Welfare and the Politics of Poverty
- Karen Sughrue
By the mid-1990s, with record numbers of Americans on welfare, public resentment reached a tipping point. Recipients were stigmatized as lazy ne’er-do-wells feeding at the public trough. Politicians railed against “welfare queens”, the unwed mothers they claimed were gaming the system, having more babies to get more taxpayer cash.
Republicans had been pushing to overhaul welfare for decades, with little success. But in 1996, in a move that outraged liberals, a Democratic president signed into law a bill that “ended welfare as we know it.”
The vision of welfare reform was an optimistic one. The poor would be liberated from dependency on government handouts, so they could enjoy the dignity of work and move from poverty to self-sufficiency. What actually happened is a lesson in good intentions gone awry, and raises questions about whether the politics of poverty have changed much in 20 years.
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During his campaign, Donald Trump vowed not to cut to entitlements, including Medicaid. But now he's reversing himself and additionally plans to turn more control of the program over to the states. We take a look at what happened to another entitlement, welfare, when the states took over.
Life After Welfare
Twenty years ago, welfare reform was signed into law, promising needy families a path out of poverty. This is the story of Tianna Gaines-Turner, a former welfare recipient, who still struggles to make ends meet.
Life After Welfare
Tianna Gaines-Turner, a former welfare recipient, still struggles to make ends meet with her family in Philadelphia.
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