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Presentation on theme: "1 MODULE II SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY READINGS: PART I, 1,4 5/30 – 6/5."— Presentation transcript:


2 2 Module II: Social Welfare Policy (SWP) PART 1 definitionstypes origins, trends?What is social welfare policy (swp)? More particularly, what are its definitions, types, origins, trends? Why is it important for social workers to know about it? PART 2 Why institutional contexts, politicsWhy are institutional contexts and, especially, politics the keys to understanding swp? Who supports/opposes policies & why? See, I told you it was a guy! That’s no guy---that’s a prof! I actually prefer to think of myself as an egghead

3 3 PART 1 >Relevance >Overview >Definitions> Types>Origins>Trends

4 4 WHY STUDY SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY? (1) Because Because: It is the “social” in social work; it is the major factor in shaping the practice environment. More broadly still, swps both reflect and help to define the type of society we live in. For example, some of the most important distinctions between the US and Canada are reflected in the differing swps characteristic of the two nations. American politics is largely about what should be the range and types of swps adopted by various levels of government. Both the CSWE & NASW codes require that swp and social justice be key features of social work education.



7 7 RELEVANCE (4): ANSWER EVERYWHERE! Social Workers Are: Activists Administrators Advocates Public and Agency Officials

8 8 Overview: SW Policy and Policy Making 2. INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT (E.G., US CONGRESS) 4. SOCIAL WELFARE POLICIES (LAWS)) 1. WELFARE STATE (PROGRAMS/INSTITUTIONS) 5. ADMINISTRATIVE APPLICATION 3. POLITICS (BARGAINING) 4. The content of major social welfare policies and programs is the principal subject matter of this course, as will become evident in later sessions. 5. Application – The level of greatest immediate concern to social work practitioners. Covered in practice courses and, to some extent, throughout this course. EXPLANATIONS 1.Welfare State: Total stock of social programs & policies, to which newly enacted laws are added. See module 3. 2/3. Context & politics are the most immediate factors accounting for legislative outcomes (laws). Covered later in this module.

9 9 Definitions (1): Policy, Social Policy, & Social Welfare Policy SOCIAL POLICIES Social policy is sometimes used as a synonym for social welfare policy, but this is really a misnomer, since the former is a far more inclusive term encompassing all sorts of domestic issues (e.g., education). “Policy” generically refers to the goals, means, and principles pursued by institutions, whether public or private. The term is somewhat confusing for that reason---i.e., it encompasses both means and ends, but is particularly associated with the notion of principles, which are implicit/explicit assumptions guiding specific actions in pursuit of goals. A subset of social policies, in particular programs/regulations designed to satisfy individual and familial needs inadequately met through the market system. See slides 11/12 for a closer definition. SOCIAL WELFARE POLICIES (SWPs) THE NEXT SLIDE PROVIDES ANOTHER REPRESENTATION OF THESE CONCEPTS

10 10 Definitions (2): Policy, Social Policy, & Social Welfare Policy PUBLIC POLICIES SOCIAL POLICIES SOCIAL WELFARE POLICIES

11 11 DEFINITIONS (3) basic needsPublicly financed and administered programs designed to meet basic needs inadequately met through the market system. citizenship, contributions, and/or “means” criteria.Program eligibility determined by citizenship, contributions, and/or “means” criteria. legislative processContents determined via the legislative process, as mediated by values, interests, and “clout” of the contending political actors and their supporters. SOCIAL WELFARE POLICIES (SWPs) SOCIAL WELFARE POLICIES (SWPs)

12 12 Social Welfare Policies: Major Types 2. Means - tested 3. Benefits tied to earnings or savings Eligibility established by demonstrating need, according to government – mandated criteria. This type of social welfare program (e.g., SSI or TANF) accounts for 13% of all expenditures. Unlike “welfare” (#2), these programs are Targeted at the working poor (EITC) or elderly seeking Medicaid assistance for for long-term care. About 20% of all expenditures. About 50% of all social welfare expenditure fall into this category: they are designed to sustain income during unemployment or old age, and require contributions from employees and/or employers. 1. Contributory

13 13 SWPs: ORIGINS (1 ) (Mainstream version) SWPs: ORIGINS (1 ) (Mainstream version) In the mainstream view, modern swps derive logically if not spontaneously from the very nature of modern society. Whatever its local variations, modernity everywhere involves urbanization, industrialization, and loss of family/local community economic support. Workers are consequently exposed to a variety of hazards-- --notably, illness, unemployment or injury on the job---previously perceived as family and community responsibilities. In the same vein, the life phases before and after market employment----i.e., youth and old age---also require protections as substitutes for the family/community goods and services available in simpler times. The next slide diagrammatically profiles the varying attempts to satisfy these new needs.

