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Welfare: Myths & Facts

Program #PIVF001. Recorded in Brooklyn, NY on April 08, 1995.

The public discourse on welfare is often characterized by hyperbole and falsification. Ronald Reagan was a great one for making up stories. He spoke of a welfare queen in Chicago with eighty names, thirty addresses and a dozen social security cards who collected thousands of dollars in checks. Another Reagan fabrication had people buying vodka with food stamps. These kinds of myths, echoed by the media, enter the political culture and influence people's perceptions. Today, right-wing demagogues equate poverty and being on welfare with criminality. Pseudo-scientific books like The Bell Curve suggest that welfare dependency is genetic. The facts about welfare are obscured. For example, only 1% of the budget goes to Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Whites, not blacks, are the majority recipients of benefits.


Frances Fox Piven

Frances Fox Piven is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the City University of New York and an internationally renowned authority on poverty and politics. She was a founder of the welfare rights movement and is involved in the Campaign for Media Fairness on Welfare. She's the co-author with Richard Cloward of Regulating the Poor, The New Class War, Why Americans Don't Vote, The Breaking of the American Social Compact and Why Americans Still Don't Vote.

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