The Assault on Social Policy

The Assault on Social Policy

William Roth
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/roth12380
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  • Book Info
    The Assault on Social Policy
    Book Description:

    American social policy today largely serves global corporate interests rather than the general public, according to William Roth. Based on incisive analyses of economic globalization, class, politics, and bureaucracy, The Assault on Social Policy argues that the perfection of the free market is a myth. Roth analyzes the rhetoric used to make poverty seem acceptable, shows how corporations affect the distribution of wealth and other resources, and considers the effect on disabled people, criminals, children, and health care. He concludes that increased transnational corporate power has created the need for large-scale systematic public policy changes.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50624-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Bernard Sanders

    In the United States today the wealthiest 1 percent of the population owns more than the bottom 95 percent. In this, the richest country in history, some 45 million Americans have no health insurance, and we have, by far, the highest rate of childhood poverty among economically advanced nations. Today, often under great stress, Americans work longer hours than do people in other industrialized nations while the system providing child care for their children is a disaster. In my state of Vermont, as throughout the country, many senior citizens are unable to afford the prescription drugs they need, because they...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Times Square, the “Center of the World,” has emerged from years of tawdriness into the new polish of digitally triggered billboard systems. Pornography and prostitution have slunk away. Bright multiplexes, worthy of the best suburban mall, have replaced dingy urban movie theaters. Mickey Mouse and other beloved Disney characters have taken over from the rats and roaches.

    On December 31, 1999, the dramatic lowering of a new Waterford crystal ball marked the beginning of the third millennium. Predictions of Y2K terrorism never materialized at that happier time, because appropriate precautions had been taken; because, as was generally felt, there was...

  6. 1 Policy
    (pp. 9-23)

    To define “policy” at the outset of an inquiry into its use is to perpetrate an injustice. Readers may come away thinking that they understand policy, can designate it like a specimen in a museum, may even have the illusion that being able to do so somehow constitutes knowledge. In fact, however, establishing the meaning of words is surprisingly difficult. In Western philosophy Plato first undertook the task, and subsequent philosophers have often been concerned with language and meaning. One possible understanding of policy might be that it is a socially constructed, authoritative, systematic set of rules that governs the...

  7. 2 Corporations
    (pp. 24-45)

    Over the years, American corporations have increased considerably both in size and in the control and power they wield, and recently their growth has been ever more rapid. Private policy has overwhelmingly become corporate policy. Corporate influence over public policy has increased as the power of people to control our government has decreased. While we are more liberated from disease, from the weather, and from other natural disasters and constraints, we are increasingly bound by the domination of corporations. Modern giant corporations have decisively affected private, public, and not-for-profit social policy.

    Corporate power extends across the globe. Corporations deploy vastly...

  8. 3 Poverty
    (pp. 46-62)

    In the United States, a country with unequaled income and wealth, poverty is shameful. Such poverty constitutes an ethical demand for democratic change (the subject of chapter 10). Poverty is more intelligible when viewed in terms of wealth and high income. Most discussions of poverty do not address these, but here I propose to do so, first by noting that poverty is significantly a lack of wealth and income.

    Wealth is the value of assets accumulated at a particular time. The wealthy have many assets under that special control called ownership. Disparities in income pale compared with disparities in wealth....

  9. 4 Welfare
    (pp. 63-77)

    A remarkable change in discourse has occurred: the replacement of the word “poverty” by the word “welfare” to denote an American malady. Ironically welfare is not, or at least was not, the problem. Rather, it was an attempted solution to the problem of poverty. Of course, from time to time, solutions to problems become problems themselves. Indeed, a consistent conservative argument so finds an attempted solution to poverty: welfare. But something different is at stake here. In newspeak, welfare has displaced poverty in everyday rhetoric, the war on poverty has become a war against poor have-nots, and welfare reform means...

  10. 5 Disability
    (pp. 78-93)

    This chapter looks at disability policy in three ways: first, in its own right; second, for what it reveals about our welfare state; and, third, as an example of the many social movements that have advanced our country along the path from what is to what ought to be. We first sketch a bit of the history of disability policy.

    Until recently, disability policy did not fulfill Lincoln’s famous conditions for democracy: “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Only recently did change in disability policy occur as a result of efforts of disabled people. Disability...

  11. 6 Social Security
    (pp. 94-106)

    Social Security is the symbolic centerpiece of our welfare state. Occasionally we shall be critical of it and of the motivations that created and sustain it, but it is essentially a good program. Social Security not only is symbolically central, but is central to the domestic social policy budget. Some speak of social policy as constituting the largest chunk of public policy. This is true if, and only if, Social Security is included. Without it, public social policy becomes far more peripheral. Indeed, this budgetary importance contributes to Social Security’s symbolic importance. Given this, it is astonishing that our welfare...

  12. 7 Health
    (pp. 107-124)

    Although everyone wants it, health is difficult to define. Most hold it as something more than the absence of disease. The United States spends some 16 percent of its gross domestic product attempting to achieve it. There are various proxies for it—for example, life expectancy and infant mortality rate. The location of disease within our bodies is surprisingly new¹ and the discovery of causes for diseases even newer. Newest of all is the ability to do something about disease, even to cure it.

    George Washington was not killed by his serious infectious disease but by the heroic therapy he...

  13. 8 Children
    (pp. 125-140)

    Of course we were all once children. Most of us know children, and some of us work with them. Many of us act as though we know what is best for children (and for others); the media and some psychologists tell us to listen to the “child within us.” What could be more straightforward than to understand children and to write about them? In the following pages, it becomes clear that certainty often gives way to likelihood, simplicity to complexity. Talk of children, as with members of certain other groups, often reveals more about those who do the talking than...

  14. 9 Outsiders
    (pp. 141-155)

    Alexander Hamilton was born and orphaned in the Caribbean, came to a land he would have part in fashioning as the United States, served on George Washington’s staff during the Revolutionary War, married into a family of extreme wealth, impressed Washington sufficiently to be nominated as Secretary of the Treasury, and was killed in a duel by Aaron Burr. The story is familiar to us, not only with regard to Hamilton but as the American Dream (minus, of course, the early death).

    Arguably, America has encouraged this dream, for ours was a rapidly growing country and the number of haves...

  15. 10 Democratic Change
    (pp. 156-172)

    By now, readers are perhaps asking what is to be done. While it is impossible to provide a road map of the future, consider these closing pages as one possible route toward democratic change.

    Historically, democratic change is not inevitable, nor does it come by flipping a lever (even in a voting booth). Further, it cannot come from the top down, as is currently true of much social policy. Indeed, democratic change is not just a goal but an instrument.¹ The process and achievement of necessary change must be democratic.² Too often, purportedly necessary change has come from the domination...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 173-182)
  17. Index
    (pp. 183-194)