14 14 ORIGINS (2): VARYING RESPONSES TO MODERNIZATION (Mainstream version) URBANIZATION AND INDUSTRIALIZATION MODERNIZATION Traditional American individualism and self- Reliance Mutual Benefit Societies to protect members thru insurance plans Trade unions to protect members by winning benefits through collective bargaining Government action, including swps, in response to popular demands

15 15 SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY: ORIGINS (Radical version) Radicals contend that mainstreamers gloss over the issue of class struggle---i..e., the allegedly ineradicable conflicts in interests between workers and owners---that radicals view as the pivotal political element in capitalist society. The origins of modern swps---in Germany in the 1880s---is seen as a prime case in point. Then in an early phase of development, German capitalism was nevertheless already threatened by a comparably dynamic radical political – labor movement demanding public ownership of the mines, factories, and railroads (the “means of production”). In reaction, Germany’s “Iron Chancellor,” Otto von Bismarck, acting on behalf of Germany’s capitalist and aristocratic ruling class, instituted the first swps. The strategy worked by somewhat blunting working class demands for more basic change and, at least equally important, by classifying workers into various social insurance groupings, intentionally designed to fragment their capacity for common class solidarity. This “divide and conquer” policy deflected the (potentially) revolutionary ardor feared by German elites. While American swp followed its own distinctive pattern, their intent and results were similar. The next slide reviews the American case more closely from a radical perspective.

16 16 SOCIAL WELFARE POLICIES: ORIGINS (Radical version) Liberals often view---or, better perhaps, venerate--- Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) as the “founding father” of modern American social welfare policy. This is true in a technical sense---the Social Security Act (1935) and other important social and social welfare legislation were indeed enacted during the New Deal phase ( ) of FDR’s long presidential tenure ( ). But radical historians argue that liberals underemphasize the pressures exerted on Roosevelt from both working class Left and, especially. capitalist Right, as well as Roosevelt’s own essentially conservative inclinations. Thus, radicals regard the Social Security Act itself--- undoubtedly the most important swp in US history---as basically prompted by corporate America’s demands for public relief from its Depression-era pension obligations. Conservatives are equally negative about the New Deal, as the next slide explains.


18 18 SWP TRENDS (1): RETREAT, HO! Retreat from expansionary social welfare policies is one of the major political realities of our time, and one that has had especially important implications for both social workers and their traditional clientele---the poor. While the beginnings of this trend predate the 1980s, it was during that decade, and specifically during the Reagan years ( ), that the process really accelerated---indeed, Reagan was elected on an explicitly “roll back the welfare state” platform that constituted a wholesale rejection of the New Deal tradition. Whatever one’s values, there is no doubt that the era of “big government” is over and, barring exceptional circumstances (most obviously, a major economic downturn) is unlikely to return any time soon.

19 19 SWP TRENDS (2): CAUSAL FACTORS The reasons for this reversal are hotly debated, but its overall momentum remains indisputable. Conservatives point to popular disillusionment: in President Nixon’s (1968 – 73) memorable phrase, voters allegedly became tired of “throwing money at [social] problems,” and so withdrew support from initiatives allegedly most beneficial to public sector bureaucrats rather than the ostensible recipients of services. As the Friedman video on FDR testifies, this is merely the latest version of the longstanding conservative claim that so-called “big government” doesn’t work and therefore should be downsized to an absolute minimum. Radicals, however, see the matter differently. In their view, swps have been undercut by increased corporate lobbying and the worldwide victory of “free market” economics. For more on this controversy, see Part 2 of this module, module 3, and relevant assigned readings.

20 20 SWP TRENDS (3) : STAGNATION & REVERSALS No new major social welfare reforms have been created since enactment of Medicare/Medicaid in On the other hand, several major programs, notably public assistance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) have, respectively, been transformed or radically reduced. Perhaps more importantly, almost no prominent political figure in either major party now advocates ambitious liberal swp initiatives. The last major attempt at innovation was President Clinton’s ill- fated 1994 health care proposal (Module 5), which resulted in the single greatest domestic political defeat of his administration. While dissatisfaction with health care continues to simmer, Clinton’s attempt to reform the entire health care system was so disastrous as to discredit all further attempts at “global” change. Commenting at the time (1994) the inimitable “Tom Tomorrow” summed up the political mess, as follows


22 22 SWP TRENDS (5): PRIVATIZATION Privatization of public service programs is now a well-established American pattern. Many municipalities, for example, subcontract trash collection and some even have experimented with private police and fire services. However, the most prominent privatization experiments so far have been in education (so-called “charter schools”) and in the penal system, with a number of states experimenting with corporate – run prisons. Privatization has also dramatically expanded in the swp area, notably in administration of state welfare programs and reliance on for-profit HMOs in the Medicare and, especially, Medicaid programs. More ambitious still are demands for the privatization of Social Security, the “colossal enchilada” among American swps, which some conservatives would like to see turned into a privatized pension plan.

