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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: September 2019

1 - Federalism, Entitlement, and Punishment across the US Social Welfare State

from Part I - Welfare and Federalism


This chapter argues that federalism-based controversies in the social welfare field over legal structures, legal rules, and the location of governance are best understood as arguments about both deservingness and control played out through controversies about administrative structure. In short, programs are called “welfare,” or are urged by some to be more like “welfare,” when what is really meant is that we wish to use the administrative mechanisms of federalism to control, stigmatize, punish, and deter recipients. In contrast, when we perceive recipients as entitled, these mechanisms fall away to be replaced by purely federally controlled, far less visible, and far more inviting administrative structures. To make this process visible, the chapter describes the administrative tools of benefit programs across the economic spectrum, as well as the corresponding cultural assumptions tied to programs across this spectrum, and then contextualizes a debate like the one over Medicaid work rules in this context.

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