It has been 40 years since President Johnson’s administration assert battle against poverty in the United States, yet still, progress remains sluggish. Mid -1970s poses insecurity in the living status of the non-elderly. This is when the country’s economy faces extensive inflation, soaring unemployment rates, and waning real wages (Danziger 2005). The United States has fallen victim to globalization as specific trends of inequality and social segmentation confront it. In 1950s and up to early 1970s, poverty and income inequity had momentous decline, after which both have reached their weakest.
Compared to previous generations, today’s poor marked the younger populace and rather than unemployed, these are the working group. These new outline of inequality and poverty – children and the working populace – contradict with growth and concurred with falling unemployment since half way through 1990s, a once believed improbable upshot (Hytrek et al. 2008).
The United States has geared away from combating poverty as its national priority. This was mirrored in certain shifts in the welfare policy that is raising the work efforts of the poor instead of increasing their income.
Political efforts to resolve gap between the presence and absence of needs has weakened. As a result, present generation appears to lose interest in upholding welfare policies unless it brings job to the marginalized (Danziger 2005).
This brief seeks to ascertain the flagging antipoverty drives of the US government including its impact to the US community. Likewise, it proposes ingenious ways to revitalize these antipoverty initiatives as deemed. It is noteworthy that in the absence of policies towards poverty alleviation, the poor will never fully enjoy the GDP gains by the scaling economy in the total economic milieu (Danziger 2005).
Efforts on Poverty
For forty years, the US government is on constant battle against poverty. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson has set up his own War on Poverty in his aim to eradicate income poverty. While his foremost economic advisers assumed completion of this goal by 1980, it approached otherwise after the onset of 1970s. In 2003, the official poverty rate is just about the same as it had been for three decades that is 12.5 percent of the entire US population (Danziger 2005).
Initially, those ‘war’ agents fervently pursued their cause. This was reflected in the programs and policies which have been implemented from 1965 to 1975. As a result, the antipoverty endeavors effected at large. A policy called Earned Income Tax Credit has become most valuable for families with children comes mid-1990s (Danziger 2005). However, as time changes and generations lead to another, precedence on similar efforts eventually vanished. It went stern when the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) was passed, therein after welfare has lost its seat among America’s most contentious concern. Despite numerous critics of the reform, it was likewise declared a success by both Republican and Democrat elites. Further, public majority polled favorable of the passed reform (Dyck et al. 2008). In addition, a population of indigent women with children but lack cash has emerged and constantly increased. Many have sapped out cash provisions from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Hildebrandt et al, 2009).
Similarly, Americans have developed false impressions towards reducing welfare as mere trifle. For instance, when welfare is discussed with White Americans, they would probably regard black Americans. The foremost account to this phenomenon was media coverage-newsmakers implicating welfare as a tremendously black and appalling social program (Dyck et al. 2008).
Poverty not a Priority
There are three grounds for welfare, particularly poverty reduction, to be in a repulsive state for a country who can settle for a better one. It is just a matter of prioritization. The government apparently does not prioritize poverty. Eliminating poverty went from the highest of the public’s schema down to the fringe. At present, only the elderly have strong social safety net that shelters them from the oscillating business environment and secular economic trades that have caused dropping real wages for many employees and increased poverty status for households with children. U.S. antipoverty programs for elderly are no longer effective instead otherwise 25 years ago, and worse, they are much less helpful compared with other modern economies. Since 1980, major antipoverty efforts have received relatively trifling political and public attention in the US (Danziger 2005).
Danielson (2008) in his study accounts that upon re-entry of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in 2006, the Bush government officials and others declared a dramatic success in the welfare reform. However, studies have not thoroughly reviewed the degree to which certain welfare policies instigate decline to the caseload at hand.
Regardless of U.S’ pursuit in providing equal opportunities, poverty does not fall in the government’s top priority since it is neither a public main concern. In the U.S., social safety net is less effective compared to those of other modern nations. Social Safety nets are means to eliminate the consequences of poverty and other stakes on vulnerable families (World Bank Group, 2008).
It appears that in reference to other industrialized countries, the incidence of poverty in the United States is higher because Americans focuses on increasing the poor’s work which, more often than not, does not reduce income poverty. Opinion polls show that the philosophy if Americans on improving the quality of life is one that claims the opportunities are present to those who claim it themselves, or in different words, people should work for it. This explains why majority of the Americans are the unsympathetic to the government’s redistribution of wealth. Others polls probed to ask if Americans agree or disagree on the government’s responsibility to close the gaps between high income citizens and those which are not earning much. There are also questions on whether Americans agree on the government’ provision with everyone of a guaranteed income. The results show that those who agree and strongly agree on Australia consisted of 43% and 51% of the respondents, respectively; in Sweden, the figures were 53% and 46%, respectively; in the U.K., 66% and 685, in West Germany 66% and 58% and. The US had lower figures having only 38% who agree and 35% who strongly agree (Ladd et al, 1998).
