In Toledo, 150 women and children invaded welfare-department
headquarters last month, tumbling workers from their chairs and tossing
mounds of paper work onto the floor. In Boston, 50 others staged a
raucous sit in at the Massachusetts Statehouse, refusing to budge until
police carted them away. Forty-four more were arrested last week in
Cleveland when they took over the big welfare offices on St. Clair
Avenue. Such demonstrations by the welfare poor have become
commonplace. Even as politicians and taxpayers bitterly complain about
spiraling welfare budgets, those on the receiving end are
demanding—and receiving—far more. In the past, hugely prosperous decade, no fewer than 2,900,000 people
have been added to the dole, so that today, 9,000,000 Americans are
receiving welfare. The bill has risen even faster: excluding social
security and other Government insurance plans, the cost of welfare to
all levels of government is $5.5 billion a year. Of this, the Federal
Government pays a little more than half, the cities about 12%, and the
states a third. Many of the cities, including local government in the
suburbs, are discovering that welfare is threatening them with
bankruptcy. In a little more than two years, New York City has added
enough people to the rolls to constitute another Miami. Some 20,000
more are added each month, and by the end of next month, 1,000,000
people—one of every eight New Yorkers—will be on welfare. Other
cities have shown similar increases. There is only one consolation. The
huge expenditures are at long last forcing a re-examination of the
system that Economist Milton Friedman aptly dubs “illfare.” A Welter of Programs Though the Federal Government follows its contribution with overall
guidelines, rules and benefits vary enormously from state to state,
city to city. In Cleveland, 80% of those who apply for welfare are
accepted; in Houston, only 30%. In one important program, Aid to
Families with Dependent Children, New York State offers benefits of
$71.75 per person, as compared with $8.50 in Mississippi. No one knows
how much the wide welfare gap between North and South has contributed
to the migration of poor Southern Negroes to big-city ghettos—but it
must have been a factor.