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What is Welfare State?

The question may arise concerning what is welfare state, and the simple answer is that welfare state is a government that provides for the total well-being of its citizens and is akin to socialism. However, very few true welfare states exist. The United States is a good example of this as it provides some social insurance or entitlement programs to its citizens but does not espouse socialism. As socialism and democracy cannot go hand in hand, therefore, it is impossible for the United States to be one of the true welfare states. The United States does make efforts to provide for persons in need through a myriad of social service programs known as welfare.

Welfare encompasses those government programs that provide benefits and economic assistance to no or low income Americans. It can also be defined as financial assistance to impoverished Americans which is supplied through the taxes paid by the working class. One of the main goals of welfare US is to improve the quality of life and living standards for the poor and underprivileged. Welfare help is usually extended to people groups other than just the poor and underprivileged such as the elderly, the disabled, students, and unpaid workers, such as mothers and caregivers

Welfare programs available in the United States include: Medicaid, Food Stamps, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Head Start, Work Study, and Medicare. Social Security, often times called an entitlement program, is also considered one of the welfare programs in the U.S.. TANF is probably one of the most recognized of the welfare programs. Formerly known as Aid to Families with Dependant Children (AFDC), TANF was a reform measure for this program. No longer a lifelong program as AFDC was, TANF limits welfare benefits to a specified period of time. The states set these limitations, and most state’s plans terminate TANF benefits after five years.

Medicaid is a fee for service payment system, and it assists low income families with medical expenses. SSI provides assistance to the elderly and disabled, and is often confused with Social Security. Social Security provides benefits paid by taxes to the elderly and disabled who have worked, while SSI is available to assist the elderly and disabled with little income and few resources. SSI is not paid by Social Security taxes. Some programs are funded completely at the federal level, while others receive both state and federal funding. For example, Food Stamps and HUD programs are federally funded, while SSI is funded by the state and federal government alike. More in depth welfare information is available on each of these programs in regard to requirements, qualifications, and limitations and can be obtained through state agencies.

For almost all welfare programs, individuals must complete an application for the program. From the information provided on the application it will be determined if the applicant meets both income and resource limitations. With some programs, such as TANF, there is an expectation that the individual receiving benefits will participate in a work program. Welfare help can come in the form of cash assistance or services such as healthcare or education. For example, Head Start and Work Study are both services that assist with education for low income or underprivileged students.

Since one of the goals of US welfare is to help individuals and families break the cycle of dependency on welfare, educational assistance can ensure that individuals will receive a better education thereby potentially allowing them to obtain a better job. One of the foundations of this country is personal liberty, and dependency on a government agency for financial assistance can detract from this feeling and way of life and move into more of a welfare state condition. While some individuals may rely too heavily on the welfare system, there are a great many more that simply need temporary assistance and use the welfare system only as needed. This is what separates the U.S. from welfare states and will hopefully lead to better jobs those who do get assistance.