Social programs in the United States

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Public Health nursing made available through child welfare services, 1935.

Social programs in the United States are welfare programs designed to meet needs of the American population.


  • Before COVID-19, nearly 700 people died everyday because of poverty and inequality in this country. The frontlines of this pandemic will be the poor and dispossessed - those who do not have access to healthcare, housing, water, decent wages, stable work or child care - and those who are continuing to work in this crisis, meeting our health care and other needs. It should not have taken a pandemic to raise these resources. In June 2019, we presented a Poor People’s Moral Budget to the House Budget Committee, showing that we can meet these needs for this entire country. If you had taken up this Moral Budget, we would have already moved towards infusing more than $1.2 trillion into the economy to invest in health care, good jobs, living wages, housing, water and sanitation services and more. This is not the time for trickle-down solutions. We know that when you lift from the bottom, everybody rises. There are concrete solutions to this immediate crisis and the longer term illnesses we have been battling for months, years and decades before. We will continue to organize and build power until you meet these demands. Many millions of us have been hurting for far too long. We will not be silent anymore.
  • Even with the immense growth of governmental levels in recent decades, the fact remains that five out of every six jobs in this country are still in the private sector. Simple arithmetic tells us this is the place to look for new jobs and for better jobs. This is where the people have been laid off and where they must first go back on the payroll. I don't need to say that twice here in Michigan, where automobile workers and all the other jobs that depend upon them have been especially hard hit. The good news, however, is that the United States automobile industry is turning around. And in the first 20 days of 1976, new car sales were up 37.2 percent over 1975. But even the most sincere proponents of Federal public works and public service job programs don't contend that the cure for unemployment in the American automobile industry is to build Federal factories to make Federal cars. I doubt that the United States Government could make a Model T for less than $50,000.
    • Gerald Ford, Remarks at the Midwest Republican Conference in Dearborn, Michigan., 31 January 1976
  • If the traditional civil rights movement was clearly in the ranks of a liberal-progressive orientation, calling for more effective national governmental action, some advocates of Black Power could easily conclude that such action had reached its limits: Once the national government removed the legal barriers to advancement, the task was then up to blacks themselves to devote more of their energies and resources to helping themselves. They needed to engage more in “self-help” and seek to develop organizations and institutions that would rely less on government “handouts” and more on their own intra-communal efforts. After all, wasn’t this the way other groups had made it in the society? As many blacks received advantages in education and jobs, they should “reach back” and help their less fortunate sisters and brothers. And do so without the constant complaining about the lack of governmental economic assistance. They should stop seeing themselves as perpetual victims, and take more initiative on their own to assume responsibility for alleviating their plight.
  • Americans raised in poor families do markedly less well compared to those from middle class or affluent homes—and it doesn’t matter whether you choose college attendance, employment rates, or future household income as your measure. And the longer they live in poverty the worse the odds that they’ll escape it in adulthood; for one thing, they’re far less likely to finish high school or attend college than their more fortunate peers. [...] Yet childhood circumstances can be (and have been) changed—and the sorts of government programs that conservatives love to savage have helped enormously in that process.
  • Even before Donald Trump’s election, only one-sixth of eligible families with kids received assistance for childcare and a paltry one-fifth got housing subsidies. Yet his administration arrived prepared to put programs that helped some of them pay for housing and childcare on the chopping block. No point in such families looking to him for a hand in the future. He won’t be building any Trump Towers for them. Whatever “Make America Great Again” may mean, it certainly doesn’t involve helping America’s poor kids. As long as Donald Trump oversees their race into life, they’ll find themselves ever farther from the starting line.
  • Worse, Donald, who understands nothing about history, constitutional principles, diplomacy (or anything else, really) and was never pressed to demonstrate such knowledge, has evaluated all of this country's alliances, and all of our social programs, solely through the prism of money, just as his father taught him to do. The costs and benefits of governing are considered in purely financial terms, as if the US Treasury were his personal piggy bank. To him, every dollar going out was his loss, while every dollar saved was his gain. In the midst of obscene plenty, one person, using all the levers of power and taking every advantage of his disposal, would benefit himself and, conditionally, his immediate family, his cronies, his sycophants; for the rest, there would never be enough to go around, which was exactly how my grandfather ran our family.
    • Mary L. Trump, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man (2020), p. 15-16
  • Our basic premise is that money and jobs are not the final answer to the black man’s problems. Without in any sense denying the overwhelming reality of poverty, we must affirm that the basic goal is not “welfare colonialism,” as some have called the anti-poverty and other federal programs, but the inclusion of black people at all levels of decision-making. We do not seek to be mere recipients from the decision-making process but participants in it. [...] It is our hope that the day may soon come when black people will reject federal funds because they have understood that these programs are geared to pacification rather than to genuine solutions. We hope that the rising level of consciousness may bring a rejection of such doles. This will strike many readers as fantastic, but they might recall that once in India, Gandhi rejected relief food shipments from England precisely because he saw them as tools of pacification.

See also