The debate of whether to adopt a welfare state is one that has been going on for many years. It is one of those debates where it is difficult to come up with a definitive solution that makes everyone happy. Just like any other debate it has its pros and cons. It is an extensive debate with various different sides and perspectives.
To be able to debate the topic of whether to adopt a welfare state we have to understand exactly what it is and the history behind it. The welfare state system was first created by Otto von Bismarck, the conservative Chancellor of Germany from 1871-1890. Beginning in the early 1840s he built on a tradition of welfare programs in Prussia and Saxony and created the modern welfare state. Under Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, during 1906-1914, the United Kingdom started to emerge with Liberal welfare reforms. During this period in 1908 they also passed the Old-Age Pension Act, which is often regarded as one of the foundations of modern social welfare in the United Kingdom. A year later in 1909 they also introduced free school meals. The welfare state system began in the United States during the 1930s in the Great Depression by the New Deal programs of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. There are currently 6 welfare programs available in the United States right now; Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, Food Stamps is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and Housing Assistance. A welfare state is a system whereby the government undertakes to protect the health and well-being of its citizens, especially those in financial or social need, by means of grants, pensions, and other benefits. It is a concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. Welfare is not an entitlement program as it does not require prior contributions to qualify. There are currently 41 million people on food stamps in America. Undocumented immigrants are not able to receive any benefits from the U.S. Government. States have the ability to set all of their own welfare rules, including getting rid of programs. The income limit to be able to receive welfare is only 1,000 dollars. If you make anything over this a month, you are not eligible. The United States should not adopt a welfare state for may different reasons.
Though it is said that a welfare system provides temporary assistance where it is needed the most. The reality is that a welfare system does not support the modern household. According to an article published by Vittana Personal Finance, “In the US, the federal poverty level for an individual is $12,060 in 2017. For a married couple with one child, the poverty level is $20,420. Because household size is the determining factor for how people qualify, modern households are not often accommodated. A family of six, for example, qualifies at $32,960 in 2017, which means having one working parent making $16 per hour would disqualify them from many benefits.” A primary goal of welfare programs is to help promote stable homes. Normally this involves having two parents. This would cause the opposite to occur because two people that work at low paying jobs, if they get married, their incomes must be combined and nearly always will fall just above the criteria to receive aid. This also causes many people who still need federal aid to not get married. Also being made more difficult once a female has a child.
The welfare system is for children, but the problem is that the poverty that is created by the welfare system makes it very difficult to get back on their feet. It creates a pattern of dependence. When multiple needs are met or every basic need is met by the government, from housing and food assistance, it creates a cycle of dependence that results in no incentive for individuals or households to change that pattern. They can receive the benefits each month and live off the dime of taxpayers. That is why many welfare programs look to put in limitations to the amount of access that is provided. Individuals are hesitant to change that pattern because it could result in a loss of their benefits. Families that depend on welfare tend to pass this pattern down to their children. According to an article published by Brandon Gaille, “With an average daily benefit of just $25, in all available benefits, that puts a U.S. household receiving welfare into the top 20% of global income earners. From reporting by the Washington Post, there are 11 states where government aid can pay more than the average pre-tax wages for a teacher. In Hawaii, the highest total value of welfare benefits is over $49,000 per year.” It is also costly and costs taxpayers. The article also mentions, “The total amount spent on all means-tested welfare programs in the United States, including state and federal funding, is $1.03 trillion per year. About half of the costs are directed toward healthcare. Another 40% is directed toward food, housing, or cash assistance. As of 2011, that was more than the annual budget for all services in needs in more than 180 countries.” All of the federal aid that is distributed to recipients if funded by taxes. The high amount of benefits and fraud within this system enrages many people, feeling like their hard earned money is being given away.
The welfare system can create a system of abuse. The system can be abused by those who do not need financial help. The goal of welfare is to provide resources when there is a need, but there will always be people who try to take advantage of this system. With minimal to no incentive to break the cycle it is easy for the system to be abused. Although this is a small minority of most applicants, often below 1% in many areas, it is still a potential cost to taxpayers and abuse removes the aid that a household with a genuine need may be able to receive. Due to fraud each year every business and program experiences losses. According to Brandon Gaille, “A good rule to practice is to budget a 6% cost for losses due to undesired consumer activity. Welfare abuse schemes have been in place since the programs began. In a 2012 committee examining only Social Security disability benefits, out of 300 cases examined, 25% of payment recipients were receiving benefits based on evidence that was incomplete, insufficient, or contradictory.” This does not describe everyone that receives welfare. Not everyone attempts to commit fraud or abuse the system. In some countries, the rates of welfare fraud are well below 1%. There are billions of dollars that go into this, fraud and the abuse of the system is draining that amount of money instead of using it for those who actually need it.
Many welfare programs do not address the root cause and the real problem of poverty and why it exists. Times are changing, technology is advancing causing some industries to fade away as new industries emerge. Individuals need to grow and evolve along with that change, which means acquiring the new skills that are necessary. Welfare programs are including job training provisions within the benefits being provided for this exact reason. But, not every program offers this option. This means people who were once skilled workers are now unskilled workers with few job opportunities. Not addressing the true reason for the problem of poverty combined with those who are misinformed creates negative societal stigmas. There is this separation created where people who accept welfare benefits are often treated as being an inferior part of society. They are viewed as being lazy, unwilling to find a job, and generally unworthy. Many state governments have looked at stiffening the requirements to receive welfare benefits in order to reduce that separation. The purpose of this is to empower and encourage people to change that cycle and get themselves out of poverty. There are many major issues such as employment, drug abuse, crime, and education that all play a major role in the need of federal aid.
Boundless. “Boundless Political Science.” Lumen Learning, Lumen, courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-politicalscience/chapter/the-welfare-state/.
Lombardo, Crystal. “11 Pros and Cons of Welfare.” Vittana.org, May 2017, vittana.org/11-pros-and-cons-of-welfare.
“10 Most Important Welfare Pros and Cons.” Frantic Foodie, franticfoodie.com/10-most-important-welfare-pros-and-cons/.
“19 Biggest Pros and Cons of Welfare.” BrandonGaille Small Business & Marketing Advice, May 2018, brandongaille.com/19-biggest-pros-and-cons-of-welfare/.
Rector, Robert. “Poverty and the Social Welfare State in the United States and Other Nations.” The Heritage Foundation, Sept. 2015, www.heritage.org/welfare/report/poverty-and-the-social-welfare-state-the-united-states-and-other-nations.
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