14.3e The War on Poverty
In the 1960s, poverty became a major issue of domestic politics, though Franklin Roosevelt had dramatized the fact that one third of the nation was then "ill-clad, ill-nourished, ill housed", over 30 years ago. The basic antipoverty legislation was the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which was supplemented by various other measures such as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Manpower Development and Training Act, and the Civil Rights Act. The Office of Economic Opportunity was created by the 1964 act in order to operate a variety of programs. Among the important ones was ’Operation Head Start.’ It aimed at getting preschool children into school before the impact of a disadvantaged environment would disable them in such a way that they will be unable to gain anything from formal instruction, on reaching the age of five or six. The ’Neighborhood Youth Corps’ was meant four teenagers who have dropped out, or are in danger of dropping out of high school. ’Job Corps’ was a high cost last ditch effort to try to save as many young "drop-outs from society" as possible. Through ’Community-Action’ programs the federal government makes grant to local community-action groups covering most of the costs for coordinated programs.
After World War II, it was proposed that the social security system be expanded to provide medical care insurance. Thus Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the aged, was enacted in 1965. This program makes provision for certain hospital benefits, such as hospital and nursing-home care, for persons sixty-five years and older, paid for by a tax on earnings. The program also includes certain medical benefits that are financed by monthly premiums by persons sixty-five and older enrolling in the program and by matching payments from general revenues of the federal government.
Medicaid is a program that extends medical benefits to the
poor. It is administered by state programs, with the federal government
paying for part of the costs.
14.3f Recent trends and challenges
More than fifty percent of the federal budget, is taken up by entitlements or the expenses involved in welfare policies such as Social Security Medicare and AFDC. As more and more people become entitled to such benefits, owing to the aging of the population, the costs increase. The Congress are faced with a difficult task of reducing or eliminating such entitlements thanks to powerful lobbies such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Difficulties that stands for the elderly.
The welfare system has been criticized on the grounds that it creates dependency and does not offer incentives for people to find work. Congress attempted to avoid this among the AFDC recipients, by stipulating that mothers had to participate in some kind of job training program. The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders and the Kerner Commission, severely attacked the welfare system by stating that "the failures of the system alienate the taxpayers who support it, the social workers who administer it, and the poor who depend on it."
Other issues like immigration and homelessness are also affected
by social welfare policy, since the states are required to shoulder
a heavy financial burden to assist immigrants. An attempt is made
to reduce homelessness, which is on the increase owing to spending
cuts in public housing. Thus there are constant pressures for some
substantial revision in the welfare program.
14.1 The Policy Making Process
Politics and Policy Making
Policy Making in Action