The Expanding Work Requirements in Non-Cash Welfare Programs report released by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) in July was one of the inspirations for a new opinion piece by Sara Rosenbaum, JD, the Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. Published in the Milbank Quarterly, her piece traces the deep roots of the American myth about the working poor to the 1601 English Poor Law.
“Our national attitude toward the poor tends to come to the forefront in cycles, and we appear to be in the grip of such a surge now,” Rosenbaum writes. “No government program aimed at bringing greater health equity is immune, it seems.”
Rosenbaum draws an analogy between how the English Poor Law consigned “able bodied” adults to local workhouses and the Trump administration’s invitation to states to introduce work as a condition of eligibility for Medicaid. She also explains the role played by recent court rulings and critiques the CEA report’s efforts to provide an evidentiary basis for this interpretation of Section 1115 of the Social Security Act.
Read “Myths We Tell Ourselves About the Poor: From the English Poor Law to the Council of Economic Advisers” here.