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Chapter 15 – Government and Society. AP Government. Aims of Social Policies. Part of the aim of government is to devise and implement policies that improve society. Social policies aim: to protect people against the risks and uncertainties of life to promote equality of opportunity

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aims of social policies
Aims of Social Policies
  • Part of the aim of government is to devise and implement policies that improve society.

Social policies aim:

    • to protect people against the risks and uncertainties of life
    • to promote equality of opportunity
    • to alleviate poverty
politics of social policies
Politics of Social Policies
  • The making of social policy is essentially a political struggle.
  • Two New Deal programs (welfare (Aid to Families with Dependent Children, or AFDC) and Social Security) exemplify the politics of social policies.
united states welfare system
United States Welfare System
  • Compared to many European “cradle to grave” systems and especially Scandinavian governments, the United States has a small “welfare state.”
  • A culture of individualism and a small American “state” has led to a limited role for the American government in providing for social welfare. Primarily – Social Security and Medicare
u s social welfare system
U.S. Social Welfare System
  • United States social welfare system has played increasing roles in:
    • providing support to the poor, the elderly, and the infirm
    • helping citizens cover the costs of health care and health insurance
    • providing greater national guidance on education policy
    • assisting citizens in finding suitable housing
who should get assistance from the government
Who Should Get Assistance From the Government?
  • During the 1800’s, private charity provided the assistance. They could decide who gets help.
  • Deserving vs. Undeserving Poor
    • Widows
    • Orphans
    • Persons with Disabilities
    • Transients?
  • Local organizations knew who to give assistance too.
u s social welfare programs
U.S. Social Welfare Programs
  • Most of the money for welfare programs goes to programs for the elderly.
  • This has made AARP one of the most influential and largest interest groups in the U.S.
  • Some have referred to dealing with the problems of these programs like touching the “third rail”.
    • Touch it and your political career is over.
u s social welfare state
U.S. Social Welfare State
  • 1930’s - New Deal – beginning of the rise of the American welfare system.
  • Large numbers of poor increased the sense that the government should provide relief.
  • President Franklin Roosevelt offered a program of increased government intervention in the economy and society.
u s social welfare program
U.S. Social Welfare Program
  • Franklin Roosevelt argued that government should observe an “Economic Bill of Rights” that recognized the material needs of citizens.
  • Emphasized the importance of social policies to alleviate or overcome social problems and spurred many new programs and a great deal of new government spending.
brief history of u s social welfare programs
Brief History of U.S. Social Welfare Programs
  • FDR - Great Depression led to New Deal programs
    • Social Security Act of 1935
  • LBJ - War on Poverty
    • Great Society Programs of the 1960s
  • Reagan - Cut back these programs in the 1980’s
  • Clinton - Welfare Reform –
    • Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996
      • Small payments for maximum of two years consecutive
      • Lifetime maximum of 5 years on welfare
      • States more leeway operating system
    • Name change
      • Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
entitlement programs
Entitlement Programs
  • Most government funds are given through entitlement programs to people who are not poor.
social security1
Social Security
  • Social Security, by contrast, is a remarkably popular social policy
  • Social Security, a system of forced savings, is a “contributory” program in which recipients contribute to their own benefits.
  • Most Americans support Social Security, partly because they do not perceive that it is aimed at redistributing wealth and because they expect to benefit from the program eventually.
social security2
Social Security
  • Increasing Social Security costs and the large number of impending retirements of the “baby boom” generation have convinced some policy makers Social Security needs restructuring.
  • George W. Bush sought to reform Social Security by providing “private savings accounts” for recipients.
    • Plan failed partly because critics successfully characterized the proposal as an effort to “privatize” Social Security.
poverty line
Poverty Line
  • Poverty is defined by the government as family income that falls below the poverty line.
  • Counts underestimate poverty, because millions of people hover around the line and continually fall just below or rise just above it.
  • Feminization of Poverty
    • Increase in the incidents of women and their children living in poverty.
welfare programs1
Welfare Programs
  • Resentment from contributors who perceive few personal benefits make welfare programs widely unpopular.
    • “noncontributory” programs.
      • Beneficiaries do not, and often cannot, contribute to the support they get
  • The program is funded by redistributing resources from others in society to the needy
  • Welfare lacks political protection because recipients tend to have less political power than contributors.
welfare reform
Welfare Reform
  • The unpopularity of welfare policies led both Democrats and Republicans to champion reform in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • In the mid-1990s, Democrats and Republicans replaced AFDC with a program called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).
    • TANF established guidelines aimed at moving people from welfare to work, significantly decreasing the welfare caseload in America.
    • TANF also transferred the administration of welfare from the national government to the state level where states could tailor their welfare policies to their own political values and particular needs.
mandatory spending
Mandatory Spending
  • Increases in “mandatory spending” (especially in social policies like Social Security and Medicare) have come to dominate the budget decisions of the American national government.

The eligibility for benefits by virtue of a category defined by law. Categories can be changed only by legislationdeprivation of individual benefits can be determined through due process in court



Social programs financed in whole or in part by taxation or other mandatory contributions by their present or future recipients. The most important example is Social Security, which is financed by a payroll tax

Contributory Programs


Social programs that assist people based on demonstrated need rather than contributions they have made; also known as public assistance programs

Noncontributory Programs

The process of periodically adjusting social benefits or wages to account for increases in the cost of living



A procedure that determines eligibility for government public assistance programs. A potential beneficiary must show a need and an inability to provide for that need

Means Testing

a federally financed state operated program for medical services to low income people
A federally financed state-operated program for medical services to low-income people



A program providing a minimum monthly income to people who pass a means test and are sixty-five years old or older, blind, or disabled. Financed from general revenues that are not Social Security contributions

Supplemental Security Income(SSI)


The largest in-kind benefits program, administered by the Department of Agriculture, providing coupons to individuals and families who satisfy a means test. Food Stamps can be exchanged for food at most grocery stores.

Food Stamps


In-Kind Benefits

Goods and services provided to needy individuals and families by the federal government, as contrasted with cash benefits. The largest in-kind federal welfare program is Food Stamps.