Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Short summary of “Public Assistance and Income Maintenance”

In “Public Assistance and Income Maintenance”, H. Wayne Johnson introduces the social and demographic makeup of American poverty, and the functions that poverty serves in our society. He summarizes antipoverty programs like social insurance and public assistance, dispelling a few myths along the way. The chapter concludes with a short discussion of tax reforms.

Some poverty is insular, based on social grouping and geography, such as minority communities and areas with a high manual labor force. Other poverty is more of a case situation. People who are poor because of job lay-offs, disability, marital status, health problems, addictions, or lack of education. These people can be living in affluent communities and still are poor. Like some other social problems, poverty is tough to correct because it serves many roles in our society. The most obvious being cheap labor and someone to do the “dirty work”. One of the not so obvious roles is the prolonging of marketability of obsolete or lesser quality manufactured goods. Then there is the psychological dependency of the more affluent who use the poorer classes as a means to boost their perceived self-worth and give them a chance to experience the excitement of “slumming”.

Most antipoverty programs can be separated into social insurance and public assistance. Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance and worker's compensation are examples of social insurance programs. These are meant for all citizens, regardless of their social economical status, race, creed, age, gender, etc. Public assistance programs are usually aimed to a specific group(s), like the handicapped, aged and children, mothers and so forth. They include services like housing, food stamps, food assistance, Medicaid and educational assistance. Tax reforms have also brought more relief in the form of deductions and tax credits.

This chapter is informative and gives the reader a good basis for coming to terms with the truth of American poverty and the programs designed to combat it. One could ask themselves, though, if it is possible to remove some of the psychosocial need for poverty in our society might help us to actually succeed better in reducing it - or even removing it. To remove the deep cause of poverty and our reliance on it. Perhaps it is not, but it does cause one to stop and think of our convictions and beliefs.

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