Monday, June 25, 2018

Joshua T. McCabe's "The Fiscalization of Social Policy"

Joshua T. McCabe is an assistant professor of sociology and the assistant dean of social sciences in the school of arts and sciences at Endicott College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Fiscalization of Social Policy: How Taxpayers Trumped Children in the Fight Against Child Poverty, and reported the following:
From page 99:
They went on to recommend a “radical restructuring of the existing system of child benefits” in order to “remove children from the social assistance system entirely by using another program to meet their income needs” (Ontario Social Assistance Review Committee 1988: 115). This began a popular movement to “take children off welfare.”

Echoing the 1988 Transitions, both committees emphasized “taking children off welfare” by increasing child benefits rather than social assistance— recommending funds from the latter be directed to the former. Doing so would “remove children from the social assistance rolls” and avoid the stigma attached to being on welfare (Canada Senate 1991: 29). The House of Commons report also assumed categorical distinctions between child benefits and welfare benefits, even though they often went to the same families.

The themes that emerged from these parliamentary hearings and reports were important not only because they guided subsequent policymaking processes but also because of what they tell us about the cultural legacies of public policies. First, policymakers continued to see the erosion of family allowances as a source of economic pressure on families— applying it specifically to child poverty now. For this reason, the logic of income supplementation for families— not tax relief— dominated the policymaking rationale. As I will show, this occurred even under a conservative government. Policy legacies, not the abstract ideology of conservative actors, determined whether the goal was income supplementation or tax relief in the 1990s.

Second, and relatedly, we also see an emergent trend toward “workfare” or general concerns with work incentives in social policy reform. This trend has been extensively documented elsewhere and has been assumed to be the reason for the popularity of in- work tax credits, such as the EITC in the US and the WFTC in the UK (Bertram 2015; Steensland 2008). The argument is that these tax credits were attractive precisely because they make categorical distinctions between the working poor and the welfare poor. As I will show, categorical distinctions separating welfare benefits from other family benefits are not necessarily predicated on making categorical distinctions between the families themselves.
The Fiscalization of Social Policy is my attempt to explain why American approaches to tackling child poverty differ from Canadian and Britsh approaches when it comes to the use of tax credits for workers and children. On this page, I’m setting up the evidence for my argument about how policymakers perceive social assistance programs. Policymakers everywhere are ambivalent about “welfare”. Where they diverge is in their perception of what actually constitutes stigmatized welfare. Whereas American policymakers saw extending tax credits to the poorest families as a form of welfare, Canadian saw the same extension as a way to take children off welfare - the exact opposite.
Visit Joshua T. McCabe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue