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Roosevelt’s Welfare Reform

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In the late 1920s and early 1930s, there was a crisis among American families. The crash of the Stock Market in 1929 led into the era, which would be remembered as the Great Depression. The stock market crash left many American people with nothing. With no money, no homes, and no jobs, many American families became poor and homeless. With the presidential election in 1932, of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the introduction of the “New Deal,” the American people were acquainted with many new economic and social welfare programs.

Up until this time, welfare was not a big issue, but with so many poor people it was important to find a way to help the economy. The welfare programs did help many people in the height of the depression, but the question today is, the welfare benefit levels too charitable? The answer is yes. Welfare benefit levels are so generous, that they entice people into becoming dependent upon the system.

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Up until the Great Depression, welfare was not really an issue.

For the most part every one dealt with their problems on their own. When the stock market crashed in 1929, it left many people to fend for themselves. Many families in America got wrapped up in the stock market, after all the returns were very plentiful. Several people had their life savings in the stock market, and others went to loan sharks and took out loans for large sums of money, to try and earn back money that

they had already lost. When the stock market crashed, it left all of the people with investments in stock, as well as banks, with nothing. Many people committed suicide, or went crazy. Some of the richest people became poor. But to make matters worse, many people were fired or laid off their jobs. This was happening left and right; their employer had either lost too much money in the crash of the stock market. Or when the stock market crashed and took everyone’s money, no one could afford the goods or services that they were offering and they were not making enough money to pay their employees. So they were left with no choice, with little to no cash flowing in they could not afford to keep many people on their pay roll.

The Great Depression, which began in 1929, had a tremendous impact on nearly all aspects of American life. Its effects on the American political perspective was considerable indeed. The landmark election of 1932 brought Franklin D. Roosevelt to the presidency. Also, that election marked an essential shift in the public’s attitude toward the proper place of government in the nation’s social, and economic life (Carlson-Thies 13).

“Franklin Roosevelt and the democrats engineered their victory in 1932 with a new electoral base. It was built largely of southerners, small farmers, organized labor, and big-city political organizations. Roosevelt’s revolutionary economic and social welfare programs, which formed the heart of the New Deal of the 1930s, further strengthened that coalition; and it soon brought increasing support from African Americans and other minorities to the Democrats” (Carlson-Thies 13).

With the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt came many strong attributions towards the

economic status and the very well being of the American people. Roosevelt’s biggest push was his “New Deal,” which was a program that he and his fellow Democrats had comprised.

The New Deal was supposed to help the American people that were jobless, and living on the streets, by giving them a job and bringing them in off the streets. It was a program devised to help get people on their feet. It was a series of programs that formed a very large program that is known as welfare. Welfare consists of many programs, there are programs that are intended to help the elderly, and there are programs that focus most of their attention on children. There are also programs intended to provide housing for needy families.

There were several federal rules and regulations that one must meet in order to receive benefits from welfare. Once a person qualified to receive benefits, then a certain amount of money was given to them. The amount of money that a person received was based upon how many children they had, and the standard of living in the area in which they lived (Blank 112).

Money was not necessarily just handed out, but at the same time it was not very hard to receive welfare benefits. The major problem with welfare was deciding who should and should not receive benefits. “It has been said that approximately only half of all of the people that actually needed help, ever received any” (Blank 77). The government was providing money to people who did not actually need it, and turning down people who did need it. What they were faced with now was coming up with a way to determine who was and was not a worthy candidate for receiving welfare benefits.

Mostly the people that received benefits from the welfare system, were homeless people. Homeless people that had children would receive even more money, and possible even implemented with a home to live in. The major problem with this is that the government was giving these things out, they were not making people pay or work for what they are being given. Therefore, these people were becoming dependent on welfare. They were being supplied with a home and money, what else do they need? The welfare program set out to be a very positive thing, but with so many people taking advantage of the government, and not making any efforts to get jobs and or get off of welfare, they were costing the taxpayers of America a great deal of money. Along with costing the taxpayers money it costs the government lots of money too, and for these reasons the welfare system of the United States definitely need improvement.

