - 11 pages

It’s in the first sentence of the United States Constitution; listed as one of the six fundamental purposes of the government of the United States, “to…promote the general welfare.” Considering its location in the Preamble, one might imagine that the Founding Fathers held this idea to a very high standard. While the meaning of the Constitution is constantly debated, the notion of where the government stops providing and personal accountability must be had is the focus of this paper. During the Roosevelt era, America saw the birth of what some call the “welfare state” with the government taking a vastly greater role in providing the general welfare, leading to an ever increasing level of dependency. It wasn’t until 1996 that serious welfare reform took place and in the years following we witnessed a sharp decline in both dependence and child poverty. It is my belief that these reforms were extremely beneficial, but additional action and continued attention for years to come is required to maintain the progress that has been made and to fulfill the goals of welfare reform.
First, I’ll give a brief history showing the emergence of the welfare state. As stated earlier, the idea of welfare appears very early in this nation’s history. That word is used twice in the Constitution, once in the Preamble, and again in Article 1 Section 8 referring to Congress’ power to levy taxes in order to promote the general welfare. Now the Founding Fathers had a different idea as to what this meant but this is a possible source for justifying public welfare. America back then was a nation with a strong belief in the idea that anyone could come to this country and, with hard work and determination, be prosperous. It wasn’t until the Progressive Movement in the early 20th century where a shift in thinking took place stressing the need for more government intervention. The most significant move was FDR’s New Deal; more specifically the Social Security Act of 1935 which established the framework for the United States welfare system. In the following decades, America saw more and more people being added to the rolls and with it, an increase in costs and dependency. In the 1980’s, President Reagan sought reforms similar to those that were passed while he was governor of California but was unable to accomplish this. Then, in 1996, President Clinton and his Republican Congress signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, changing welfare in America forever.
There are many different components of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), each equally responsible for its success. First, it instituted Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) replacing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program which had been in effect since 1935. According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ summary of the bill, one of PRWORA’s main goals was to end welfare as an entitlement program...

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