What is the right social policy for the future? Sar A. Levitan and Robert Taggart have written a book that dispassionately examines recent social programs. They respond to the fashionable arguments that question the results of government intervention and the need to correct social and economic ills. They weigh the charges that new programs have been wasteful, ineffective, and even counterproductive. The authors disprove the notion that recent social programs have failed, that recipients of aid have been hurt more than helped, or that the means and the ends of the last decade’s social policies were misconceived.
They base their conclusions upon data gathered by a host of governmental agencies as well as by other scholarly studies. Among their major findings:
- The expansion of welfare will not continue indefinitely since most of those in need have been reached. In a healthy economy welfare costs will stabilize. In spite of its shortcomings, welfare has resulted in a more equitable, comprehensive system of income protection.
- Medicare and Medicaid have not contributed to a national “health crisis” but have delivered health care to millions who might otherwise have been unable to afford it.
- Housing assistance has been unfairly condemned. While changes are warranted the concepts are sound and the benefits undeniable.
- Federal programs for vocational training, job placement, remedial education, and other services have a high payoff for the individuals involved and for society as a whole.
- Federal efforts have been instrumental in the substantial progress made by minorities.
Levitan and Taggart consistently document effective, positive achievements by government to promote the general welfare and to redress many of the nation’s most serious social and economic ills stemming from poverty, discrimination, and old age. They argue that an affluent and compassionate society has the ability and responsibility to extend rather than to retrench its basic system of protection for those who cannot make it on their own. If progress toward a just society is to continue, the new agenda must begin with a judicious and comprehensive reappraisal of last decade’s reforms. The Promise of Greatness provides such a perspective. Based upon a sound analysis of past legislation, it will certainly be an indispensable guide to the future policies that shape this country.