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Social Workers and Welfare
In fact, during this entire time period, the Democrats controlled Congress.
Despite frequent Republican success at the presidential level, Democrats controlled the House uninterrupted for the forty years before 1994, and likewise the Senate for all but the first six Reagan years of 1980-1986. (98)
So much of the blame for the continuation of these terrible programs clearly lies with the Democratic party. But going back, even to the Great Depression, the most ardent proponents of welfare were the social workers themselves. As their funding grew, social workers became more entrenched and began to organize. A mind boggling array of social work organizations formed. I'm not going to list what they stand for but here are the organizations in their order of formation, as listed by the Social Work Dictionary: NSWE, AAHSW, AAMSW, AASSW, NASSA, CSWE, COS, FSA, CWLA, AASW, AAPSW, CASW, [ICSW, IASSW], APWA, FEPC, AAGW, ASCO, SWRG, NASW, [IFSW, CIP], ACSW, NABSW, NAPRSSW, AASW, NISWA, NFSCSW, ELAN, VISTA, PACE, RSWC, GADE, AASSWB, AASWG and ACBSW (103). [international organizations in brackets]
Upon their formation, these organizations often began (and still do) to lobby Congress for more funding and expansion of their programs.
In 1954 AASW appointed a Washington lobbyist, as did NASW two years later. Other social welfare organizations such as the APWA and the NSWA, were a constant presence in Washington throughout the early cold war period. (31)
Professional social work organizations such as NASW and CWSE, spent a good deal of time lobbying federal legislators for assistance with social work training. (31)
Almost without exception these groups lean(ed) to the left in their politics. Some were accused of being communist or socialist. In 1952, the Federal Security Agency decided to cease publication and destroy existing copies of Charlotte Towle's training text for public welfare workers, Common Human Needs (31). In the aforementioned Social Work Dictionary, under the title, "Milestones in the Development of Social Work and Social Welfare", there are a few curious things which they consider "Milestones":
(1916) Margaret Sanger publishes Family Limitation, the first book on birth control. (103)
(1942) The Beveridge Report is issued in Great Britain, recommending an integrated social security system that attempts to ensure cradle-to-grave economic protections for its citizens. Many of the reportís recommendations go into effect after World War II.
(1944) The Marsh Report is issued in Canada. Based partly on Britainís Beveridge Report, it establishes the guidelines for the Canadian social welfare system.
(1966) The U.S. Supreme Court issues the Miranda decision, requiring that police inform a suspect of his or her constitutional rights before questioning.
(1985) The Canadian Health Act is established to provide universal comprehensive health care.
(1993) The Brady Bill (Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, P.L. 103-159), to limit access to handguns in the United States, is passed. (103)
Now, I know I am a mere uneducated citizen, but what does birth control, socialized health care, criminal rights, socialism, and gun control have to do with social work?
In reading through histories of social lobbying, especially Construction of "Dependency" (31), it appears that Congress, under the guidance of social workers and their lobbyists, would always pass bills that they (social orgs and their lobbyists) would tout as reducing welfare dependency, only to have the rolls grow even more. This would often lead to supposed 'bitterness' between Congress and the welfare agencies, who were otherwise ideologically similar. This cycle would repeat itself every few years.
Rather from 1962 to 1966 the number of AFDC recipients rose by almost a million, despite a relatively strong economy.
Given the failure of the 1962 amendments to reduce caseloads, the social community and it's service philosophy increasingly fell out of favor with congressional leaders. (31)
Ironically, during these 'reform' periods social workers would often acquiesce to limited budget cuts in return for assurances of increased funding for alternative programs elsewhere (like childcare). It was sold to Congress and the press as a way of compensating recipients for the 'harsh cuts' and 'easing them into work'.
As Chapter one discusses, this [raising of payments] occurred incrementally throughout the postwar period. When standards [payments] were raised, social workers rejoiced. (31)
Did the social workers who were pushing the growth and expansion of their programs know what the results of their policies would be? In the late 50s the Commissioner of Social Security (under which was the Bureau of Public Assistance) employed a well known social researcher Alvin Schoor to study some of the criticisms the welfare agencies were under. But he didn't like the answer he got!:
But the BPA was displeased with Schoor's critical perspective and sought to stifle publication in the Administration's Social Security Bulletin. Banned from the Bulletin, Schoor eventually published his findings in Social Work (1960).
