The Welfare State Is Broken. Here’s How to Fix It.

A social entrepreneur in Britain shows the way.

I met Cottam in London last week and she made the point that welfare systems are often designed to manage needs, but they are not designed to build capabilities so that families can stand on their own.

Moreover, most Western systems were not designed to confront the kind of poverty prevalent today. When these systems were put in place in the 1950s and ’60s, unemployment was more often a temporary thing that happened between the time you got laid off from a big employer and the time you got hired by a new one. Now, economic insecurity is often a permanent state, as people patch together different jobs to make ends meet. Health issues for people in the welfare system are often chronic — obesity, diabetes, many forms of mental illness.

Our legacy welfare structures are ill suited to today’s poverty.

For example, Ella was asked if she would like to lead a “life team” that would help her family turn around. She agreed. She was given the power to select the eight people from across agencies who would comprise the team. She chose people from social work, the housing authority and the police force.

Members of the team spent 80 percent of their time with the family and only 20 percent on administration. Ella and the team worked together to stabilize her most immediate issue — negotiating away eviction notices. Then the team worked to improve inter-family dynamics so there wasn’t so much violence and screaming.

Cottam has designed other programs with a similar collaborative ethos. Backr is a program that takes people who are detached from the labor force and helps them join extended social networks where they can connect one another to job openings and develop skills. Circles is a program for the elderly. It brings together lonely seniors into small groups that are part social club, part concierge service and part self-help cooperative. Wellogram is a similar social structure for the chronically ill.

Basically, Cottam’s programs create villages within the welfare state. Her systems are not designed around individual clients, but around relational networks. People tend to have better outcomes when they are held accountable by a network of peers. Three-quarters of the smokers in Wellogram successfully quit, 44 percent lowered their blood pressure, 64 percent started work or went back to school.

The old legacy welfare programs were designed for people enmeshed in thick communities but who had suffered a temporary setback. Today many people lack precisely that web of thick relationship. The welfare state of the future has to build the social structures that people need to thrive. This is one way government can build community.

White America’s racial resentment is the real impetus for welfare cuts, study says

White Americans are more likely to favor welfare cuts when they believe that their status is threatened and that minorities are the main beneficiaries of safety net programs, the study says.

The findings suggest that political efforts to cut welfare programs are driven less by conservative principles than by racial anxiety, the authors conclude. That also hurts white Americans who make up the largest share of Medicaid and food-stamp recipients.

.. Those results show that the push to cut welfare programs is not driven by pure political motives, such as decreasing government spending or shrinking government bureaucracy, Wetts said.

“We find evidence that these shifts [in sentiment against welfare programs] are specifically directed at programs people see as benefiting minorities instead of whites,” she added.

.. people embrace more conservative politics during periods of rapid social change — not necessarily because they fear their racial status is threatened, but because they fear change is happening too fast.

.. Researchers have also shown that white Americans’ racial prejudice affects their views on everything from healthcare policy to the death penalty to dogs. On the same day Wetts’ paper published, a separate study in the journal Environmental Politics found that people with high levels of “racial resentment” are more likely to believe that the scientific consensus on climate change is false.

.. “More and more, white Americans use their racial attitudes to help them decide their positions on political questions such as whom to vote for or what stance to take on important issues including welfare and health care.”

.. white Americans make up 36 percent of food-stamp recipients, 43 percent of Medicaid recipients and 28 percent of recipients for cash welfare.

Did David Brooks Tell the Full Story About Reagan’s Neshoba County Fair Visit?

Well before the Republicans had nominated Reagan, the national committee was polling state leaders to line up venues where the Republican nominee might speak.  Retzer pointed to the Neshoba County Fair as ideal for winning what he called the “George Wallace inclined voters.”

This Republican leader knew that the segregationist Alabama governor was the symbol of southern white resentment against the civil rights struggle.  Richard Nixon had angled to win these voters in 1968 and 1972.  Mississippi Republicans knew that a successful Republican candidate in 1980 would have to continue the effort.

