Welfare Reform: A Matter of Public Debate

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Welfare reform has been a matter of public debate for decades. Welfare is a result of America’s values to support one’s fellow man, but with the stark decline of the economy every state is feeling pressure and looking for new ways to save money. This pressure is manifesting as changes to welfare that are theorized to improve the quality of life for poor families, create a stronger workforce, and save taxpayers money. Theory, however, is one thing, and practice is definitely another. This paper will look at the recent history of welfare reform, how those changes have affected welfare recipients, and how the new efforts to standardize drug-testing is being addressed by states and beneficiaries. In each perspective, America’s values are the driving force, and understanding those can make seemingly paradoxical elements clear. Welfare policy in the U.S. has always been connected with work ethic. Nineteenth century laws for the poor established a moral distinction between the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor. Those who fell under the deserving category were often out of work through no fault of their own, and they qualified for support from their fellow man. But the idle, immoral poor were snubbed, their children taken and put in homes or with capable families (Hayes 12). Welfare can be used as a glue to help keep families together as they better their situation, and indeed it had been used for that until the 1996 reform that created time limits and sent the message, better
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