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The Other Welfare

Supplemental Security Income and U.S. Social Policy

by Edward D. Berkowitz and Larry DeWitt

Publication Year: 2013

The Other Welfare offers the first comprehensive history of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), from its origins as part of President Nixon's daring social reform efforts to its pivotal role in the politics of the Clinton administration. Enacted into law in 1972, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) marked the culmination of liberal social and economic policies that began during the New Deal. The new program provided cash benefits to needy elderly, blind, and disabled individuals. Because of the complex character of SSI-marking both the high tide of the Great Society and the beginning of the retrenchment of the welfare state-it provides the perfect subject for assessing the development of the American state in the late twentieth century.

SSI was launched with the hope of freeing welfare programs from social and political stigma; it instead became a source of controversy almost from its very start. Intended as a program that paid uniform benefits across the nation, it ended up replicating many of the state-by-state differences that characterized the American welfare state. Begun as a program intended to provide income for the elderly, SSI evolved into a program that served people with disabilities, becoming a primary source of financial aid for the de-institutionalized mentally ill and a principal support for children with disabilities.

Written by a leading historian of America's welfare state and the former chief historian of the Social Security Administration, The Other Welfare illuminates the course of modern social policy. Using documents previously unavailable to researchers, the authors delve into SSI's transformation from the idealistic intentions of its founders to the realities of its performance in America's highly splintered political system. In telling this important and overlooked history, this book alters the conventional wisdom about the development of American social welfare policy.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book reflects a collaboration between an academic and a public historian. Since collaboration on a historical monograph is relatively rare, it might help orient the reader to explain this one. Ed Berkowitz is an academic historian. His attraction to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program stems from the ways the program intersects with much of his previous work. ...

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pp. 1-13

In 1972 Congress, with the active support of the Nixon administration, created a new welfare program to replace three older programs. The older welfare programs depended on federal grants to the states, and much of the policy action in terms of benefit levels and administrative rules took place on the state level. ...

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1. Creating a New Welfare Program: The Politics of Welfare and Social Security Reform in the Nixon Administration

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pp. 14-43

By putting welfare reform on the policy agenda in 1969, President Richard Nixon started the process that led to the passage of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in 1972. Richard Nixon, a Republican, presided over a major expansion of the welfare state that, although it did not include the Family Assistance Plan (FAP) that he unveiled in 1969, ...

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2. A Year in Transition: Why Planning for the New Program Became Difficult

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pp. 44-72

If the Social Security Administration (SSA) had learned any lesson between 1935 and 1972, it was that the process of implementation mattered. New programs, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), could not be launched without extensive preparation. Part of the drill involved encouraging SSA employees that the task ahead of them was important ...

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3. Launching the Program: Why the Program Began Badly

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pp. 73-96

When Disneyland opened to the public on July 10, 1955, many things went wrong with the rides and other attractions, but no one seemed to mind. Disneyland became a conspicuous success in 1950s America— the perfect blend of high tech and nostalgia. When Supplemental Security Income (SSI) began operations on January 1, 1974, the program also experienced many glitches. ...

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4. The Emergence of a Disability Program: How the Program’s Fundamental Identity Changed

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pp. 97-124

In what had become something of a ritual, Social Security officials appeared before a House Ways and Means Subcommittee in the fall of 1976 to talk about the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The Regional Commissioner for New York testified about how his agency had issued leaflets in Yiddish, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Polish, ...

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5. The Continuing Disability Reviews: How the Politics of Controversy Hindered the Program

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pp. 125-159

Just as the passage of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) tended to put an end to discussions of comprehensive welfare reform in 1972, so the 1980 disability law should have cleared the agenda. The rise in the disability rolls, which motivated the 1980 law, receded as a topic of political debate. ...

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6. The Courts and Other Sources of Program Growth: How the Program Expanded in a Conservative Age

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pp. 160-184

During the Reagan and first Bush years, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) operated in a manner that was out of sync with prevailing political sentiment. The program continued to grow in an era characterized by concern over the rising government debt and welfare dependency. ...

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7. The Welfare Reform of 1996: How the Program Became Swept Up in the Narrative of Welfare Fraud and Abuse

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pp. 185-219

In 1994 the Republicans gained full control of Congress for the first time since 1952. Only two years later, Bill Clinton became the first Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt to win a second term in office. In those three eventful political years, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) emerged as an object of political controversy ...

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8. Post-1996 Developments: A Brief Postscript

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pp. 220-230

Although the 1996 welfare reforms marked a point of real change in America’s welfare state, Congress soon scaled back the changes in Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Congress experienced buyers’ remorse with respect to childhood disability benefits and benefits for noncitizens. ...

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pp. 231-242

The creators of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a triumvirate of Nixon administration officials, Social Security Administration (SSA) employees, and Congressional staff members, envisioned a program that would bring the dignity of the Social Security approach to elderly and disabled people who lived in poverty. ...


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pp. 243-272


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pp. 273-280

E-ISBN-13: 9780801467332
E-ISBN-10: 0801467330
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801451737
Print-ISBN-10: 0801451736

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1