23 23 SWP TRENDS (6): PRIVATIZATION PROS & CONS PRO (CONSERVATIVE ARGUMENTS) Privatization of public services and programs saves money because businesses must meet contract specifications or lose money. Because contractors have specific “bottom line” targets, they must conduct their operations with exemplary efficiency if they want to stay in business. In privatizing services, government is avoiding long-term contractual commitments to employees---a huge cost saving over time. Corporate employees are not covered by civil service protections, which promote retention of “dead wood,” and otherwise cost the taxpayer avoidable expenses.CON (LIBERAL/RADICAL ARGUMENTS) Privatization is essentially a ruse (“scam”), whereby corporations connive with pliant politicians to usurp what are legitimately public functions. The conservative arguments are therefore really “red herrings,” i.e., designed to deflect attention away from the real aims underlying privatization. Privatization is dangerous insofar as it subverts social solidarity, while providing corporations with undesirable entrée into all kinds of activities---e.g., education and public welfare---best left within the public domain.

24 24 SWP TRENDS (7): DEVOLUTION “Devolution” refers to the transfer of swps from one level of government responsibility to another---most recently, from the federal to the state and lower levels of government, as was most prominently done with public welfare, when it was transformed from AFDC to TANF (1996). Like the other trends described in this section, devolution is a controversial issue. Its conservative supporters argue that it will help make swps more reflective of the popular will, because state governments are literally and figuratively closer to the people. Liberals and radicals predictably don’t see the matter in this way. They view devolution as simply one way of sloughing off the responsibility for swps by downsizing the size and power of the federal government---the only level of government that, historically, has been the most reliable and effective proponent of social welfare programs.


26 26 THE POLITICAL DIMENSION SWPs are first and foremost the product of politics; that is why it is impossible to engage in serious social work study without including significant attention to the profession’s political dimension. It is also why both CSWE and NASW readily acknowledge the importance of understanding politics in general, and the politics of social welfare in particular, as vital to the future of the profession. This second part of Module 2, and associated readings, provide a compressed review, of both these themes. But doing so is not easy, not least because, as we shall see, even defining what politics is about is itself controversial, depending as it does on whether one accepts a mainstream or radical perspective on that subject. We’ll focus on this controversy, and its implications for social work and social welfare policy, but first briefly make note of the institutional context within which all political activity takes place and the “actors” who make that activity actually happen.

27 27 Institutions All swps are hammered out within certain institutional rules and procedures that regulate each stage of the policy making process. This may occur at the local, state, or federal levels, although, historically, the most important legislation has been enacted at the federal level. The way in which institutions are organized, and their relationship to one another, can have a big impact on swp legislation. Indeed, the so-called “institutional school” of policy analysts believe that that impact is decisive in accounting for social policy outcomes. These analysts argue that the American system’s division of powers makes it possible to obstruct passage of sw legislation (and much else), just as the weak structure of our political parties tends to have the same effect: it is very difficult for party leaders to “rally the troops” when each soldier (read “legislator”) is primarily answerable to his local constituents. Finally, older, more conservative legislators have often exercised extraordinary power simply because, as legislative veterans, they have more institutional experience and have occupied key institutional positions.

28 28 Institutions and Politics Institutional arrangements, of the type summarized in the last slide, undoubtedly have played a significant role in determining social welfare policy. Indeed, when civic texts refer to the “policy making process,” their primary emphasis is usually on explaining the “rules of the game,” as it is played in the various institutional contexts from which swps emerge. Yet it is important to remember that these are POLITICAL as well as INSTITUTIONAL contexts: i.e. that institutional rules have been established in order to constrain and discipline the struggle for power that we call “politics.” Therefore, while granting that the “institutional school” has its points, most analysts still regard politics and political interests as the keys to understanding why we get the types of social welfare policies we do. For that reason, it is important to focus on the key questions relating to politics and social welfare policy, beginning with the primary one ….

