Scapegoating the Poor: Welfare Reform All Over Again and the Undermining of Democratic Citizenship
45 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2016 Last revised: 15 Nov 2016
Date Written: 1996
In the main body of this article, I focus on AFDC as a symbolic political issue, in particular, the symbolic appeal of what I have referred to as the subtexts of welfare reform. My purpose is to highlight how and why welfare reform, as a framing of policies regarding social and economic support for poor families, is an especially powerful displacement of conflicts political strategy. In the concluding section, I briefly address the inchoate nature of social rights in the evolution of democratic citizenship in America. At this juncture in our political history, nothing beneficial for the poor-or any of us--can come from what we now call welfare reform. We need to pay the most attention to the structural causes of poverty, especially the unavailability of jobs paying a living wage. We also need to think creatively about how to build on our liberal, constitutional heritage of individual rights so that social rights, along with civil and political rights, become an institutionalized and integral part of our concept of citizenship, and, consequently, they will become a meaningful resource in our attempts to protect individuals, not only from arbitrary goyernment, but also from a capricious society and economy.
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