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Sectionalism and Policy Formation in the United States: President Carter's Welfare Initiatives

Desmond King
British Journal of Political Science
Vol. 26, No. 3 (Jul., 1996), pp. 337-367
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/194104
Page Count: 31
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Sectionalism and Policy Formation in the United States: President Carter's Welfare Initiatives
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Abstract

President Jimmy Carter twice attempted to enact major reforms of the US welfare system. Using archival material from the Carter Presidential Library, this article argues that one major reason for the failure of both initiatives was the persistence of regional divisions between representatives from the north and south in the Congress. This factor is as germane to the welfare failure as poor presidential-congressional relations and changes to the committee seniority system in the Congress. American welfare programmes were institutionalized in such a way that, from the 1930s, building a coalition across sectional interests (as represented by members of the Congress) was nearly impossible: gains to one region constituted losses to the other. The consequence of the way Carter pursued and failed to achieve welfare reform was to enhance the priorities, particularly 'working for welfare', exploited by Reagan in the final year of his administration when the Family Support Act was enacted.

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