Welfare: The Political Economy of Welfare Reform in the United States

Sunday, January 1, 1978

Since the middle of the 1960s, welfare reform has been a major issue on the political agenda of the United States. Every year tens of billions of dollars of the taxpayers' money are redistributed to millions of low-income Americans. Yet in spite of this massive effort to help the poor, welfare has remained the center of swirling controversy. And all attempts to radically reform our welfare system have failed.

Martin Anderson, special assistant to President Nixon during the development of the Family Assistance Plan in 1969, and a consultant to President Ford on the Income Supplementation Plan in 1974, has been deeply involved in the formulation of a national welfare policy during the past decade. Writing in a clear, logical style that is increasingly rare in policy analyses, Anderson draws on his background in economics and his experience in the White House to explain and analyze the essence of the welfare reform debate. He presents eight major theses that define the central issues of the welfare reform controversy, and concludes that radical welfare reform is politically impossible in our society today. He carefully explores the evidence demonstrating that poverty has been virtually eliminated in the United States, examines the consequences of what is the "most ambitious attempt to redistribute income ever undertaken in our country," and shows that the poor in America now face effective marginal tax rates on their earnings that are "substantially higher than for all workers not on welfare, regardless of income."

Welfare is a seminal work providing unusual insights into how national policy decisions are made and is a major contribution to the literature of political economy. Readable and straightforward, Welfare tells the story of what welfare reform is really all about—and what is at stake for our society.

Copyright 1978.