Introduction: Why Is Welfare a Dilemma for American Politics?
Welfare programs were designed in the 1930s during the New Deal and expanded in the 1960s during the Great Society. The word "welfare" is a powerful symbol. It evokes images of people taking from the government without contributing to society. In fact, most families receiving welfare benefits are not black. In 1992, about 37 percent of the families receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) were headed by a parent who was African American, which means that about 63 percent of welfare families were headed by parents who were not black. Race is a thorny issue in American politics, an issue that impacts welfare policymaking. Complaints about spending on welfare are usually aimed at federal spending. There are two competing philosophies that underpin American ideas about social welfare policy: individualism and community. The chapter also presents an overview on the key concepts discussed in this book.