Like anything else, there are going to be good things and bad things about the welfare system. There are many positive things that come from the welfare system. Welfare is very cost efficient as far as the amount of money spent for the services provided. “Welfare is also cheaper than job creation, which is one reason why past reform efforts have in the end not been approved by Congress” (Gans 115). Welfare provides people in need with something that they under normal circumstances would not be able to acquire, and that is money.

Welfare does indeed provide for many individuals. It provides for the elderly, infants and young, and the homeless. The welfare program provides for these people in several ways. For infants and small children there are many programs available for example, AFDC and WIC “AFDC is Aid to Families with Dependant Children, and its main purpose is to ensure that families are capable of at all times providing a home environment for their children” (Bane 53). WIC (Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children) is a similar program, but it “makes it possible for women in need to feed their children, and was formed to ensure mothers that their children would not go hungry” (Wilson 150). Another program that was set up and was aimed at the well being of children is CSA. CSA is Child Support Assurance. With this program “the main goal is to ensure that families with absent parents receive some sort of compensation for their income losses, in other words there are state subsidies present rather than payments from absent parents” (Wilson 147). Most of these programs were created for the general health and well being of the American people. In other words, they promoted the general welfare of people in need. These programs made it possible for people to feed their children, put a roof over their head, put clothes on their back, and provide their children with an education.

There are also different programs set up for the elderly and a good example of one of those programs is the Medicaid program. This program was set up to help people of all ages, but mainly just the elderly. “Medicaid is a program set up to provide health care services to low-income, elderly, disabled, and some low-income families” (Lunardini 77). Although Medicaid is indeed a welfare program, set up by the government, “it is often not listed by the public as a welfare program” (Lunardini 83).

A few general social welfare programs, are HUD and GA. “HUD stands for Housing and Urban Development, which stands as means for people in need to have a house” (Maybury 41). The government either buys or builds houses for families in

need to live in. GA stands for General Assistance. “ General Assistance is a catch-all term for any cash assistance that states provide to low income individuals who are not eligible for broader national programs” (Blank 85). As the title of this program clearly states, General Assistance can be anything from cash and food stamps to houses.

The problem with all of these programs is that they cost so much money. The amount of money spent on welfare is immense, and not all of the people that receive benefits from welfare actually need it. Some people form a dependency, where once they get on welfare, and they start receiving checks, they get lazy and they do not make any efforts to get a job or get off welfare. So what can the government do? Can they just stop giving certain individuals welfare benefits, or do they set out control groups to monitor people’s progress? Either way they go it costs more money (Bender 108).

There are some ways to determine whether or not the programs are working for individuals. Once it is determined whether or not the programs are working, they can evaluate the situation, and determine if the individual should receive further benefits from the welfare program. But how can the government be fair to the people who need welfare, while at the same time filter out individuals that do not. The answer to this age-old problem is welfare reform. (Berkowitz 118)

Overtime, many Presidents have pushed for welfare reform. The major campaigning slogan of several Presidents has been welfare reform. But with so many people and so many different needs, it is very hard to devise one single plan that works for everyone. Welfare reform would mean that the current welfare program would have to become more cost efficient, and there would have to be more stringent guidelines as to the requirements of receiving benefits.

“Here is the deep challenge of welfare reform: how can it be both fair and compassionate? How can it help without generating dependency? How can it, at the same time, help those who need help, bolster the structures and habits that sustain healthy life, and also shore up the delicate webs of social responsibility without which no forms of assistance would exist in the first place” (Berkowitz 200)?

These are central questions of welfare and welfare reform. However, the more common question of welfare politics is this: “why should I, working my eight-hour day (or more) consider my self responsible to sustain someone abusing drugs, having babies without dependable fathers, or abandoning school” (Berkowitz 200)? It is a difficult and controversial topic, but the truth is that something must be done about the status quo of our welfare programs.

