How did American welfare policy move from the ambitious and altruistic goals of LBJ's great society of the 1960s to the punitive and penurious provisions of the Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act of 1996? This book explores the power of ideology and thetoric in the transformation of the American liberal welfare state. Based on historical analysis, detailed public policy critique and original interview data, the story that unfolds is one of both personality and politics. Author Brendan O'Connor places the American welfare policy debate in wider perspective, showing how America's particular use of ideas and conceptions of economics and politics worked to reshape the national perception of poverty, morality and economic responsibility over time. Through wide reading, close textual analysis and dozens of talks with liberal and conservative figures including Peter Edelman, David Ellwood, Ron Haskins and Representatives E. Clay Shaw Jr, Jim McCrery and Sandy Levin, O'Connor demonstrates the shift in American welfare policy from left to right.
Brendon O'Connor is assistant professor in the School of Politics and Public Policy, Griffith University.