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Tuesday, 17 October, 2000, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Campaign issues: Welfare reform
What they say
BUSH GORE
Backs welfare time limits Continue Welfare to Work
Tax incentives for charitable donations More penalties for fathers owing child support
Federal funds for faith-based " Armies of Compassion"
"Harness the power" of faith-based volunteers

Since 1996, America has been undergoing a vast experiment in reforming welfare by ending automatic entitlements and trying to create greater incentives to get people back to work.

The American welfare system - designed to focus on the poor, particularly mothers and children - has always been fundamentally different to those in Europe. It is a reflection of the importance of individual self-reliance in American culture.


Those who remain on welfare [need] this clear message: If you are able to work or train, you must work or train

George W Bush
Republican candidate
In the US welfare has always been considered distinct from Social Security and Medicaid - two universal and highly popular systems which in Europe would come under the concept of welfare.

But even this relatively limited system of welfare has become increasingly unpopular and subject to political attacks.

Critics argue that the system fosters a dependency culture, creating a self-perpetuating underclass with no incentive to go to work.

The 1996 welfare reform bill ended the tradition of guaranteeing relatively uniform federal assistance to the poor across the nation, devolving responsibility to the state level and introducing a new, tougher set of criteria for receiving benefits.

Five year limit

The rules ended automatic entitlement and required that most recipients need to find work within two years of receiving assistance or lose benefits and limited most assistance to a total of five years across a lifetime.


Today, I call for a second generation of welfare reform. It is flat out wrong to bring a child into the world and then walk away. Every father has some basic obligations

Al Gore
Democratic party candidate
Welfare provision now varies enormously across the country with individual states taking radically different approaches.

This diversity has made it hard to establish what is going on and there are concerns that many people are simply disappearing off welfare rolls and are never seen again. There is also some evidence that the very poorest have suffered under the new system.

But on the whole, welfare reform has been seen as an enormous success, exceeding almost all expectations and dramatically reducing the number of people on welfare rolls.

The real test for the system is likely to come when the economy weakens and pressures increase.

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