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Welfare Reform on the Web (May 2008): Social security - overseas

The failed welfare revolution: America's struggle over guaranteed income policy

B. Steensland

Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2008

Today the United States has one of the highest poverty rates among the world's rich industrial democracies. During the 1960s and 1970s, policymakers in three presidential administrations tried to replace the nation's existing welfare system with a revolutionary programme to guarantee Americans basic economic security. Guaranteed income plans received broad bipartisan support in the 1960s. One proposal, President Nixon's Family Assistance Plan, nearly passed into law in the 1970s, and President Carter advanced a similar bill a few years later. The failure of these proposals marked the federal government's last direct effort to alleviate poverty among the least advantaged and, ironically, sowed the seeds of conservative welfare reform strategies under President Reagan and beyond. The book tells the whole story for the first time - from why such an unlikely policy idea first developed to the factors that sealed its fate. This account, based on extensive original research in presidential archives, draws on mainstream social science perspectives that emphasize the influence of powerful stakeholder groups and policymaking institutions. But the book also shows that some of the most potent obstacles to guaranteed income plans were cultural. Most centrally, by challenging Americans' longstanding distinction between the 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor, the plans threatened the nation's cultural, political, and economic status quo.

Restructuring welfare for the unemployed: the Hartz legislation in Germany

T. Fleckenstein

Journal of European Social Policy, vol. 18, 2008, p. 177-188

The Hartz IV legislation in Germany integrated unemployment benefit and social assistance into one scheme for the long-term unemployed. It terminated the dual responsibility of the employment service and the municipalities for this group of jobseekers. Employable claimants without unemployment benefit entitlement are eligible for the new means-tested and tax funded 'basic security for jobseekers' or Unemployment Benefit II. The regular maximum duration of the unemployment insurance benefit (Unemployment Benefit I) was reduced to 12 months, after which claimants are transferred to Unemployment Benefit II. Job Centres have also been introduced to provide all services to the unemployed. Personal advisers based in these Centres provide overall guidance and job placement services, based on integration agreements between the employment service and the claimant. This article analyses in detail how the policies embodied in the Hartz IV legislation were developed. It is argued that the substance of the legislation was not based on the work of the Hartz Commission so much as on deliberations of an expert forum organised by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the efforts of a subsequent ministerial project group.

The US welfare to work market

D. Finn

Working Brief, Mar. 2008, p. 11-13

In 1996 the US Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act devolved significant powers to individual states for implementing the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families programme. States could contract out all services, including eligibility for TANF financial assistance, and could give contracts to faith-based organisations on a new basis known as charitable choice. This article summarises findings from a review of the literature on contracting out these welfare to work services, focusing on Wisconsin and New York City.

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