Schoor argued that ADCF encouraged female-headed homes by assisting only female-headed families and discouraged work by automatically reducing grant monies when mothers were employed. (31)
The Bureau continued to deceive, mislead and/or display incredible ignorance over the changes taking place in America under the current policies.
In 1961 the Bureau of Public Assistance issued it's congressionally-commissioned report entitled "Illegitimacy and it's Impact on the Aid to Dependent Children Program". The report summed up the long standing sentiment of the post war social work community in it's conclusion, "The problem [illegitimacy] long preceded the establishment of public assistance programs, and it's causes are deeper than the mere availability of financial aid. (31)
However, it is easy to Monday morning quarterback. We must assume that most social workers were just doing what they thought was best for their clients. Individual social workers did and do valuable and selfless work. I greatly admire their courage and sacrifice. But unfortunately the leadership of their organizations had in mind the best interests of social workers, not the best interests of the poor.
What is more interesting is the hidden condescension ('soft bigotry of low expectations') that gradually developed in some social worker mindsets. Poorer families were seen as having some kind of mental mindset. "Neurotic" and "Pathological" are some of the words used to describe various welfare clientele.
In one of his several articles on casework with public assistance recipients, social work educator Kermit Wiltse (1958s) argued, "the social workers responsibilities to the client family are functions normally attributed to the role of a parent in relation to his child" (p16). The function of casework, in Wiltse's (1958a) schema, included:
1. To give consistent warmth of feelings and concern to each person, in other words to love
2. To offer oneself as an ego ideal
3. To teach by precept and example
4. To supervise and set limits (31)
Social workers used the fact that many African Americans were on the rolls to attack opponents of reform. A 1959 article in "Social Service Review" asked:
One wonders how much criticism of the AFDC program stems from misplaced racism. (31), (33)
How ironic....Social Workers criticizing 'racists' for condemning an innately racist welfare system that once excluded (and/or insidiously included) people by race. It would seem more logical for the Social Workers to demand the abolition of the racist welfare system, while the 'racists' demand it stay operational. Of course, at this point it was more difficult to see the effect the welfare system was having on poorer people and the black family structure, but the whole thing does seem a bit juxtaposed.
Social workers did not seem worried by the problem of single mother dependency:
According to the authors, "Experience, however, indicates that the mother herself is usually the best person to decide whether or not she had the strength and ability to work outside as well as in the home (Choate & Gallagher , 1961 p. 41) (31)
In an article for Social Casework, Jay Roney (1958) head of the Bureau of Public Assistance wrote:
When administrative policies result in forcing mothers to work, contrary to the mother's judgments about how best to meet the needs of their children, the objective of the program is defeated (p154-145). (31)
Taking a step back, it is uncanny how the histories of all the various welfare agencies and the history of social worker organizations follow the theories Nobel Prize winning economist and Presidential advisor Milton Friedmen described in his 1980 classic, Free To Choose.
Friendmen noted that the growth of government programs (or even some outside organized groups with common economic interests) often play out in predictable patterns. After forming, the government program will immediately put pressure on Congress for more funding, seek to organize itself for survival and expansion purposes, and recruit lobbyists and allies in Washington. The agency will commission studies which demonstrate the vital need for the agency and develop public relations with the press to express these 'findings'. The solution to all problems faced by the government agency will always be to 'fix' the problem by expanding the agency in an appropriate way to address the concern. The agency will also seek powers of regulation, which enable it to acquire more power and funding and, if applicable, increase the rigors of training and certification, which ostensibly provides higher salary to the members and contribute to the exclusiveness of the group. A government agency will never voluntarily accept or request reductions in funding and will never recommend it's own elimination.
We've seen this very path followed by the various welfare and social spending agencies and the organized social worker groups. They testified before Congress on the importance of their work, commissioned studies that backed their efforts and in at least one case tried to suppress critical information. They lobbied for increases in funding for their programs and for their clients. They argued for increasing certification requirements for social workers and sought and received federal funding for worker training. Other 'Milestones' of the Social Work Dictionary were:
(1934) Puerto Rico passes a law regulating social work practice. This is the first time social work is legally regulated in any U.S. state or territory. (103)
(1961) Rhode Island becomes the third jurisdiction to pass a regulatory law for social workers.
