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Well, the programs themselves haven't been empowered, though attempts have been made at empowering individuals who currently receive government assistance.
For example, many education programs and subsidies exist so that people can be empowered to move themselves off the welfare rolls. These programs usually include money for tuition and books, as well as child care and in some cases even gas money or bus passes.
A well publicized "Welfare to Work" program passed during Clinton's Presidency, where states were given more responsibility for the programs, and encouraged with funding cuts to move more people off of benefits. This has come under criticism as, while many people did find work and the welfare rolls shrank, many of these same people are what we call "underemployed", where they work full time but are worse off economically than when they were receiving benefits.
I agree that the changes during the Clinton administration were the most recent change to the welfare system.
I would argue that welfare today is seen in a much more negative light than it was when it was first introduced in the 1960s.
Up until the Great Depression, the idea that the government might help poor people was totally unacceptable in the US. People were supposed to take care of themselves.
This changed during the Depression and then changed even further during the 1960s. Pres. Johnson seemed to see welfare as a hand up for people who had been left behind by society.
But now welfare is no longer seen that way. It is seen much more like it was in the '20s. People tend to believe that welfare is simply a government hand out to lazy poor people who do not want to work.
Society has changed due to welfare only being available for a maximum of 5years in the US, unlike other developed countries like the UK which allow the beneficary to be allocated welfare indefinetly. Welfare only being available for a short time contines the poverty cycle and has helped to create an 'underclass' in the Ghettos, particularly among the Black population.
Poor ethnic minorities and immigrants (legal and illegal) are often seen to be drains on the American economy and the entire welfare system. This had created a negative view of the welfare system.
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