Welfare, it is on just about everyones' mind, whether it is Medicare or the
A.F.D.C. Some believe there is too much and others think there is too little. As the years
go by, the need for welfare reform increases. President Clinton had pledged in his 1992
campaign to "end welfare as we know it". Only time will tell by what extremes welfare
will change. As technology continues to increase and jobs continue to go overseas, the
United States must decide what direction the welfare system should take.
As they exist today, welfare systems are an evolution of the thoughts laid out in
the 19th and 20th centuries. Before the Industrial Revolution, the responsibility of
helping the poor was mainly given to the churches or local communities. As machines
took the place of workers, governments were looked upon to help the unemployed.
In 1883, Otto Von Bismarck, the German Chancellor, setup the first form of
Modern Welfare when he enacted a sickness and maternity law. He followed up this law
with a work injury law and an old-age assistance law in 1884 and 1889 respectively.
Today European countries such as Germany, Norway, and Sweden have highly
sophisticated Welfare systems (Bender, 13).
Welfare did not reach the United States, however, until shortly after the Great
Depression with Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal." The New Deal brought on new
economic and social welfare legislation. This is the first time that the United States
Government used federal and public funds to finance the welfare needs of the people.
Today, the most expensive welfare program is Aid to Families with Dependent Children
(A.F.D.C.). The A.F.D.C. was created after the passing of the Social Security Act of
1935. Throughout the last 60 years, the welfare system has faced many changes,

including the 1988 Family Support Act, which requires most welfare recipients to enter a
job-training program (Lacayo, 3).
The other federally funded welfare programs include Medicaid, Food Stamps and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Each of these programs contribute to the high cost
paid by the federal government to keep the welfare state running. Medicaid, for
example, provides health care to low income families with dependent children, the
disabled and the poor elderly. In 1994 alone, 34 million people received some 140
billion dollars in Medicaid benefits. Food stamps that are used by low income families,
buys food items and work just like money. In 1994, 27 million people used food stamps
costing the federal government 24 billion dollars. An example of how food stamps are
distributed is given by the Congressional Digest, "A four-person household with
countable income below the federal poverty guidelines and specified assets of less than
$20,000 qualifies for up to about $380 worth of food stamps monthly." Finally the
Supplemental Security Income provides benefits to the elderly (over 65 years of age),
blind, and the permanently disabled. The service pays $446 per month to each individual
as long as their income are below pre-set levels by the government. Since 1974 when the
program was started, the cost of running the program has grown from $4 billion to $25
billion, only 20 years later (Robinson, 166-168).
The definition of the Welfare State is very important in fully understanding the
problems and issues of the Welfare debate. Arthur J. Schlesinger, Jr. a member of the
Kennedy administration and historian had this to say about the Welfare State:

Briefly, it is a system wherein government agrees to underwrite
certain levels of employment, income, education, medical aid, social
security, and housing for all its citizens. The government does not try to
do all these things itself; it seeks where possible to supplement the
initiatives of private society. But it does accept the ultimate responsibility


of guaranteeing "floors" in certain crucial areas, below which it conceives
tolerable living to be impossible. And it will intervene when private
society demonstrates its incapacity to maintain these minimum
standards.(Bender, 15)

The Welfare State has received much debate in the United States. Opinions about
it vary greatly. Those who are for welfare, stress the importance of having a minimum
income for those who, for whatever reason, cannot or will not get into the work force.
There is an obligation for the government to help its citizens in times of need, especially
in a country that has so much.
Poverty also has an