Forty Years of Welfare Policy Experimentation: No Acres, No Mule, No Politics, No Rights

Nice, Julie A. | January 1, 2009

This introductory essay questions putting nearly all effort into social policywhich has failed to reduce povertyand calls instead for reinvigorating other tactics and re-imagining the unfinished dream of economic justice. Indeed, what Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned was an actual war on poverty, not merely the abbreviated, under-funded, and ultimately unsuccessful effort of the 1960s, nor the imposter war on welfare that has dominated our social policy effort since. But our social policy has not only failed to reduce poverty, it failed to focus long-needed attention on poverty and inequality. Nor has social policy facilitated the political mobilization of poor people or secured their legal rightstwo other means for seeking economic justice. Thus, this essay reviews the problems associated with working for less than a minimum living wage (No Acres and No Mule), including the lack of political power (No Politics), and constitutional rights (No Rights). The essay concludes by raising questions of welfare experimentation and argues social policy must be changed in order to reverse course in our battle against poverty.