(1969) Membership in the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), once restricted to people with master of social work (MSW) degrees, is opened to social workers with qualified bachelorís degrees. The NASW Delegate Assembly approves the resolution to pursue licensing of social work practice within each state.
(1977) The Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work (GADE) is formed.
(1979) The American Association of State Social Work Boards (AASSWB) is incorporated to coordinate the procedures and activities of state licensing for social workers. (103)
In the 50s, 60s and up until present day, when faced with the accusations of dependency, amplifying poverty, and creating single mothers, social worker organizations followed the standard procedure: deny, counter accuse and offer expansion as a solution. They denied that there was a problem, or that they were causing it, accused their opponents of being uncaring, racists and/or greedy, and proposed costly solutions that often just amplified the problem.
For example, social workers organizations first pushed for childcare funding (daycare and other programs) to be available. This, they said, would assist in solving the problem (illegitimacy) that they didn't acknowledge even existed! The first childcare funding was passed in '56 and another greater splurge in '62. This funding continued increasing up to and including the Welfare Reform bill of 1996. Next, they pushed for funding for poor married families too, reasoning this would give less incentives to single mothers. This was passed as unemployment benefits in 1961 and has continued growing. Today, in most states, even childless, unmarried adult singles who loose their job (no matter how wealthy) are eligible for unemployment benefits (100). Sounds like Sweden! Of course, if you have the foresight to buy unemployment insurance then you are not eligible for the government unemployment benefits! Sounds like those selling private insurance might want to learn the lesson of the private food stores on the Pine Woods Indian reservation! These same Social Worker organizations are now pushing to make Medicaid available for poorer two parent families to stop single mother 'dependency'.
Of course, none of these added benefits solved anything, so then social workers pushed for family allowances. Every American family with children would get a certain amount of money per month. In fact, the social workers, their lobbyists and liberal allies cited the 'successes' of the Scandinavian governments as evidence for this policy. Luckily, this last measure and variations of it was ever enacted. President's Nixon and Carter both tried their hand at it:
Nixon revealed FAP in a nationwide address on August 8, 1969. Heavy criticism followed. Welfare advocates declared the income level Nixon proposed -- $1600 per year for a family of four -- insufficient. Conservatives disliked the idea of a guaranteed annual income for people who didn't work. Labor saw the proposal as a threat to the minimum wage. Caseworkers opposed FAP fearing that many of their jobs would be eliminated. And many Americans complained that the addition of the working poor would expand welfare caseloads by millions. A disappointed Nixon pressed for the bill's passage in various forms, until the election season of 1972. He knew a bad campaign issue when he saw one, and he let FAP expire. (104)
(1977) President Jimmy Carter proposes a thorough revision of the nationís social welfare system with a Jobs and Income Security program, which fails to gain approval in Congress and is abandoned when he is not reelected. (103)
In all this, the truth of the matter was that social worker organizations themselves and their worthless, hurtful programs were the problem. The simple solution was to just get ride of the problem; fixing and tinkering with a rotten apple won't fix it's core. Many Republicans railed for years against welfare, but because they were in the minority they were unable to get anything passed besides these 'watered down' (some might argue 'watered up') reform bills. However, some Republicans didn't fully understand the scope of the problem and offered solutions similar to the Democratic ones (such as Nixon's bill).
Recall that during Welfare Reform the 'experts' were divided or, more likely, against the reform. Liberal Senators claimed no reforms had ever been successful. Also, remember the JCPEC poll showed 63% of African Americans support vouchers (187). Besides being wrong about public opinion, this reporter is dancing around the liberal line that more money will 'fix' the problems, by making excuses for the bloated D.C. budget. Notice her emphasis on 'teacher qualifications'. Teachers frequently get large pay raises if they return to school and complete a Masters or PhD program. Does this really help them teach better? In most states, to be hired you have to have a college degree in education and pass specific exams. Remember Milton Freidmen and the social workers?
For more on this see 'School Choice'.
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