29 29 POLITICAL ACTORS & SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY Political actors determine the contents and disposition of swps. The “clout” of particular political actors in turn depends on their resources: (1) lobbyists, their financial resources; (2) politicians, their political skills; (3) the public, its degree of active political mobilization. Generally, (1) is the decisive factor, but (2) & (3) can also be very important, depending on the particular issue. Policy outcomes are thus often difficult to predict due to the complex interaction of these factors on any given issue  The next slide provides a diagrammatic representation of the relationships among political “actors.”

30 30

31 31 INSERT: THE GREATEST POLITICAL ACTOR OF THEM ALL? Students of modern American history often rate Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) the most highly skilled political leader since FDR. Indeed, LBJ was an FDR protégé in his command of institutional forms (he was Senate majority leader for many years), interpersonal skills (the famous “LBJ treatment” could reportedly “persuade” even the most independently-minded), and determined commitment to social justice. Using these extraordinary assets, Johnson enacted numerous civil rights, education, and social welfare laws, including Medicare and Medicaid, which are the most important swp legacies of his administration (1963 – 1968). Yet despite these extraordinary achievements, Johnson’s presidency was politically destroyed by the Vietnam war, which drained resources from his “War on Poverty” and helped discredit the liberal activism Johnson exemplified and championed. Click on Edu-Rama! to watch a capsule LBJ bio, which begins with his statement following assassination of his predecessor, J.F. Kennedy. EDU- RAMA!

32 32 WHAT IS POLITICS, ANYWAY? DARNED IF I KNOW ! IT’S A FIGHT FOR LOVE AND GLORY IT’S WHAT CLINTON DOES IN OVAL OFFICE There is no single authoritative definition of politics. In fact, as the following 3 slides explain, its meaning very much depends on whether you are an mainstreamer or radical.

33 33 THE MAINSTREAM VIEW OF POLITICS As one would anticipate, mainstreamers see politics basically as an “arena of ideas” in which individuals and groups seek to promote and act into law plans and values they regard as of paramount social importance. In the mainstream conception, civics is not simply an “add on,” but close to the core of what education should be about. That is, the schools, especially at the higher levels, should teach how to evaluate the objective merit of ideas by equipping students with a knowledge of those subjects---history, philosophy, and economics- --most germane to the evaluative task. Democracy works to the extent that citizen-voters have acquired and are able to exercise this analytical capability. Thus, it is possible to have a democratic institutional format without the democratic commitment to public-spirited debate and circulation of ideas. Indeed, many mainstreamers worry that this is the current American situation.

34 34 THE MAINSTREAM VIEW: LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES Usually seen as opposing political viewpoints, liberals and conservatives actually share key underlying assumptions. Specifically, both view politics in terms of “dialogue and debate:” their objective is to put before the public ideas and proposals they claim serve the common interest, rather than specific class interests. That liberals and conservatives share this view is at least as important as their political differences. That said, conservatives believe that it is necessary to promote corporate goals because society will flourish only if business does. Liberals do not disagree with this proposition, but urge that all people be given an equal chance to compete and that government helps those who, for whatever reason, fail to compete successfully. Liberals also believe that certain common social programs should be adopted when the private sector proves incapable of furnishing the needed goods or services---medical care for the aged. The following two slides look at these differences more closely.

35 35 LIBERAL VIEWS basic living standardsCommitment to basic living standards beneath which no one should be allowed to fall. Equality of opportunityEquality of opportunity actively promoted by government benignefficacy of governmentBelief in the benign efficacy of government, as led by the liberal elite Belief that capitalism’s “rough edges” can and should be reformed for the benefit of society as a whole. Democratic process as the way to effect all political changes.

36 36 CONSERVATIVE VIEWS responsiblePeople are, or at least should be, responsible for their own lives; swp “safety nets” only cushion the lazy and encourage the improvident. They should accordingly be minimized or eliminated altogether. individual initiativeEquality of opportunity, but primary emphasis on individual initiative inherent incapacity of governmentBelief in the inherent incapacity of government to effectively address social problems. Led by well-meaning but naïve liberals, governments can be transformed into bureaucratized colossi, which threaten individual freedom, even when they remain nominally democratic in form. There is no such thing as a free lunch Democratic process as the way to effect all political change.

