William M. Epstein charges that most current social welfare programs are not held to credible standards in their design or their results. Rather than spending less on such research and programs, however, Epstein suggests we should spend much more, and do the job right.
The American public and policymakers need to rely on social science research for objective, credible information when trying to solve problems of employment, affordable housing, effective health care, and family integrity. But, Epstein contends, politicians treat welfare issues as ideological battlegrounds; they demand immediate results from questionable data and implement policies long before social researchers can complete their analyses. Social scientists often play into the political agenda, supporting poorly conceived programs and doing little to test and revise them. Analyzing Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and the recent welfare reform act, Food Stamps, Medicaid, job training, social services, and other programs, Epstein systematically challenges the conservative’s vain hope that neglect is therapeutic for the poor, as well as the liberal’s conceit that a little bit of assistance is sufficient.