Republican ideologues are fighting a new cold war. Their enemy is the “corrosive liberal ethos” and the government that it supports. They believe that Ronald Reagan and George Bush failed, because government, or some semblance of it, still exists. This is unacceptable because government, as conservative writer David Frum puts it, “makes the social
problems that conservatives fret about so intractable.” Behind their fervor is a belief that this may be their last chance to do away with
the welfare state.
How severely did Reagan damage the welfare state? How does the new Republican agenda contained in the “Contract With America” go beyond Reagan?
The American welfare state developed in two phases. The first, the New Deal, was characterized by social insurance programs, principally
Social Security and unemployment insurance, and by great structural reforms, such as the Wagner Act, the Wage-Hour Act, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, whose object was not to redistribute income but to redistribute power in the economy.
For just $19.95 a year, get access to new issues and decades' worth of archives on our site.
Print + Online
For $29.95 a year, get new issues delivered to your door and access to our full online archives.