The issue of welfare reform was the catch phrase, hot button topic for the majority of the two preceding decades in the United States. The questions that regional, state and federal government officials raised about the existing system and its exponential growth quickly developed from a snowball to an avalanche. The main concern expressed by the rhetoric was the alarming growth of the allocations being allotted to social service programs. The resulting rhetoric reflected through a prism that molded it into the idea that welfare had the wrong general purpose and needed to become less a way of life, as some people have seen it and more a transitional step toward self- sufficiency. Though the program's names have changed and many issues, both real and perceptual have been addressed by reform real changes have not been realized and the current economic downturn will prove just that.
The words of reform were even on the lips of non-policy makers as families and individuals; both frightened recipients and angry non-recipients discussed the implications of the future of welfare. Given the statistical rhetoric of years of stories of advantages that welfare recipients have gleaned from a seemingly unfairly unbalanced system, the tax paying public grew progressively more outraged.
Politicians could easily see that welfare was a lightning rod issue. With the mention of the words "welfare reform" one could stir up deep-seated anger from a variety of groups, many of whom were likely to vote. "Welfare reform" might be a code word for racial stereotyping, or for excessive government spending, or for bloated government bureaucracies, or for misguided liberal attempts to engineer society... Elected officials and people running for office added to the perception that there was a crisis in welfare by using it as a campaign issue. This is not to say that there were not real problems with welfare. Far from it. But much of the rhetoric about welfare reform in the 1990s (and historically) has served to highlight the problems and stir up resentment without outlining specific goals for reform. Thus, by the mid- 1990s, welfare was a problem awaiting a solution.
The resulting reforms addressed issues by attempting to further strengthen the ability of recipients to access job skills training and a limited level of education that might further their chances at better employment. They limited the number of years based on state decision making in a set of minimums and maximums, the minimum number of years an individual might receive cash assistance being two and the maximum being five.
A potential problem of this quantitative rather than qualitative deadline system is the limitation of the ability of n individual to make broad decisions about future employment, the new system would limit individuals to job training programs and trade school systems rather than higher education which might be a more long-term solution. In addition to this potential problem the issue of age become paramount when services are handed out. (Hopkins 25) If an individual has a lifetime cap on services then receiving benefits at a young age, say when a person is just starting out with an new family and unexpected economic demands, will and does become questionable. What if they need services when they are older and they have used up the services available to them? Young people have been denied services or choices based on this reality, at a time when a help up would benefit them most.
In making all of these reforms the federal government attempted to give the individual states more control over the funding as long as they met particular requirements laid out in an outline of proposed services. The catch phrase then became coordination or collaboration, so services offered by other agencies could be utilized without the duplications that are so often present in bureaucratic subsystems. All the goals were well thought and lofty.
Among these approaches are legislative and administrative mandates for agencies to consult with each other, link their programs, and jointly review their activities; interagency working groups which consider issues that cross agency lines; reorganization efforts aimed at eliminating overlap or duplication among programs; and the involvement of White House coordinating agencies and the president himself. These initiatives have made varying degrees of headway in streamlining and improving the coordination of public assistance programs. Yet, many serious problems remain.