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Christopher Howard’s book on The Welfare State Nobody Knows provides a challenge to various half-truths and myths that surround the United State’s social policy framework. The American social welfare state provides a light imitation of the truth concerning the welfare states in Canada and Europe. Howard reviews the nature of scholars and philosophers who are on the forefront of spreading false information on the effectiveness and practicability of the U.S. social welfare. Ideally, the American social welfare state is popular, than it is commonly believed in the society. Nevertheless, inequality and poverty remain high. Currently, the welfare state is poorly developed as the government spends less on social programs than most of the affluent democracies. The public authority’s fragmentation, among institutions, which enhances change in policy made, is hard to enact. In addition, lack of organized labor in the society has initiated discrimination in the society. Although there have been myths and half-truths concerning the U.S. welfare state, the book debunks these ideologies.
The United States has a two-tiered welfare state. The bottom tier, welfare for the poor children, has been under attack. The upper tier, welfare for the elderly and middle class, is flourishing. The popular Medicare programs and Social Security, which yields a higher return, have grown enormously. Compared to European welfare states, the United States combines comprehensive, universalistic social policies for the elderly with an assortment of means-tested transfers.
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Howard (2007) argues that the United State’s welfare state has been in the brink of poverty and social discrimination by the majority class. The vital reason is that U.S. is proficient in programs creation, which only benefits the upper middle and middle class. The social welfare programs do not incorporate the lower class needs. In analyzing the socio-economic and political programs, the U.S. government has not incorporated the lower class needs. Although, there have been an emphasis on the developments in the recent decades, Howard shows that the impact of policymaking has not been felt by all the individuals in the society; inequality persists in the economy. Methodologically, Howard’s book weaves together qualitative and quantitative approaches in an attempt to provide fundamental solutions to the trend of the politics of the United State’s social policy. Timely and ambitious, The Welfare State Nobody Knows, enhances the understanding of the core aspect that influences political parties, public opinion, policy design, and the interest groups on the welfare state of the Americans (Wormer, 2005).
The book navigates across all the aspects that impede social development in the United States. However, the vital effect that seems to be deeply analyzed by Howard is the poverty and inequality that is characterized by the welfare system in the U.S. economy. Despite these unfortunate scenarios in the U.S. welfare system, the misunderstandings about the welfare state are worst. Some of the analysts incline to the European welfare states as a platform of investigating the welfare state of the Americans. Historically, the European welfare states have relied heavily on social insurance programs. As the United States cannot meet the required standards, it lags behind in the whole process. The welfare state of Americans relies on the social insurance and more tax expenditures, social regulations, and loan guarantees than the welfare states in other parts.
In addition, the other misunderstanding and myth that exist in the U.S. economy concerning welfare state involves its negative perception by the society. It is perceived that the Social Security represents everything that is right while the U.S. social policy and welfare represents everything that is wrong (Howard, 2007). From these two scenarios, all sorts of inferences about the social policy will always be perceived negatively; which is not the case in the practical life. While many economists and policy analysts examine the social programs’ recent performance, politics of the social policy have interested scholars who have concentrated principally on the vital economic developments between the late nineteenth century and early 1970s. Currently, scholars are focused on a single program, group of beneficiaries, and legislative milestone.
A remarkable fact about the welfare policy is that the basic nature of the underlying issues such policy seeks to address has remained unchanged for decades, ad even centuries. Problems such as balancing incentives to work with preventing destitution of those capable of work, of protecting the truly need without providing adequate employment opportunities and compatibility. Indeed, required skills and available training continue to plaque the United States, as well as many other nations.
Most of the recurring issues in the U.S. are the increase in the number of single families. They comprise a significant proportion of welfare recipients, and the perpetuation of welfare dependency from one generation to the next. Other concerns that occur over time and across national boundaries are the availability of jobs, and appropriate policies for immigrants and those with multiple barriers to employment (Kirst-Ashman, 2009). The criticism imposed by the citizens on the United States welfare policy framework may lead to questions about fairness of the entire social order. This will lead to the loss of their loyalty and support. The government must continue to reinforce perceptions about the social order’s legitimacy in order to prevent this outcome.
Naturally, when this tension escalates to an intolerable level, it frequently precipitates changes in social welfare policy. After all, Social welfare policy often softens the most conspicuously negative effects of the market. For this reason, it serves as a useful means of comforting those in distress and persuading them that, however, well other people are doing, they will not starve. Whether it is an increase in some form of cash assistance, a tax credit for college tuition, or the availability of new counseling services, a change of social welfare policies combats the perception of unfairness (Segal, 2009). As such, by signifying that all members in the society are entitled to reap at least some of its benefits, these policies help to manage the tension between the accumulation of money in a society and perception of the society’s legitimacy. Ultimately, this tension spurs the government to bring about policy change.
Social Security is a truly national retirement program. State and local governments have no role in determining eligibility or setting benefit levels. Every person in every state plays by the same rules. The Social Security Act aims at reducing human suffering by increasing the level of government aid (Howard, 2007). As benefits are uniform and generous, the upper tier of social programs is supposed to accomplish these objectives far better than the lower tier. Ideally, welfare does not treat people as equally as does Social Security. Medicare, which offers health insurance for the elderly, is like Social Security, with uniform eligibility and benefits nationwide. So far, the two tiers are distinct. The contrast between them diminishes as the influence of the American states extends into the upper tier. In disability assurance, for example, state agencies determine eligibility, and the rate of rejecting applicants and denying appeals varies in a fair amount around the country.
Racial divisions in the American welfare state are more obvious than gender divisions. Blacks and Hispanics reside disproportionately in the lower tier (Caputo, 2011). Despite being one-quarter of the nation’s population, these two groups constitute over half of Medicaid recipients. Therefore, where eligibility and benefits in the rest of the lower tier vary as much as they do for the upper tier, the effects will be adverse on the economy’s social welfare.
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The author uses behavioral approach in debunking myths about the U.S. welfare policy. These studies tend to focus on a narrow perception, and thereby they have been troubled supporting generalizations. The methods of data collection and presentation were effective and enhanced the development of inherent and reliable results. Further, the influence of policy experts, elected officials, political parties, and institutional design is harder to quantify than the results of opinion polls.
In conclusion, the book is quite effective in addressing the real aspects that face the US social welfare, and the demystification of the social welfare policy enhances an individual to have a clear understanding of the US welfare policy. However, the book argues that all the perceptions about US policy welfare are false. This is not the case, as some of the ideas are correct.
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