Ronald Reagan on Welfare & Poverty

Cut back AFDC & other targeted poverty programs

But there were millions of Americans for whom it was not “morning again in America.” Reagan recognized this, though he rarely made the concession. He was an apostle of the marketplace whose premise had always been that the U.S. economic pie should be enlarged, not that everyone should receive an equal slice.

Despite the sea of happy children’s faces that graced the “feel-good” commercials, poverty exploded in the inner cities of America during the Reagan years, claiming children as its principal victims. The reason for this suffering was that programs targeted to low-income families, such as AFDC, were cut back far more than programs such as Social Security. As a result of cuts in such targeted programs-including school lunches and subsidized housing-federal benefit programs for households with incomes of less than $10,000 a year declined nearly 8% during the Reagan first term while federal aid for households with more than $40,000 income was almost unchanged.

Source: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon, p. 516-17 Jul 2, 1991

Championed “workfare” as California Governor

Governor Reagan opposed Nixon’s proposal for reforming welfare. Reagan resisted efforts to pressure California into increasing cost-of-living payments to welfare recipients. In 1971, Reagan worked out a compromise. He brought California into compliance with federal regulations, and Nixon promised not to stand in the way of a pilot program requiring able-bodied welfare recipients to work as a condition of receiving aid. The program had mixed success but established Reagan as the champion of “workfare.”
Source: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon, p. 74-75 Jul 2, 1991

As CA Governor, opposed AFDC as rewarding lack of work

[As Governor, Reagan addressed] California’s exploding welfare system. “Here in California,” he warned, “nearly a million children are growing up in the stultifying atmosphere of programs that reward people for not working, programs that separate families and doom these children to repeat the cycle in their own adulthood.”

Reagan had especial contempt for government touts whose job performance was appraised by the length of their welfare client lists. “They go out and actually recruit people to be on welfare,“ he complained. His prejudice against AFDC was practical as well as moral. He believed it discriminated against the destitute-by encouraging the shiftless to promiscuity.

The California Welfare Reform Act became law in August 1971. Reagan called it ”probably the most comprehensive“ such initiative in American history. It had an inspirational effect on welfare policy across America, but Reagan would have to wait until 1996 before his basic dream, the repeal of AFDC, became a reality

Source: Dutch, by Edmund Morris, p. 368-9 & 376 Jan 4, 1971

Other candidates on Welfare & Poverty: Ronald Reagan on other issues:
John Ashcroft
Pat Buchanan
George W. Bush
Dick Cheney
Bill Clinton
Hillary Clinton (D,NY)
Elizabeth Dole
Steve Forbes
Rudy Giuliani (R,NYC)
Al Gore
Alan Keyes
John McCain (R,AZ)
Ralph Nader
Ross Perot
Colin Powell
Jesse Ventura (I,MN)

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