“When the topic of welfare comes up, the dialogue often turns angry and judgmental; the prose becomes purple. All sides draw stark images and speak in tones of moral outrage. Debates turn ugly. And just below the surface, indeed sometimes well above the surface, are vicious stereotypes. There is much heat and very little light” (Harris 46).

People’s images of the people that are on welfare are often made ugly by their own personal opinion of who is on welfare. When people think of the welfare system there are many different opinions, and many different sides. Along with these many opinions and beliefs are several stereotypes. Some people believe that the welfare system is for minorities only and others believe that it consists of just pregnant teens and dropouts. All of the statements are false; the welfare system is equally balanced between a wide variety of individuals. (Gans 90)

Did the American people agree to a certain responsibility when America adopted that “new social contract” called the New Deal? The answer is no, for “clearly the ideal of Social Security was to help those who have been hardworking, responsible citizens, and the ideal of the other forms of ‘relief’ was precisely that it was…’relief,’ a temporary hand up for folks ‘down on their luck’” (Sabato 189). The vast majority of Americans still today endorse enthusiastically this notion of social assistance. But, “increasingly, they resist the repetition and retrenchment and deepening over time of that culture of compliance dependency” (Sabato 189).

Welfare is a very hot topic. It is hot all across the nation; every one has an opinion, or a suggestion. Every one wants things to get better, and every one wants our government programs to become cheaper, and more cost efficient. The only thing that one can do as an American citizen is stay true to ones own word, and follow ones own advice. If everyone would pull together and give each other a chance, Americans could really pull off something incredible. Welfare most definitely needs reform.

There are too many people out there milking the government for everything that it has to offer, but the welfare program in the United States has accomplished many great things, and made it possible for many Americans to survive. The system will get stronger, but only time can tell. The system of help to the American people is very successful, but at the same time it is very weak, and very much a failure. For every mistake that Americans make they can come back with hopefully successful efforts, for they learn from their mistakes and that is what makes this country so strong. Maybe one day, once it has been revised and reformed, the American people will be able to call forth on the welfare program and they will not have the same problems that they face today, but yet different problems, and different things to strive for. They will find different goals for our selves, and they will be able to focus our attention elsewhere.

In 1932, during the height of the Great Depression, a man was elected President. That man was Franklin D. Roosevelt. He set out to improve the economy and the general welfare of the American people by introducing us to the New Deal. The New Deal was a large program, aimed toward pulling the economy out of the slump that it was in. The program was a success and it had people looking up, but it was too generous of a program. The government was just handing money out to people, and in doing so people would form a dependency. So the poor people that were receiving benefits from welfare were not motivated in any way to take initiative and try to get a job, they would sit back and live off of their welfare benefits. The level of welfare benefits was then and is today far too generous, it entices people with its generosity and they become dependant upon the system. The American people can only hope for reform, and only time will tell.


Bane, Mary J. and Ellwood, David, T. Welfare Realities. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard University Press, 1994.

Bender, David. and Leone, Bruno. Social Justice Opposing Views. San Diego, California: Greenhaven Press Inc, 1990.

Berkowitz, Edward D. and McQuaid, Kim. Creating the Welfare State. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1992.

Blank, Rebecca M. It Takes a Nation. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1997.

Carlson-Thies, Stanley W. and Skillen, James W. Welfare in America. Grand Rapids Michigan: Eerdmuns Publishing Company, 1996.

Gans, Herbert J. The War Against the Poor. New York, New York: Harper Collins Publishers Inc. 1995.

Harris, Kathleen M. Teen Mothers and the Revolving Welfare Door. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997.

Lunardini, Christine A. Social Issues in American History. Phoenix, Arizona: The Oryx Press, 1996.

Maybury, Richard J. Whatever Happened to Justice. Placerville, California: Bluestocking Press, 1993.

Sabato, Larry J. and Simpson, Glenn R. Dirty Little Secrets. New York, New York: Random House, 1996.

Wilson, William J. The Truly disadvantaged. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1987.


Cite this Roosevelt’s Welfare Reform

Roosevelt’s Welfare Reform. (2018, Jul 05). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/roosevelts-welfare-reform/

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