Social welfare and social policy


SWOK 600: 

Social Welfare and Social Policy

Read the directions that preface each section. You can weigh the point value for each prompt within the range set for that section. Be sure that the total possible point value equals 100. If your responses are not received by this time – and you have not communicated with me beforehand – it may jeopardize your final grade. 

Section 1: Clarifying Terms and ApplyingConcepts: For each of the following prompts, respond briefly (approximately 3-4 sentences– or bullets – for each).50 points total: 4-6 points each.

1) Describe two of the following:

a. Three shortcomings of the federal poverty line as a measure of need in the United States.

b. Three ways in which monthly U.S. Department of Labor measures of employment and unemployment fail to capture a complete picture of people’s work – or lack thereof.

c. How “point in time” counts of homelessness misrepresent the extent of the problem of housing deprivation in the U.S.

2) What is the impact (or, more cynically, the potential purpose) of such failings [i.e., in Q1]to capture the extent of social problems?

3) A variety of policy and programmatic approaches have been pursued at the federal and state levels ostensibly to address poverty. Provide and briefly describe one specific example for each of the following:

a. Cash assistance

b. Tax credits/deductions

c. In-kind benefits/vouchers

d. Human capital development

4) Explain how the following are examples of policy devolution:

a. The creation of TANF Block Grants

b. The promotion and proliferation of “Ten Year Plans to End Homelessness”

5) Explain how the following are examples of privatization:

a. The Medicare Part C Program

b. The Housing Choice and Project-Based Voucher Programs

6) Veghte (2014) identifies “Five Persistent Myths about Social Security,” all of which can be seen as grounded in the funding mechanisms of Social Security. Explain.

7) Describe the key similarities and differences between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

8) Explain why state policies have a significant impact on the amount of federal spending on Medicaid.

9) Describe the “housing first” approach to addressing contemporary homelessness, which has grown substantially in the past decade. How does it differ – both philosophically and practically – from the “housing ready” model that had been dominant since the rise of contemporary homelessness?

10) What is the purpose of insurance? How does the fragmented U.S. health insurance “system” undercut this purpose?

11) Articulate three key provisions of the Affordable Care Act and their impact.

Section 2: Connecting Past and Present: Explain how the past has influenced the present in the following policies and programs. Respond to two of the following prompts in a couple of paragraphs each.8-12 points each.

1) Jean-Baptiste Aphonse Karr – along with Bon Jovi – observed, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich (in)famously sought to “end welfare as we know it,” and welfare reform – in particular, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) – had significant impacts. Many of the changes embodied in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program, however, were foreshadowed in the history of social welfare policy in the U.S. – and in the AFD and AFDC programs, in particular. Describe ways in which the Clinton-Gingrich “welfare reform” can be seen as consistent with past U.S. welfare policies.

2) Michelle Alexander argues the rise of mass incarceration functions as “The New Jim Crow.” Describe the ways that mass incarceration – to include related policies and practices of the legal and law enforcement systems – impact individuals, families, communities, and society in ways that are similar to or reminiscent of previous mechanisms of racial control and caste.

3) “Past is prologue,” wrote Shakespeare in The Tempest. Explain how Social Security developed and changed since its creation in 1935, and how its history influences one or two of the current issues related to the program – e.g., its solvency, its coverage, the (in)accessibility of disability benefits for those who are extremely marginalized.

4) Eugene O’Neill wrote, “There is no present or future – only the past, happening over and over again, now.” How has the history of housing policy led to what Professor Lawrence Brown has called “The White L and Black Butterfly” in Baltimore City – and a hypersegregated city 50 years after the Fair Housing Act.

Section 3: Interrogating the Relationship between Public Policy and Political Economy: Respond to one of the following prompts examining the relationship among social problems, public policy, and political economy in a couple of paragraphs. 8-12 points.

1) Hunger and homelessness are highly tractable problems in the U.S.: that is, their solutions seem relatively simple. (E.g., the way to end a person’s hunger is to provide the person food, and we have enough food to feed our neighbors who are hungry.) Given this, one can reasonably speculate that their existence and persistence perform some sort of social function. Explain this seeming contradiction (e.g., between people-less houses and house-less people). Who benefits from the maintenance of food and housing insecurity and deprivation? How? 

2) Today more and more people talk about the “failed” War on Drugs and the rise of mass incarceration, but if the policy was a complete failure, it likely would no longer exist. As such, we might be led to ask: who benefits from what Michelle Alexander calls “The New Jim Crow”? What are the economic benefits of mass incarceration?

3) Roughly 12 million people live in the United States without documentation – only ~700,000 of whom have protections as a result of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival. How does immigration policy in the U.S. connect to one or more of the five distinguishing features of the contemporary U.S. political economy as articulated by Blau?

Section 4: Analyzing and CritiquingCurrent Policy Proposals: In a couple of paragraphs, respond to one the following prompts using concepts/criteria discussed in the course – e.g., progressive and regressive taxation, populations-at-risk, inclusiveness of coverage, adequacy (horizontal and vertical), equity (horizontal and vertical), efficiency, effectiveness, and values of social work and social justice. In doing so, you should briefly describe the policy proposal in question. 8-12 points.

1) A myriad of proposals have been suggested to reform (or “save”) Social Security. Explain and analyze one option that would extend the solvency of the program.

2) Conservative political leaders have proposed changes to certain entitlement programs – specifically, SNAP and Medicaid – that would convert them into block grants administered at the state-level. Explain and analyze the conversion of either SNAP or Medicaid to a block grant.

3) HUD Secretary Carson proposed allowing local housing authorities to impose work requirements on those lining in public(ly subsidized) housing. Explain and analyze the impact of such a proposal.

4) The so-called “individual mandate” was effectively eliminated in the 2018 tax reform. Explain and analyze the likely impact of such efforts to undo such components of the ACA.

5) Progressive leaders have proposed “single-payer” financing mechanisms for universal health care in the United States. Explain and analyze key aspects of a single-payer proposal.

6) President Trump proposed a “merit-based” immigration system. Explain and analyze key aspects of such a system.

7) The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act included changes to unemployment assistance and insurance in the context of the current pandemic. Explain and analyze key changes to unemployment insurance program in the CARES Act.

8) Universal Basic Income (UBI) had been a relatively obscure policy proposal until Andrew Yang made it a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. The policy – implemented at least temporarily – has gained increased support as the number of people who face unemployment or furlough rise significantly. Explain and analyze key aspects of such a program. 

9) Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders proposed implementing a wealth tax on the richest people in the United States. Explain and analyze key aspects of such a policy.

40 total points for sections 2-4.

Section 5:  What Did You Learn in School Today?  Assess your own learning:  Respond to both questions in this section.  You will learn throughout your life, but rarely will your learning be assessed by an exam.  Because of this, it is important to develop a habit of assessing the way that your understanding has grown and deepened.  10 points for both.

1) What was the most important thing that you learned during your time in this course?  What is the most significant way that your understanding deepened over the course of our time together?

2) What new questions are you asking yourself as a result of your learning in the course?

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