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Welfare State

by Sophia Sullivan


A welfare state is a system of government which protects and provides for its citizens’ social and economic well being. Although having a welfare state seems like a clear social good, there are many underlying problems. Many societal ills of our times are a side effect of a failing welfare state. In the United States today, there are four major government subsidized programs: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, food stamps, and housing assistance. Surface level, these programs sound beneficial and necessary. We are a prosperous country, shouldn't we be helping those in need?

Yes, we should. But with a social fabric, charity, and strategic government assistance, not our current system. Because for many of these programs, there is an incentive to make less money in fear of losing benefits at a particular income threshold. This is known as the Welfare Cliff, typified by the chart to your right. Welfare Assistance begins to taper off at the $40,000 mark. This cliff is proof of a system that is creating a dependency on the government rather than allowing them to grow above the poverty line. We shouldn't be perpetuating a system in need of reform.📷

There is a striking rise in the rates of single motherhood over the last 49 years. From 1968 to 2017 the single motherhood rate has tripled. That means 1 in 4 families are single parent families. It's clear that single parent families have less money then two parents working families. Already with less money, you normally have less help and as a result, work hours must take a hit to help care for your children. We are in need of welfare reforms which do not deter marriage among recipients who would marry otherwise. Under our current welfare system, the more children you have the more funds you receive. Meaning there is an economic incentive to have children and remain unmarried. This helps to create the generational welfare cycles we are witnessing today.

Welfare is something that is limiting opportunities for many people. The cycle starts with the child that is raised in a culture based on dependency. Many will remain dependent for the duration of their life. The highschool dropout rates have a direct relation to the family poverty crisis. “In 2009, poor [bottom 20 percent of all family incomes] students were five times more likely to dropout of high school than high-income [top 20 percent of all family incomes] students.” (Chapman, Laird, Ifill, & KewalRamani, 2011, Table 1). This is not intended to and blame the rich. The conditions in a majority of welfare funded homes involve drugs, domestic violence, and jail time. These toxic stressors have great effects on the child in the home.

Although welfare is flawed that doesn't mean we should leave our hard working American citizens without a safety net. If we want a system that is helping people be independent, we must enact reforms. The solutions suggested by the Heritage Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank, are multifaceted:

Require all able-bodied welfare recipients to work.

Shift welfare spending to community-focused enrichment rather than individual aid.

Remove penalties within the system that deter marriage.

Eliminate fraud within the welfare system.

Consolidate welfare related spending into one report, as the information is now fragmented due to the numerous programs which provide aid.

Encourage and perpetuate a culture of self-sufficiency and work to discourage self-limiting behavior.

These proposed solutions would require more people to work while on welfare, because the main problem behind long term welfare usage is that the recipients are not working.

As previously noted, having a two parent home has many proven benefits, such as less financial struggles and a better childhood. These reforms promote marriage before children and take away the penalties that deter marriage, and the Heritage Foundation estimates that this will decrease child poverty and increase family stability.

In the end, there is need for a safety net. A safety net which is benefitting its recipients to become independent, productive citizens not in fear of losing everything. By changing our current system, we will change the culture and open the door for long term changes.

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