We the Poor People

Work, Poverty, and Welfare

Joel F. Handler and Yeheskel Hasenfeld

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Current welfare reforms—including recently enacted federal legislation—are largely symbolic politics, argue two experts in this important new book. According to Joel F. Handler and Yeheskel Hasenfeld, the real problem we face is not the spread of welfare but the spread of poverty among the working poor, a group that includes most welfare recipients. The surest way to solve the problem is to create jobs and supplement low-wage work. The authors offer proposals that would make it possible for individuals to support themselves and their families through working and that would establish a safety net for those relatively few individuals who are unable to do so.
The authors discuss current policies, efforts, and programs designed to deal with the poor and analyze what works, what does not work, and why. Instead of income maintenance strategies, they promote policies that would facilitate leaving welfare for work—particularly in the case of single mothers. Their proposals range from creating jobs and supplementing income through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to raising the minimum wage to providing health insurance and child care support. These are not inexpensive solutions, but they must occur if we truly wish to live in a society that strives to provide opportunities for all.

Joel F. Handler is Richard C. Maxwell Professor of Law at the School of Law, University of California, Los Angeles. Yeheskel Hasenfeld is professor of social welfare at the School of Public Policy and Social Research, University of California, Los Angeles. Both authors have written extensively on various aspects of social welfare policy.

"A substantial contribution to the critical debate occurring in the states about structuring 'welfare reform.'"—Lucy A. Williams

"This book contributes in innovative and significant ways to the ongoing discussion of poverty and welfare reform."—Gary D. Sandefur

"This study is a timely entry into the current debate over welfare reform. . . . A forceful indictment of the political machinations surrounding welfare, which also offers some sensible . . . solutions."—Booklist

"More social theory than policy recommendation, this book will be critical for sociologists and legal scholars concerned with labor, poverty, and the history of the welfare state."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"We the Poor People should be read carefully by politicians who curry favor with voters by bashing the poor."—Donald R. Stabile, Business Library Review

"A timely entry into the current debate over welfare reform. A forceful indictment of the political machinations surrounding welfare."—Brian McCombie, Booklist

"A compassionate and workable . . . prescription for true reform."—National Law Journal

ISBN: 9780300072501
Publication Date: October 20, 1997
304 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
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