martes, 11 de abril de 2006

Intergovernmental Relations

Daniel Franco

Government 2301-2460

Dr. Eileen Lynch

March 2006

9. Intergovernmental Relations

Describe the pros and cons of welfare reform in Wisconsin and how the national, state, and local governments are involved.

A dramatic introduction to this segment of the video lesson: Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson looking earnestly at the interviewer and saying, “The only way to get out of poverty, in America, is by working”. The more cynical viewer might prefer to confuse the Governor’s earnest demeanor for a smirk of disdain. And the detractors of Wisconsin’s WORKS program (or simply W2) certainly think such is the case.

The textbook tells us that poverty is still an omnipresent problem of the cities in America. Poverty is such an overwhelming problem that it seems to include all other problems and occlude their distinctiveness. Because of the demographics involved, this problem along with the myriad others that plague our cities are in essence part of the larger problem of ensuring complete equality for every one in America.

Enter Wisconsin’s plan to get people back to work and away from welfare dependence. In its most basic aspect, this program consists of rudely asking every participant to cooperate or else. No one seems to be exempt. If the participant chooses not to make an effort, the participant gets cut off completely from any kind of cash assistance from the state government. According to them, since the plan went into effect the number of people on welfare has decreased substantially.

The concept of intergovernmental relations is exemplified in the matter of W2’s processes of responsibility delegation to private entities in some cases. Governor Thompson expresses his belief that the state enjoys a rather strong state-county relationship that in fact they decided to let the counties choose whether or not to participate in the implementation of the welfare reform. In greater detail, Elaine Maly – Chief development & marketing officer of the YWCA of greater Milwaukee – offers the following summary of the intergovernmental relationships present in their effort to prepare participants to move from welfare to work. She tells us that, “The federal government has goals and objectives that the state has to comply with, and in turn the state sets goals and objectives for the W2 program that the agencies that hold a contract, like YWCA, must answer to; the State has a contract with a local private industry council which acts to oversee our implementation of W2 and make sure we stay on the mark and that we are successful…”

Now, at first sight and based on what its proponents say about it, it seems that Wisconsin is really taking a step in the right direction with W2 when it comes to solving the problem of welfare dependency. But Richard Oulahan – Executive director of Esperanza Unida, Inc. – opines that this whole program is a way of sneaking out of having to deal with a heavy responsibility for the individuals who were elected by the people with the express purpose of making hard decisions for them, making decisions that affect the lives of many others. In his view, that is not the way that it should work, at all. For example, he says that you have to consider that many of this alleged success stories of the program which moved away from welfare assistance only ended up working for Wendy’s and burning up taxpayer’s money in childcare assistance. So the savings in welfare assistance are in fact used up, and then some, in order to assist this person who now will not take the next step and move on to educate or train himself in order to achieve a better social station. Also, there are cases where the available menial work will not allow the person room to blossom to its full potential, and will not even be enough to provide the person with the basic needs, like health insurance.

All in all, the last link of the intergovernmental relationship that will probably have a leveling effect in evaluating the W2’s success or failure is the review at the Congress level proposed by Representative Antonio Riley at the end of the video segment.

Sources:

Democracy Under Pressure: An Introduction to the American System, 10th Edition, Milton C. Cummings, Jr., David Wise, Thomson Wadsworth, © 2005

United States and Texas government I. Programs 1-26 [video recording], Presented by Dallas TeleLearning DCCCD, © 2005

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