A Test of Your Welfare Knowledge

In my first column I promised to look at the world with a different perspective; one that asks questions about our many societal dilemmas with this in mind: "What methods of solving these problems might make the most difference, while protecting those people (our brothers and sisters) involved?".

This time let's try to take an unbiased look at welfare and political reality by taking a little test to see if our personal viewpoints coincide with the facts.

1) The Republican "Contract with America" promises to cut taxes and eliminate wasteful spending on welfare. Which of these benefits accounts for the least amount of your taxes?

a. Government subsides to corporations.
b. The deductibility of state, local, and real estate taxes from federal income taxes
c. The mortgage interest deduction.
d. Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).

2) Which of these statements about welfare is true?

a. The teen pregnancy and birth rates in the US are far higher than in that other industrialized nations which have more generous welfare benefits.
b. Since 1970, the average monthly benefit has declined 45% in real dollars.
c. The percentage of all children on AFDC who are black has dropped from 43% in 1973 to 35% in 1992.
d. All of the above.

3) The "Contract with America" claims there is too much spending on social programs. Which of these are true.

a. Total federal and state spending on AFDC accounts for less than 10% of the military budget.
b. The efficacy of our social programs is indicated by the fact that the life expectancy of black men in central Harlem is shorter than that of men in Bangladesh.
c. More Americans want an expansion of domestic social spending than wants cuts.
d. All of the above.

The answer to all three questions is "D". As they say, you can look it up. Here is where to start.

1) a. The free-market Cato Institute estimates $86 billion; the Democratic leadership Council's Progressive Policy Institute estimates $53 billion. This doesn't incorporate the military budget which includes the F-22 fighter jet (called unneeded by the General Accounting Office) which will add $72 billion.
b. The mortgage deduction cost the government $49 billion in 1992. (Christopher Howard's "The Hidden Side of the American Welfare State," Political Science Quarterly, vol.108, no.3, 1993, pp. 415, 417 and Michael Wines', "Taxpayers Are Angry. They're Expensive, Too," New York Times, 20 Nov. 1994, p. IV:5.
c. The state and local tax deduction was worth $36 billion in 1992. (Wines, op. cit.).
d. State and federal AFDC spending in 1993 was $25.2 billion. (NYT, 23 Mar. 1995, p. A23).

2) a. Alan Guttmacher Institute, Sex and America's Teenagers (New York: June 1994).
b. NYT, 23 Mar. 1995, p. A23.
c. Same as b. above.

3) a. AFDC spending from NYT, 23 Mar. 1995, p. A23.
b. McCord and Freeman, "Excess Mortality in Harlem," New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 322, 18 Jan. 1990.
c. Richard Morin, "What the Public Really Wants," Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 9-15 Jan. 1995, p. 37.

Okay, now you have some facts. Next time we'll focus on what might be done to fix the actual problems with welfare rather than debate the phony issues Congress and all the other politicians are putting forth. All I'm asking is that you think about what these answers truly mean. We must improve our laws and lives from taking a hard look at reality, not politics rhetoric.

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