If you consider whether there might be a national definition of benefit levels in welfare, you might well ask whether there is a state-by-state difference in people's needs. There are some regional differences in cost of living, but, otherwise, you eat, you need shelter, and so on. The history of disability policy is very interesting in this regard because from 1935 until 1972 (apart from the addition of social security disability in the 1950s), disability was handled as a welfare category. There were separate welfare programs for the aged, blind, and the disabled, and they were structured the way Aid to Families With Dependent Children was structured. But, disability has gradually acquired acceptance as being a more deserving category and in the Social Security Act amendments of the 1950s and then with SSI, Supplemental Security Income, in the early 1970s we created a national definition and a national floor. I would suggest that this was not because we suddenly decided that the federal government could do a better job than the states, but because there was a change in our attitudes about who is deserving. Welfare recipients weren't regarded as especially deserving in the first place, but the politics became even more negative. There was an insistent drum beat that people were too dependent, and on welfare for too long, so we decided we'll give far more discretion to the states and have much less federal oversight. I don't think that's a result of some elegant definition of federalism; I think it's about politics.
64 Alb. L. Rev. 1091-1132 (2001)
Scholarly Commons Citation
Edelman, Peter B., "A Conversation on Federalism and the States: The Balancing Act of Devolution" (2001). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 358.