37 37 THE RADICAL VIEW OF POLITICS specific specificRadicals see politics as essentially a struggle for power, in which specific groups, individuals, and, especially, social classes pursue their specific interests by appealing to certain common ideas and ideals. In this view, in order to understand politics, you must first understand what an individual, class, or group is trying to achieve in terms of their advantage and then relate their political ideas to this objective. Ideas flow from interests, not the other way around, as mainstreamers believe. likeExpert political understanding, like expert therapeutic practice, thus consists in being able to distinguish between what political actors mean as opposed to what they say. What they say is probably designed to convince others (and perhaps themselves as well) that passage of legislation they are supporting contributes to the community, when in fact it is quite partisan in its intentions.

38 38 THE RADICAL VIEW OF POLITICS Radicals are divided into various sub-classifications---notably, communists, socialists and social democrats. However, all are more or less committed to viewing politics as essentially a struggle for power, in which the vast majority of people share common interests in world peace and economic security, and would accordingly benefit from a high degree of cooperation for the common good. That is what is in their interests. However, these commonalities are obscured because a small, property owning minority---essentially, the capitalist class---is able to exercise decisive political influence in pursuit of its narrow ends. (See Module 1, slides 30 – 59 for details.) The following slide looks more closely at radical views.

39 39 RADICAL VALUES Commitment to a decent standard of living for all citizens as a fundamental legal and human right Full equality of opportunity and partial opportunity of result: i.e. everyone should enjoy roughly the same life chances, but in any case, social and economic differences among people should be drastically narrowed. ActivistActivist government working on behalf of those most in need of representation. Mixed economy Democratic process but without current inequalities of media or political access

40 40 POLITICS AND SOCIAL WELFARE POLITICS The remainder of this module is devoted to applying Part 2 concepts to the politics of social welfare.

41 41 SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY: Political Supporters and Opponents Actors and, more generally, swp supporters and opponents, differ in both their economic interests and political values.Most Americans identify themselves as either liberals (not “liberalists”) and conservatives. Radicals are a small minority without effective political representation or access to major media outlets for dissemination of their views. Radicals, like liberals, support popular swps, but want to see them extended as part of an overall effort to reduce inequality.

42 42 SWP SUPPORTERS: ECONOMIC INTERESTS (1) Generous swps are generally supported by the poor and working class, as represented by trade unions, and by others (e.g., handicappers) seeking protection from the unrestrained capitalist market. Such programs are also selectively supported by middle class Americans insofar as universal social insurance programs benefit them---Medicare, Medicaid (nursing homes), and Social Security. To the extent that that Americans perceive that they have common interests in protecting programs, they are likely to become political “actors.” The following slides examine these alignments more closely.

43 43 SUPPORTERS: ECONOMIC INTERESTS (2) Blue collar workers are more vulnerable to lay off and hence more interested in “safety net” social welfare protections for themselves and their families Trade union power is increased to the extent that workers have a “fall back” position in negotiations with owners: the stronger the swp “safety net,” the more assertive unions are able to be in their negotiations with management Solidarity Forever!

44 44 OPPONENTS: ECONOMIC INTERESTS Swps increase taxes and are resented by the rich, who can afford to buy protections through the market---e.g., health care and retirement investments. Their lives are in any case much more materially secure than those of ordinary Americans. The welfare state increases the bargaining power of labor, as noted, so that its size and coverages are very important considerations for employers seeking to restrain wages and benefits. Owners want consumers to have maximum “private” resources so that, ideally, even necessities are purchased through the market rather than collectively through the political process. (“What I want as an individual consumer,” as opposed to “What we want as a political community.” ) See Module III discussion of “decommodification” for more on this point. SOAK THE RICH, WHY DON’T YOU! TAX CUTS NOW!

45 45 ECONOMIC INTERESTS AND POLITICAL BELIEFS: A FINAL COMMENT While people’s ideas and interests are ideally in harmony---in principle you should be aware of and favor those policies that are in your individual and class interests----there is often a discrepancy between the two: i.e., in reality, we often believe things that are not in our interest. false consciousness,Radicals attribute such discordance to “false consciousness,” i.e. what was termed in Module I capitalist control over the “means of mental production” and the resultant political ideas and proposals that deflect ordinary people from their real interests.

46 46 Part 2 Questions 1.As emphasized in this module, politics is the driving force behind development and enactment of social welfare policy. Which political position do you identify with---liberal, conservative, or radical---and on what grounds? 2. Does the concept of “false consciousness” make sense to you? If so, apply it to a given political situation with which you are familiar. If not, explain why you think the concept is faulty. 3. Imagine that you are a political decision maker charged with development of new social welfare policies. To which policies would you give priority? Why do you think these are so important? 4. Having reviewed the module and associated readings, discuss the importance of social welfare policy for social workers.

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