Through Their Own Words
Political parties are comprised of individuals. Within a particular party, the individuals may vary to some degree on how they view particular issues. Corporately, however, political parties set platforms that generally represent the ideologies of the people that make up that party. In closely comparing the party platforms of the two major political parties in this nation, one can better determine which party best represents his or her moral, social, and economic convictions and make an informed choice based on that persuasion.
How the Democrat and Republican parties address the social ill of poverty is worth examining. Poverty is a reality in this nation and abroad, and neither political party diminishes that reality nor seeks to intentionally do injustice to the economically disadvantaged. However, the parties have differing ways in which they approach the poverty issue. I have compared two years from each party’s platform; years in which they specifically addressed Poverty, Welfare, and Welfare Reform. There were other years in which these issues had been addressed, but for simplicity, I used just two; 1968 and 1980. After each year’s bulleted platform summary, I recapped the conclusions of each party in my own words.
These are the parties, in their own words:
|Democrat Party Platform (Poverty, Welfare, Welfare Reform) – 1968
|Republican Party Platform (Poverty, Welfare, Welfare Reform) – 1968
Summary of the political parties – 1968:
That the Democrats had a very different approach to attacking poverty than Republicans is evident by comparing the platforms. The Democrats had enacted a variety of programs and payments to the poor in an effort to lessen the burden of the poor. They favored no limits on the amount of children that the federal government would provide assistance for and favored removing a requirement for the mothers of young children to work. The Democrats opposed state sponsored welfare and favored a federal plan instead. They also favored assistance payments with automatic cost of living adjustments.
The Republicans opposed their approach, citing that the programs and payments stifled work ethic and weakened the family unit. They favored making payments to privately run daycare centers on behalf of the mothers so that their children would be taken care of, allowing them to accept work to provide for their family. The Republican approach also favored home ownership and entrepreneurship for the poor to promote self-determination. Republicans suggested including representatives from the poor in decision making when it came to developing and implementing programs that would best serve them. The Republicans favored state and community sponsored services as opposed to a federal welfare program, except for a unified federal food distribution program (as opposed to food stamps) to help provide poor with sufficient food for a balanced diet.
Democrat Platform (Poverty, Welfare, Welfare Reform) – 1980
- States and cities which make an honest effort to meet the welfare crisis find themselves in deepening fiscal difficulty.
- Incentives continue that cause families to break apart and fathers to leave home so that children may survive. Disincentives continue for welfare families to seek work on their own.
- Many of these young mothers want to work. A companion to any effective welfare reform must be provision for adequate and available child care.
- Social services must continue to be developed and operated at the local level, close to the users.
- A government pledged to a fairer distribution of wealth, income, and power, and to holding as a guiding concern the needs and aspirations of all, must also be a government which seeks to alleviate hunger.
- Over the years, the Food Stamp Program, expanded and made more responsive by a Democratic Congress and Administration, has become the bulwark of this nation’s efforts to relieve hunger among its citizens.
Republican Platform (Poverty, Welfare, Welfare Reform) – 1980
- In every society there will be some who cannot work, often through no fault of their own. Yet current federal government efforts to help them have become counterproductive, perpetuating and aggravating the very conditions of dependence they seek to relieve.
- For two generations, the Democrats have deliberately perpetuated a status of federally subsidized poverty and manipulated dependency for millions of Americans. This is especially so for blacks and Hispanics.
- For those on welfare, our nation’s tax policies provide a penalty for getting a job. In these cases, due to taxes, earned income is actually less than welfare benefits. This is the “poverty trap” which will continue to hold millions of Americans as long as they continue to be punished for working.
- By fostering dependency and discouraging self-reliance, the Democratic Party has created a welfare constituency dependent on its continual subsidies.
- The Carter Administration has proposed to nationalize welfare.
- The Democrats have presided over—and must take the blame for—the most monstrous expansion and abuse of the food stamp program to date.
- We categorically reject the notion of a guaranteed annual income, no matter how it may be disguised, which would destroy the fiber of our economy and doom the poor to perpetual dependence.
Summary of the political parties – 1980:
Reading through both platforms for 1980, again we see significant differences in how the parties aim to attack poverty. The Democrat party took a strikingly different tone than that of 1968 against the very policies that they fought to implement. Realizing the need for young mothers to work, they called for payments to day care centers to provide a means for young mothers to enter into the workforce to provide for their families. The Democrats had also realized that the federal government could not do it all. They suggested that the local government and the community were to have an integral role in welfare reform: “Social services must continue to be developed and operated at the local level, close to the users, with knowledge of and sensitivity to both the particular problems of each case and the community’s unique infrastructure, resources, and support networks.”
Democrats also cited a fiscal crisis for taxpayers, due to inefficiencies within the welfare system. They also deplored the incentives that “cause families to break apart and fathers to leave home so that children may survive.” According to democrats, the dependency upon their welfare policies and programs had caused welfare families to” not seek work on their own” and rely upon welfare to provide a regular income. The Democrats continued to praise their food stamp program and its expansions under Democratic presidencies in the fight against hunger.
The Republican Party blamed the Democrats for aggravating the poverty issue instead of helping it. They believed that Democratic programs were counterproductive and encouraged dependence instead of dissuading it. The Republicans recalled “For two generations, especially since the mid-1960s, the Democrats have deliberately perpetuated a status of federally subsidized poverty and manipulated dependency for millions of Americans. This was especially so for blacks and Hispanics, many of whom remain pawns of the bureaucracy, trapped outside the social and economic mainstream of American life.”
The Republicans berated that the nation’s tax policy provided a penalty for getting a job, citing that most individuals earned income is actually less than welfare benefits. Republicans called this the “poverty trap” that punished Americans for working. The Republicans insisted that increasing welfare and food stamp payments was counterproductive and increased dependency on continual subsidies. They adamantly opposed nationalizing welfare, stating that it would cost billions more and made millions more on welfare. Additionally, they called for reforms to alleviate the tax burden by ending payments to illegal aliens and the voluntarily unemployed. Republicans opposed a “guaranteed annual income” for the poor warning that it would doom the poor to perpetual dependence. The Republicans devised various means to increase work incentive and decrease abuses within the welfare system.
When comparing the political parties on just one issue, one may not be able to determine which political party would best wholly represent his or her ideology. If you are unsure of where the parties stand on other issues that may be near and dear to you, I encourage you to take a look at the party platforms and compare them FOR YOURSELF. Bypass listening to the rhetoric of the liberal and conservative medias; bypass reading the revisionist history of so many commentaries and read FOR YOURSELF the principles that your representatives who have aligned themselves with either party actually stand on.
For more information on other issues that are near and dear to you, check out the Democrat and Republican platforms in their entirety at the American Presidency Project: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/platforms.php