On July 31st, just days before Reagan went to Neshoba County, the New York Timesreported that the Ku Klux Klan had endorsed Reagan.  In its newspaper, the Klan said that the Republican platform “reads as if it were written by a Klansman.”  Reagan rejected the endorsement, but only after a Carter cabinet official brought it up in a campaign speech.  The dubious connection did not stop Reagan from using segregationist language in Neshoba County.

It was clear from other episodes in that campaign that Reagan was content to let southern Republicans link him to segregationist politics in the South’s recent past.  Reagan’s states rights line was prepared beforehand and reporters covering the event could not recall him using the term before the Neshoba County appearance.

.. John Bell Williams, an arch-segregationist former governor who had crossed party lines in 1964 to endorse Barry Goldwater, joined Reagan on stage at another campaign stop in Mississippi.  Reagan’s campaign chair in the state, Trent Lott, praised Strom Thurmond, the former segregationist Dixiecrat candidate in 1948, at a Reagan rally, saying that if Thurmond had been elected president “we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today.”

.. Democrats continued to win elections in the South after the 1960s by appealing to populist economic issues—a history that Democrats today should recall before they start “whistling past Dixie.”

  • .. Throughout his career, Reagan benefited from subtly divisive appeals to whites who resented efforts in the 1960s and 70s to reverse historic patterns of racial discrimination.
  • He did it in 1966 when he campaigned for the California governorship by denouncing open housing and civil rights laws.
  • He did it in 1976 when he tried to beat out Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination by attacking welfare in subtly racist terms. And he did it in Neshoba County in 1980.

.. Reagan knew that southern Republicans were making racial appeals to win over conservative southern Democrats, and he was a willing participant.

An Interview with John McWhorter about Politics and Protest

the crucial difference with today is the new idea that certain people aren’t to be just protested, but they absolutely aren’t to be heard; that their speech is to be shut down. And it’s not only directed against people who are openly arguing for concepts that most of us consider nauseous: outright white supremacy, and branding other races as troglodyte groups who are set to be exterminated or to fall behind. That’s one thing. But also just buttoned-up sorts of people saying things that could be taken as supporting X, Y and Z. Even people like this should not even be allowed to open their mouths.

.. I think that the fact that so many people who are New York Times or New Yorker readers, who listen to NPR, are having trouble with this new form of protest—it’s evident that this isn’t just the parents and the graduates who don’t like what’s going on with the kids.

.. But there’s a particular theatrical aspect to all of this in that I find it simply incoherent—it’s not believable—that a psychologically healthy person and one intelligent and ambitious enough to have gotten into a selective school, in particular, is somebody who is constitutionally unable to bear hearing somebody express views that they don’t agree with, or that they even find nauseous. It’s one thing to find views repugnant. It’s another thing to claim that—to hear them constitute a kind of injury that no reasonable person should be expected to stand up to. That’s theatrical because it’s not true. Nobody is hurt in that immediate, lasting and intolerable way by some words that a person stands up and addresses, in the abstract, to an audience at a microphone.

.. You are pretending—and that really is the only appropriate word—you’re pretending that something that you find unpleasant to behold is injurious. And I think that the theatricality of that kind in the argument is a response in part to the fact that to make your case otherwise—that somebody just shouldn’t be heard—is difficult. You have to pretend that it’s hurting you like a punch in the stomach, because otherwise it becomes a little inconveniently transparent that, really, you’re just insisting that you have your own way

.. because it’s in New York City, you have a lot of international students and you have this international community. So to a large degree, you do come up against people whose ideas are very different from yours, which is kind of different from being at a college like Middlebury or a college in a secluded location and perhaps that has something to do with it?

.. So in your classrooms you mentioned people throwing around the term “white supremacy” pretty liberally. Do you find that happening in your classrooms and class discussions? Do you find students or maybe other professors using the term “white supremacy” to describe any kind of racial bias?

.. The fact that Katherine Franke felt so comfortable using that word, saying that he was supporting white supremacy, is indicative. I don’t think 10 years ago she would have used that term.

