Welfare: Myths & Facts
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 is a leading activist scholar. She is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology at CUNY. She is co-author with Richard Cloward of numerous award-winning books including Regulating the Poor and The Breaking of the American Social Compact. She is the author of Why Americans Still Don’t Vote, The War at Home, Who’s Afraid of Frances Fox Piven and Lessons for Our Struggle.