The Poverty of Welfare Reform

Joel F. Handler, Author
Joel F. Handler, Author Yale University Press $20 (192p) ISBN 978-0-300-06481-0
Hardcover - 177 pages - 978-0-300-06480-3
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With Newt, Bob, Bill, Phil and just about everybody else fretting over the welfare system and the money it costs and the work ethic it undermines and the moral turpitude it encourages, UCLA law professor Handler provides a more sober consideration. He refutes a number of myths: that welfare drains the public coffers; that welfare recipients don't want to work (many do work to supplement payments that are below the poverty line); that, once on welfare, people are perpetually on welfare. Not all of Handler's assertions are convincing, as when he notes that ``nonwelfare mothers work by choice and can choose to be man-dependent,'' adding just three pages later that ``most two-parent families have been able to maintain their relative position only if both parents work.'' His most helpful contribution is to re-orient the discussion away from the current deprecation of welfare recipients. This he does in part by recalling the long historical division between the deserving and undeserving poor (the Roosevelt administration fought hard to exclude the poor aged from Social Security to protect the program from the stigma of welfare) and by providing very brief overview of programs like Earned Income Tax Credit, health care, minimum-wage increases and child support that attack poverty, not the poor. (Oct.)
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