An Argument for a Modern Welfare State

We need a modern welfare state to save democracy and capitalism

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

There is great debate among political figures and academics about the effectiveness and relevancy of the welfare state. Libertarians feel as if the policies rob a person of their economic freedoms and responsibilities. Marxists think these policies do not address the inadequacies in the Capitalist superstructure, and some feel as if these policies do not solve poverty. Since the 1980s, welfare states have come under attack from political figures in the United States and Great Britain, Canada, and France. People from all sides of the political spectrum feel the welfare state is obsolete and that the free-market can close the gaps and provide those services. However, the free market has not addressed social issues in our community within its structure. It is no secret that Americans are frustrated by stagnant wages, a decline in economic mobility, and the increased cost of commodities.

Welfare states and their programs developed after World War II and were soon the crowning achievement of a post-war world. Governments began investing in not only welfare programs but also infrastructure. Countries such as Canada and France led the revolution and defined what it meant to be a welfare state. In the United States, the mobilization for the war effort produced economic prosperity for most Americans. The left-over spill of that success was dedicated to investing in infrastructure and welfare programs. Pre-world War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt and congress created the ‘New Deal.’ An expansion of federal government programs that sought to bring a more ‘just’ society to America. Lyndon B. Johnson sought to fight poverty with his development of welfare programs deemed the ‘great society’ to eliminate poverty and racial injustice. However, the welfare state faced backlash beginning in the 1970s and 1980s by conservative governments worldwide.

Welfare states and their programs were attacked with budget cuts and used as a rallying cry against the ‘poor’ and ‘lazy’. The stigma that associated itself with welfare grew in the 1980s under Ronald Regan. The poor were demonized and deemed ‘lazy’ by political figures in all realms of politics. Welfare programs were systemically and intentionally associated with African-Americans to delegitimize programs further. Systemic racism breathed life into an ignorant view that most welfare recipients were African-Americans, and they, too, were demonized. However, data shows that this was the opposite. Data collected showed that while these programs were expensive to government spending, it reduced poverty across the United States.

In the 21st century, welfare states are typically associated with Socialism and Communism. Any program suggested by politicians to address a social or economic issue is faced with backlash from the business community and conservatives across the United States. These anti-socialism and anti-communist rallying cries are also ignorant. Socialism is the means of production that is controlled by the community. A critique provided by modern-day Marxists is that welfare programs prevent capitalism’s collapse and delay the rise in Communism. However, there is no denying the cost of welfare infrastructure in the United States. Many opponents of these programs argue that they’re too costly and that these programs require heavy taxes. These arguments are partially correct as these programs are expensive, but working class Americans do not hold the same lobbying power as large corporations; the burden of addressing social issues falls back on the working class.

Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment benefits, and social security are politically prone to political figures that seek to undermine these programs by budget cuts. When these programs are fully funded, they work to achieve their mission. These programs have succeeded where ‘free-markets’ have failed. Despite the being the wealthiest country in the world, the United States with free-market policies at the helm has only exacerbated poverty in the United States. Adequate and affordable healthcare, poverty, homelessness, social injustice, food deserts, food insecurity, the growing income inequality gap, and improving wages are some of the areas where capitalism and the free-market have failed US citizens. In a land of plenty, people are still living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to find their next meal. America is the world’s wealthiest country, but that doesn’t mean much to the working class. It is no surprise that most Americans are beginning to resent the establishment and democracy.

Old solutions need not apply to modern problems. Conservatives seek to return to an America under the Reagan administration, and the liberals want to return to America under Lyndon B. Johnson and his social justice reforms. The answer is somewhere in between that can fit today’s issues of modern society. With a bit of innovation, it is possible to provide services to the public without raising taxes on the working and middle class.

Growing in popularity across the world is public-private partnerships (PPP). A PPP is a collaboration of two or more entities comprised of private entities and a government agency. Both agencies work together using the latest technology to address social issues in the community. The private entity bears the risk and responsibility of utilizing research and data-driven solutions to provide a community service. Both agencies work together to solve a community issue. This strategy can be used by local governments and citizens seeking to address the problems in their community. While this is not necessarily a welfare program, it is a way for governments to reduce bureaucracy and overhead costs while supporting a local social enterprise to deliver goods and services to the community. Private-public partnerships could be a means to address food insecurity and food deserts in the United States.

Another solution and the least popular is to reduce tax loopholes enjoyed by large corporations and tax the wealthiest 1% in the United States. It’s no secret that citizens in Canada, Sweden, and France pay higher taxes so that they can enjoy social programs. These programs include free education, day-care programs, paid medical leave, maternity leave, more robust unemployment benefits, and essential healthcare. The United States ranks in the lower percentile in all of these categories. A common argument is that if we tax these corporations at a higher rate, then they will leave the United States and go to a different country that will allow them to pay lower wages and pay less in taxes. The solution to that is more substantial unemployment benefits and reducing the red tape that makes it difficult for start-up companies to grow in the United States. If you enact policies that break up monopolies in the United States, the market will thrive with more competition. A democracy and people’s livelihood should not be under constant threat from corporations.

There is growing dissent among US Citizens and citizens who live in democratic countries that feel the system does not work for them, and they’re correct. Since the 1980’s we’ve seen trust in democracy decline. Welfare programs bridge the gap between democracy and capitalism. Economic insecurity correlates with the main driver behind this distrust in democratic institutions in the United States and other democratic nations. A modern welfare state that is efficient at addressing social issues will not only restore faith in democracy but in capitalism as well.



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