Author: Betty Reid Mandell

BETTY REID MANDELL is co-editor of New Politics and co-author of Introduction to Human Services: Policy and Practice, 6th edition (Allyn & Bacon).

The Victims of "Welfare Reform"

     The following letter from me was published in the Boston Globe on June 26, 2013.

June 18, 2013

The Boston Globe

To the Editor:

Whatever happened to welfare?

     The ghost of Reagan’s welfare queen still hovers over conservatives. She is black. She is a large part of Mitt Romney’s 47 percent of moochers, and the “takers” that conservatives talk so much about.

     Most people don’t talk about welfare or know much about it, but conservatives, who also don’t know much about it, use it as a threat when they seek reelection or talk about policy. Republicans, and some Democrats, declare that welfare reform was a success because it brought the rolls down and put “free loaders” back to work.

From the Editors

Too often we have witnessed the political reversal of men and women who began fully committed to liberty, equality, and fraternity and ended up as reactionaries. Max Shachtman, James Burnham, Sidney Hook, Irving Kristol, Wilhelm Reich…. We were saddened by their radical change. Benito Mussolini and Jacques Doriot were even more egregious examples. These are people who have besmirched what once were their core values.

Means-testing: Shredding the Safety Net

Means-testing benefits that everyone is entitled to receive has become popular with conservatives these days. Conservatives have called for means-testing unemployment benefits, Medicare, and Social Security.

From the Editors

In 1936 at a public confrontation with the philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, the Fascist commander of the Spanish Legion, José Millán-Astray reportedly responded: "¡Muera la inteligencia! ¡Viva la Muerte! ("Death to intelligence! Long live death!") provoking applause from the Falangists.


French Welfare

This is a study of two French welfare offices, done in six months in 1995. Dubois says that it is the first study of French welfare offices ever done. He calls it a "critical policy ethnography." Dubois observed interactions between workers and clients, mostly at the reception desk. He is a political scientist/sociologist (he says that political science in France was redefined on a sociological basis in the 1980s). He was not a specialist in welfare policy, which he claims as an advantage as it left him free of preconceptions.


The Rise and Fall of ACORN

Most people never heard of ACORN (Association of Community Organization for Reform Now) until the conservatives attacked it. The media does not follow long and complicated organizing campaigns. It prefers more time limited dramatic news such as lawsuits or demonstrations. But even when ACORN organized large demonstrations, the media was not likely to credit ACORN.

The End of Welfare As We Knew It

[In the current budget debates, it is taken for granted that the welfare program for families has been a failure and its end has been a blessing. To remind people what the actual record has been, I offer here the section on welfare from a book that I co-wrote. I have added up-dated information.]

From the Editors Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and Women

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

Anaïs Nin, Diary, June, 1941
(during the darkest days of World War II)

Welfare in France: A Review

The Bureaucrat and the Poor: Encounters in French Welfare Offices
By Vincent Dubois
Ashgate, 2010
Originally published in French as La vie au guichet: Relation administrative et traitement de la misère By Economica, Paris 2010 (1st edition 1999) Translated by Jean Yves-Bart


The Crime of Poverty

Loïc Wacquant has expanded the theory of the neoliberal state beyond the usual economic definition. He has linked the criminal justice system with the welfare system as two parts of the same policy of enforcing conformity to an unstable job market of temporary, part-time, low-paid, and flexible employment. Other criminal justice scholars and welfare scholars have analyzed these as separate spheres. While they have seen both as repressive, they have not seen them as interconnected.

You've Been Well Cared For

I was sitting in the homeless unit of the Grove Hall Department of Transitional Assistance (welfare department) chatting with some women. One was living in a homeless shelter in Saugus, a town on the north shore of Massachusetts; the other was applying for shelter. They were ashamed to be here. They said that they had worked and held responsible jobs. Life had dealt them raw blows. One had to leave her job because of an injury to her spine that seemed to require endless treatment, and she did not know when she could return to work.


Poverty and the American Dream

I have seen the welfare system first hand as a volunteer outreach worker at a Boston welfare office (Department of Transitional Assistance). The other day I walked into the office to see a distraught woman sobbing disconsolately on the floor. She had unknowingly parked in the parking lot of the Burger King next door. She moaned, "I begged him not to tow me. I told him that I am homeless and don't have any money to feed my children, but he didn't listen.

Foster Care

Victorian philanthropists didn't mince words when they talked about poor kids — those kids were dangerous or perishing — that is, in danger of becoming criminals or already sunk in crime. The philanthropists formed charity schools, "Ragged Schools," and Sunday Schools to teach these children some morals and a little reading — not enough to give them big ideas about their station in life, but enough to get them to work a little more efficiently and obediently.

From the Editors

Exactly 40 years ago we received an article from Poland with views of the Soviet system close to ours: We saw it as a new form of exploitation, and we opposed it with the same vigor we opposed capitalism. We published the article, by Jacek Kuron and Karol Modzelewski, in our spring and summer '66 issues as "An Open Letter to the Party." When both men were released from prison, they founded KOR, an organization that succeeded in uniting workers and intellectuals. From that came Solidarity.


A country's economic system and its cultural practices shape its adoption practices. For example, in Western societies adoption practices are very different from those in the preliterate subsistence economies of Eastern Oceania.

From the Editors

For more than 150 years socialists have insisted that only workers themselves can make any fundamental change in social relations because only workers organizing themselves in the process of struggle to become a governing class can ensure that the old class society isn't reproduced by a new class of exploiters; the new society created by them would have democratic workers' control over the means of production. Revolutions in such countries as China, Cuba, Vietnam, and N.

Still fighting: Interview with Judi Chamberlin

Judi Chamberlin is one of the founders of the mental patients' liberation movement. In 1988, she wrote On Our Own, a book about her own experience with depression 43 years ago, when she was hospitalized against her will. That book became a kind of bible for the mental patients' liberation movement. Now the 64-year-old activist is dying of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an incurable lung disorder. Late last year she stopped hospitalizations and instead opted for home hospice care.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

How many people can afford to take time off from work without being paid? Not many. When a worker gets sick or a child or parent gets sick; when a woman is giving birth or when a parent needs to go to a conference with a teacher, leaving work can not only cost a day's pay, but it can cost advancement in a career. Women, who do most of caregiving, are particularly disadvantaged.

Welfare "Reform"

With the Obama election, many of us are wondering how far we can push the new Administration in a progressive direction. As Frances Fox Piven says, he won’t go left unless there is a powerful movement pushing him in that direction. Piven compares him to FDR, under whose Administration many liberal programs, including Social Security, were enacted. FDR began as a centrist but was pushed to the left by protest movements. There has been a steady drum roll of pundits proclaiming that welfare reform is a success.


Family Policies in Post-Communist Nations

THE COUNTRIES THAT CLAIMED TO BE Communist also claimed to meet the needs of their families. What happened to those claims when the countries became capitalist? The fall 2007 issue of Social Politics seeks to answer that question. It analyzes family policies of Russia, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Moldova, and Armenia. Some social welfare scholars have created a typology of welfare states in relation to the “family wage” ideology, i.e., male breadwinner and woman homemaker.