Does Welfare Encourage Dependency?

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Jar’ee Rhodes
Professor Davis
ENC 1102
16 July 2012
Does Welfare Encourage Dependency?
Created by Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression, the idea of welfare was to help those who are living in poverty and need help to feed their families. Since then, welfare has helped people in many ways, such as unemployment insurance and food stamps. However, with over 4.4 million people, Welfare has evolved from a program that is designed to help people who have fallen on hard times, into a large scale program that often keeps more people down than it helps lift up. It has become a program where people are encouraged to be dependent on the government. With the amount of people who are currently on welfare many critics feel that this assistance hinders the ability to be independent. They say that welfare benefits provide a more attractive way of life than working does. Most of them feel that the only way to get welfare dependents to obtain a job is to end welfare all together. Bruce Fein, a conservative columnist and lawyer, believes, "The vast majority of recipients would discover the resolve and initiative needed for employment if the alternative were stark subsistence or less" (qtd in Cozic). However, other critics feel that getting rid of the welfare system is not the best thing to do. They feel that welfare has helped many get out of poverty thanks to the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. Signed by former President Bill Clinton many believe that the 1996 Welfare Reform Act has altered the way our country deals with welfare dependence and poverty. This law gave new limits on the length of time a person could receive welfare benefits. It also required that all healthy and able-bodied recipients work in public service jobs. Aimee Howd a writer for Insight on the News a conservative weekly magazine states that the welfare reform act has been successful in reducing the number of people who receive government assistance. She claims that it is successful because it provides the poor with the help needed to improve their lives on a permanent basis. However, in today’s society most of the recipients who leave welfare to work full time are still poor, some are even worse off than they were before leaving the system. For this reason most recipients continue to rotate between welfare and work. One group that is greatly affected by the 1996 Welfare Reform Act are single mothers. According to Ellen Reese author of Backlash Against Welfare Mothers: Past and Present welfare regulations and the “work first” philosophy create many obstacles for welfare mothers who want to improve their lives and the lives of their children by obtaining more education and training. She states, “WTW participants are often limited in terms of the number of hours that they can spend in classes, and social workers frequently pressure students to accept employment and quit school.” She then gives an example of this when she refers to a situation where teen parents, participants for the Wisconsin Works, were encouraged to find work rather than graduate from high school. As far as receiving help it’s not bad when it’s needed, but it is bad when that help keeps someone down instead of encouraging them to do better.

Also, because of the pressure to get a job most people end up with a job that is low paying and unattractive which causes them to lose their jobs and return to the welfare system. In the article “Welfare Mothers Find Jobs Are Easier to Get Than Hold” by Jason Deparle, Ladonna A. Pavetti, a researcher at the Urban Institute in Washington, records, “64 percent of the women coming on the welfare rolls for the first time left within two years. But more than three-quarters of those who left welfare eventually returned, and 45 percent returned within a year.” That means that their low paying jobs were not enough to support their family and that they had no choice but to get back on the welfare program. As well as receiving low paying jobs, substance abuse...
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