Obviously, these personal anecdotes cannot be generally applied to the entire poor population, most of whom are elderly or disabled. In fact, less than 3 percent of those receiving entitlement benefits are able bodied people who are not working.
The old style of "Welfare" no longer exists, except in a very limited sense. For instance, in New Mexico, it is called "General Assistance" and it pays only $240 per month, but requires that you work for 20 hours per week at some job assigned to the recipient by the city. Some states limit their general assistance by restricting it to a total of 5 years for the recipients entire lifetime. Minor children can receive up to $540 a month if their parents are sufficiently low income, but the parents themselves do not receive any assistance over and above the $240 a month recently mentioned. Recipients live below the poverty line. They survive in horrible conditions and often go to bed hungry at night.
The solution proposed by some critics of the poor is that all the social welfare programs should be abolished and that charitable giving should be left to the whims of individuals and churches.
There are so many gross errors in this way of thinking, that I hardly know where to start, so I have decided to start at the beginning, with the history of life before social security, before social welfare programs were even a glint in the eye of a kind society.
Many ancient civilizations practiced some form of “arranged” marriages to ensure the financial security of all the parties. Extended families were the norm, rather than the nuclear families of parents and children that is the standard of the developed world today. Until recently, ones elderly parents and/or aunts and uncles lived with you or one of your siblings until their death. Young women did not live alone, generally speaking, with the possible exception of prostitutes in some cultures. Family was of paramount importance, and family included a lot of people.
The Odd Fellows
Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks
Loyal Order of Moose
Fraternal Order of Eagles
Republi-Catholics will often talk about the principle of subsidiarity, first developed by Pope Pius XI, in which the government of any function should be accomplished in the most local arena as will accomplish that function in the best way. It is NOT a command that everything MUST be administered locally, but only that it should be if it can be done just as effectively at the local level as the national. History has proven that leaving the administration of poverty relief to the local level does not work and never has.
Furthermore, Pope Pius XI allowed for this in his Encyclical on the Reconstruction of the Social Order, saying that the rulers of the state should give chief consideration to the weak and the poor:
moreover, is to watch over the community
and its parts; but in protecting private indi-
viduals in their rights, chief consideration
Encyclical on Reconstruction of the Social Order
His Holiness Pope Pius XI
May 15, 1931
Raw Data Sources:
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Office of Management and Budget
U.S. Department of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Labor
U.S. Census Bureau
Social Security Administration
Epstein, Abraham, "Insecurity: A Challenge to America," Third Revised Edition, Harrison Smith and Robert Haas, 1936. A classic study of social insurance, with one of the first published critiques of the recently passed Social Security Act by a critic who believed the Act did not go far enough in addressing the need for social insurance programs.
Rubinow, I. M., "Social Insurance: With Special Reference to American Conditions," Henry Holt, 1913.
Rubinow, I. M., "The Quest for Security," Henry Holt, 1934. Rubinow's two books were the most influential on early thinking regarding social insurance. President Roosevelt, in particular, was an admirer of Rubinow's work.
Seager, Henry, "Social Insurance: A Program of Social Reform," Macmillan Co., 1910. Believed to be the first American work on social insurance.
Chambers, Clarke, "Seedtime of Reform: American Social Service and Social Action 1918-1933," University of Minnesota Press, 1963. In-depth discussion of events in the period leading up to the creation of Social Security.
Katz, Michael B., "In The Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in America," Tenth Anniversary Edition, Basic Books, 1996. An outline of the development of American social policy from the earliest days.
Lubove, Roy, "The Struggles for Social Security: 1929-1935," Harvard University Press, 1968.
Mitchell, Daniel J.B., "Pensions Politics and the Elderly: Historic Social Movements and Their Lessons for Our Aging Society," M.E. Sharpe, 2000. A discussion of the Townsend Plan, the Ham and Eggs movement, and other alternative pension movements in California.
Skocpol, Theda, "Protecting Soldiers and Mothers," Harvard University Press (Belknap), 1992. Source for information on Civil War pensions, Mothers pensions, and early workmen's compensation efforts.
Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M., three volumes: "The Crisis of the Old Order," "The Politics of Upheaval" and "The Coming of the New Deal." Houghton-Mifflin, The American Heritage Library, 1988. This is the classic history of this period.
Weaver, Carolyn, "The Crisis in Social Security: Economic and Political Origins," Duke Press Policy Studies, 1982. Contains an account of historical developments from prior to 1900 through the Social Security amendments of the early 1970s.
Brinkley, Alan, "Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin and The Great Depression," Vintage Press, 1983. A good overview of Long and Coughlin.
Kennedy, David M., "Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945." OxfordUniversity Press, 1999. The early chapters in this book contain a good summary of the period right before the Depression through the passage of Social Security.
McElvaine, Robert S., "The Depression and New Deal: A History in Documents." Oxford University Press, 2000. This books has lots of photos and short essays and is easy to read.
Mitchell, Greg, "The Campaign of the Century," Random House, 1992. This is the most comprehensive account of Upton Sinclair's EPIC Plan.
Watkins, T. H., "The Great Depression: America in the 1930s," Back Bay Books, 1993. Lots of photos and short essays.
Watkins, T. H., "The Hungry Years: A Narrative History of the Great Depression in America," Henry Holt, 1999. A more in-depth account of this period.