.. It has been used as a synonym for racial bias. To some degree, I try to push back on it. To some degree I understand that limiting the definition of white supremacy solely to the KKK is also problematic because I think there is this tendency among certain white conservatives to think that America really is primarily for European immigrants and you can hear them talk about it. There’s this underlying sense that European immigrants are the ones who come here and work hard, and immigrants from elsewhere and African-Americans are collecting welfare checks, and it’s not tied to reality. But it’s the sense that they have. So do you think that’s an appropriate way to use the term “white supremacy”? To talk about people who think that America is essentially for European immigrants only?


White supremacy should not refer solely to the Ku Klux Klan. It should not refer solely to the views of people who are most prominent 100 years ago. Terms evolve.

However, I think that the way it’s being used today extends far beyond people like that to what just about 10 minutes ago was being called racist or institutional racism. White supremacy has come into use not because it referred to something new but as a punchier way of referring to racism in a climate where, perhaps, it has gotten to the point that just to say “racism” no longer makes as many people jump in their seat as it used to.

.. That there’s a point at which what’s being called racism is really either accidental or an issue of individual difference or an issue—this gets really complex—that racism can create cultural traits that outlast the racism itself, which is something that people have a really hard time with, and especially when it refers to blacks rather than white people. It’s interesting. Everybody finds the point readily comprehensible when it’s written about in Hillbilly Elegy which is about whites. But extending that same argument to black people is being somehow unjust.

.. the day after Donald Trump was elected and you came to your class and you felt like—well, some students were crying and everyone was very upset and you said—I’m quoting here—you said, “I said what we’re going to use this session for is talking about why these people voted this way. And we’re not going to call them racist, we’re going to figure out what led to them to voting for someone like this, and how we can keep it from happening again.

.. the students didn’t want the professor to do that sermon about how the country is full of racists. The students are aware that’s unnuanced, especially since a lot of them have relatives who were among the people who voted for Trump, and they know that their uncles and grandparents and maybe even parents are not terrible people.

.. I think that a lot of students then learned something and, of course, my point was that Trump is repulsive. I think that he is repulsive and inept and in the wrong place to a truly alarming degree.

That, of course, helps that discussion. Moreover, I was not saying I’m a Trump voter. I was not saying you need to not be upset about it. I’m saying yes, this is a catastrophe. But the point is that this is a catastrophe that we cannot analyze as having been created by white supremacists.

.. The question is whether or not a critical mass has the guts to allow ourselves to be called those names and to keep on. Because I can attest, in terms of the hills and the valleys that I’ve been through, that if you just let people yell like that, let them call you the names, and just stick to your guns, you’ll live.

.. So if you think you can stand being called names and then keep going to the grocery store, years will pass and ultimately those people end up just looking shrill and unless you are a white supremacist, in which case the truth will out, it’s better to hold your head up.

.. The nature of this is such that if I was to point them to somebody who they should read, it’s by definition not going to be somebody who is as famous as him, because I think that the establishment, the mainstream media establishment, of which I consider myself a part, is inclined to enshrine views on race to the left of what they genuinely believe

.. all of them are studying what they study, whether they are white, black or something else, out of a commitment to a leftist agenda. And I don’t mean that a leftist agenda is in itself bad. But the idea is you are advocating for people who have traditionally been downtrodden and dismissed, and what that means is that it definitely shapes your views. And I would say that most of these people are not ones who would be shouting down somebody who came to campus, by no means.

.. But on the other hand, none of them would contradict people like that too loudly.

.. they’re not too terribly upset to see a Charles Murray chased off of a campus.

.. these people are, unbeknownst to them, exactly what Galileo was up against. These people don’t understand that their behavior about these issues is identical to that of people who are burning heretics

.. These people are not as correct as they think they are, and to the extent that they’re proceeding from a measure of correctness, we need to be brave enough to tell them that they need to persuade, not eliminate. And that if they don’t understand that, then they are no better than people who engage in book burning, and chase heretics out of town, and burn them at the stake.

.. there was a case of a student at Wilfred Laurier in Canada who recorded a conversation with the authorities who were censuring here, and eventually the authorities apologized to her for treating her unfairly. So that might be a healthy development.