|The question is whether the Clinton Administration “reforms” were a revolutionary concept or an extension of history’s pattern of forgetting the “deserving poor” and ignoring the “undeserving poor”.
A literature search was conducted focusing on the deserving and undeserving poor in the United States over the past century. Historically, the deserving poor were defined as people who were impoverished as a consequence of old age, mental illness, physical illness and blindness or widowed and orphaned. The undeserving poor were people who were able to work, but did not and people of color. There have been occasions when the unemployed were considered deserving, but for whatever reasons, these were temporary situations where social conflict arose: the Great Depression when millions of people became unemployed or the first four years of the civil rights movements of the 1960’s. The change in attitudes and treatment towards the poor by the government has generally been more visible during election times or when social conflict arises.
The conclusion is that there will continue to be periods of time when the deserving poor are forgotten and the undeserving poor are ignored except during periods of civil unrest when conflicts arise through citizen rebellions. Even if the United States were to go through another period of social unrest, where relief for the poor was of the utmost importance, if the past were an indicator, the relief would be temporary.