welfare coverage

Max Sawicky sawicky at epinet.org
Tue Apr 27 01:05:03 PDT 1999

> . . .
> Another excellent point. I wasn't directly aware of a broad based
> "enrollment movement" per se, but I did know that the expansion of
> government programs like AFDC was due in no small part to the explosion of
> racial pride in the late sixties and seventies.

The enrollment movement *was* the welfare rights movement, led by NWRO, launched by Cloward and Piven, among others. They were social work professionals in New York City. The basic plan is outlined in their book. Organize poor people who are eligible for AFDC to demand that law and regulations be followed to the letter in non-discriminatory fashion. The result would be much expanded rolls and stressed state budgets, leading to greater Federalization of the system. It worked like gang-busters.

Opposition to FAP came much later (1972 I believe). FAP was a negative income tax with a guaranteed annual income proposed by Nixon, at the time supported in principle by Milton Friedman and liberals. Northern WRO chapters opposed FAP because, while it raised the national minimum benefit levels, it could have resulted in reduced benefits in the high-benefit states. In hindsight, this was probably a disastrous decision. A national system could have fortified a national movement to expand it.

> BTW, what specific groups were organizing the poor to apply for state
> transfers? The National Welfare Rights Organization immediately comes to
> mind, but I really only know of their opposition to Nixon's Family
> Assistance Plan (I assume that they did much more). Plus I
> vaguely remember
> the NWRO being derisively referred to as a small coterie of liberal
> lawyers, but I discounted that characterization. And whatever happened to
> the NWRO?

WRO was led by welfare recipients and a chemist (I think) named George Wiley. Lawyers and social workers were auxiliaries. There were some very capable welfare recipients who functioned as leaders of WRO. Wiley fell off a pleasure boat and drowned years after WRO had fizzled (in the mid 1970's). My impression of WRO was not one of lawyers leading poor people around.


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