Ending Welfare as We Know It

Ending Welfare as We Know It

by R. Kent Weaver

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Overview

Bill Clinton's first presidential term was a period of extraordinary change in policy toward low-income families. In 1993 Congress enacted a major expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income working families. In 1996 Congress passed and the president signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. This legislation abolished the sixty-year-old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program and replaced it with a block grant program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. It contained stiff new work requirements and limits on the length of time people could receive welfare benefits.Dramatic change in AFDC was also occurring piecemeal in the states during these years. States used waivers granted by the federal Department of Health and Human Services to experiment with a variety of welfare strategies, including denial of additional benefits for children born or conceived while a mother received AFDC, work requirements, and time limits on receipt of cash benefits. The pace of change at the state level accelerated after the 1996 federal welfare reform legislation gave states increased leeway to design their programs. Ending Welfare as We Know It analyzes how these changes in the AFDC program came about. In fourteen chapters, R. Kent Weaver addresses three sets of questions about the politics of welfare reform: the dismal history of comprehensive AFDC reform initiatives; the dramatic changes in the welfare reform agenda over the past thirty years; and the reasons why comprehensive welfare reform at the national level succeeded in 1996 after failing in 1995, in 1993–94, and on many previous occasions. Welfare reform raises issues of race, class, and sex that are as difficult and divisive as any in American politics. While broad social and political trends helped to create a historic opening for welfare reform in the late 1990s, dramatic legislation was not inevitable. The interaction of contextual factors with short-term political and policy calculations by President Clinton and congressional Republicans—along with the cascade of repositioning by other policymakers—turned "ending welfare as we know it" from political possibility into policy reality.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780815792475
Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
Publication date: 08/01/2000
Pages: 500
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.11(d)

About the Author

R. Kent Weaver is a senior fellow in Governmental Studies at the Brookings Institution.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1Introduction: Welfare Reform as a Political and Policy Problem1
Chapter 2Welfare as We Knew It9
Poverty and American Families10
The Structure of American Family Support Policies11
Chapter 3Explaining Welfare Politics: Context, Choices, Traps23
Contextual Forces in Welfare Reform Politics24
Analyzing Political Choice29
Policymaking Traps in Reforming Welfare43
Stasis and Change in Welfare Policy52
Chapter 4The Past as Prologue54
Growing Controversy over AFDC55
Nixon's Family Assistance Plan57
Carter Tries Again60
The Budget Blitzkrieg of 198166
Reagan's New Federalism68
The Family Support Act of 198870
Policy Counterpoint: Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit78
Patterns and Lessons in Welfare Reform84
Avoiding the Welfare Reform Policymaking Traps91
Conclusions100
Chapter 5Welfare Reform Agendas in the 1990s102
Getting Politicians' Attention: The Problem Stream103
Welfare Reform Options: The Policy Stream106
Raising the Stakes: The Political Stream126
Conclusions133
Chapter 6The Role of Policy Research135
The Boom in Policy Research140
Uses and Limitations of Policy Research143
Issues Surrounding Program Entry145
From Program Exit to Self-Sufficiency153
Conclusions: Policy Research and the Politics of Dissensus160
Chapter 7Public Opinion on Welfare Reform169
Public Opinion and Policy Change169
The Importance of Elite Priming171
Analyzing Opinion on Welfare172
Causes of Poverty and Welfare Dependence175
Attitudes toward Specific Reforms177
Whom Do You Trust?186
Conclusions and Implications190
Chapter 8Interest Groups and Welfare Reform196
Child Advocacy Groups199
The Democratic Leadership Council206
Intergovernmental Groups207
Social Conservative Groups211
Conclusions: The Ambiguous Impact of Groups217
Chapter 9Not Ending Welfare as We Know It: The Clinton Administration's Welfare Reform Initiative222
The Political Environment for Welfare Reform223
A Crowded Agenda228
Policy Choice and the Politics of Formulation232
Coming to Closure237
The Clinton Administration Proposal242
The Political Feasibility of the Clinton Plan246
Conclusions248
Chapter 10A New Congress, a New Dynamic252
The Electoral Earthquake253
Initial Bids260
Evolving Bids: Seeking a Workable Compromise in the House274
Explaining the Republican Success in the House289
Chapter 11Stop and Go in the Senate294
Setting the Stage in the Senate295
Stop and Go301
A Fragile Republican Coalition303
Aftershocks313
Chapter 12Endgames and Aftershocks316
Bargaining Positions and Bargaining Rules317
Endgame One: The Budget Process and Initial Vetoes320
Endgame Two: The Senate Bill and Gubernatorial Intervention321
Endgame Three: Moving a Bill325
Provisions of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act328
Aftershocks335
Conclusions337
Chapter 13Gaining Ground? The New World of Welfare342
Declining Caseloads343
State Program Design344
Welfare Offices347
The Behavior of Welfare Recipients350
The Long-Term Prognosis352
Chapter 14Welfare Reform and the Dynamics of American Politics355
The Politics of Welfare Agenda Change355
The Political Barriers to Comprehensive Welfare Reform359
Enacting Welfare Reform, 1995-96364
The Centrality of Choice382
Notes387
Index465

What People are Saying About This

R. Shep Melnick

Nothing yet written on welfare reform can match the breadth, richness, or even-handedness of Weaver's analysis. He combines an encyclopedic knowledge of welfare policy with a subtle and convincing analysis of American politics. This is political science and policy analysis at its very best.
—( R. Shep Melnick, Boston College)

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