The American welfare state is often blamed for exacerbating
social problems confronting African Americans while failing to
improve their economic lot. Michael K. Brown contends that our
welfare system has in fact denied them the social provision it
gives white citizens while stigmatizing them as recipients of
government benefits for low income citizens. In his provocative
history of America's "safety net" from its origins in the New Deal
through much of its dismantling in the 1990s, Brown explains how
the forces of fiscal conservatism and racism combined to shape a
welfare state in which blacks are disproportionately excluded from
Brown describes how business and middle class opposition to
taxes and spending limited the scope of the Social Security Act and
work relief programs of the 1930s and the Great Society in the
1960s. These decisions produced a welfare state that relies heavily
on privately provided health and pension programs and cash benefits
for the poor. In a society characterized by pervasive racial
discrimination, this outcome, Michael Brown makes clear, has led to
a racially stratified welfare system: by denying African Americans
work, whites limited their access to private benefits as well as to
social security and other forms of social insurance, making welfare
their "main occupation." In his conclusion, Brown addresses the
implications of his argument for both conservative and liberal
critiques of the Great Society and for policies designed to remedy
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