There were also problematic and inconvenient policies that the government implemented. Some put welfare recipients to low-wage labor market requiring them to frequently visit the welfare office during business hours. Such will not succeed in the long run (Martin, 2008).
What Can be Done?
The big question now lies on what the United States and its people can do to alleviate poverty. Past encounters with antipoverty policies can be of great help in the formulation of future antipoverty programs as well as in mobilizing the nation to lift the battle against poverty on top of its priorities.
To begin with, there is a need to strengthen and harmonize the political will in the implementation of antipoverty programs. Past experiences of the US and UK during the 1960s and 1990s respectively, proves that strong political initiatives and concentrated efforts to act upon pressing issues on poverty is must to champion major antipoverty movement.
This study suggests that adept individuals and groups kick-off the awareness drive on welfare policies reform. Stakeholders involve should be the informed politicians, academe, NGOs and the mass media who among others have the power of influencing as well as educating the community. This should be a response to the developing indifference of today’s generation towards the underprivileged.
Over the long run, the US policies in poverty alleviation among elderly have been successful, likewise UK’s comprehensive set of programs on child poverty reduction has gained victor. In mutual cases, there has been substantial increase in government’s spending. During the reign of Prime Minister Tony Blair in the UK (1999) there was a noteworthy increase in the cash welfare benefits. Compared in 1997, these increase noted an 85 percent rise in 2003. Similarly, an increase of 25 percent in the universal child benefits is remarkable during this period. Rise in earnings was achieved when a Working Families Tax Credit akin to the framework of Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was introduced. Relative to the average salary, credits are more generous and are returned to a greater proportion of families including employed adults without children. In addition, a minimum wage some notches higher than the average US wage was introduced (Danziger 2005).
This paper works on the premise that an improved tax collection will enable a country to devote more on welfare. In some literatures, EITC was found to be an effective tool in fighting poverty particularly for women of Africa-America (Olugbenga 2008). This answers the challenge of fund generation for such programs. For an instance, earnings supplements for working marginalized households with children like the Working Families Tax Credit or the Earned Income Tax Credit is applicable for countries where majority of the workforce pays income and payroll taxes as these entries help in determining the credit amount of poor families. Still, many developing economies may not find such programs as practicable (Danziger 2005).
Stable and sustainable economic growth is the primary requisite towards succeeding antipoverty efforts in any country, otherwise any initiative will be at great risk of failing. Furthermore, the highly competitive globalized economy and constant technological advances necessitate critical effort to capacitate the labor workforce with appropriate skills and human capital. All countries including US is faced against the pressure of holding down wage costs due to globalization and the technological breakthroughs leading to labor-saving machineries that come with it. Therefore, increase in productivity suggests the closest means to increase real wages. Later on, this will require more access to education such that the labor force will heed higher educational background (Danziger 2005).
This study suggests that schools should be empowered to integrate Total Quality Management and eventually enhance quality of delivering education. A sustainable economic growth entails adept workforce to meet the demands of a constantly moving environment. This is an effort that cannot be achieved overnight but will eventually payoff.
- Ajilore, O. (2008). The Impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Poverty: Analyzing the Dimensions by Race and Immigration. Review of Black Political Economy, 35(4), 117.
- Danielson, C. (2008). Did Welfare Reform Cause the Caseload Decline? The Social Service Review, 82(4), 731.
- Danziger, S., Danziger, S. (2005).The U.S. Social Safety Net and Poverty: Lessons Learned and Promising Approaches. University of Michigan.
- Hildebrandt, E., Stevens, P. (2009). Impoverished Women With Children and No Welfare Benefits: The Urgency of Researching Failures of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program. American Journal of Public Health, 99(5), 793-801.
- Hytrek, G., Zentgraf, K. M. (2008). America Transformed: Globalization, Inequality, and Power. Oxford University Press, xvi, 238.
- Ladd, E., Bowman K. (1998). Attitudes Toward Economic Inequality. American Enterprise Institute. Washington, D.C.
- Martin, K. C. (2008). Blame Welfare, Ignore Poverty and Inequality. Journal of Social History, 41(3), 765-767.
- Social Safety Nets (2008).
- The World Bank Group. http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/WBI/WBIPROGRAMS/SPLP/0,,contentMDK:20260748~menuPK:461663~pagePK:64156158~piPK:64152884~theSitePK:461654,00.html
Cite this Background of the Issue
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