Future of Social Programs

April 4, 1973

Report Outline
Change in Direction Under Nixon
Origins and Growth of Federal Aid
Outlook for President's ‘New Federalism’
Special Focus

Change in Direction Under Nixon

President Nixon's second term may well mark a historic break in the steady expansion of the federal government's role as purveyor of social programs—that is, programs for improving the social and economic conditions of life for particular segments of the population plus programs for general community betterment. The changes Nixon sought in the name of the “new federalism” during his first term are being pushed harder than ever and with less regard for objections from Congress. The new impetus for restructuring the nation's social programs stems from the President's landslide re-election victory, which the White House interprets as a mandate from the people, and from his determination to avert deeper budget deficits or tax increases. To cut back spending, he acted on two ideas embedded in conservative thinking, that of decentralizing government and making it more efficient.

The essence of the “new federalism,” as described by the President in his first year in office, is “to help regain control of our national destiny by returning a greater share of control to state and local authorities.” He proposed at that time “a comprehensive and effective delegation of federal programs to state and local management.” The idea was attractive to most governors, mayors, and members of Congress. The lawmakers took the first step toward implementing the plan by passing the State and Local Fiscal Assistance Act for general revenue sharing in October 1972. Since that time, the administration has aroused suspicion that revenue sharing is being used to phase out social programs that the administration regards with disfavor. Critics of the “new federalism” fear that the programs will not survive state or local option.

The great growth of federal activity in social programing dates from the emergency relief programs instituted 40 years ago to meet the crisis of the Great Depression. At that time, Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced a guiding principle that was new to public policy: that the federal government had a responsibility for maintaining the well-being not only of society as a whole but of the individuals who form it. This concept, backed by legislation and approved by the judiciary, took root during the New Deal. Over the years it fostered a growth of social programs that ultimately touched the lives of virtually every person in the nation. The range of services available through federal sponsorship became extensive: it embraced income-maintenance, a vast array of education, health, housing and community-improvement benefits. Recent additions are consumer and environmental protection.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
New Deal, Great Depression, and Economic Recovery
Feb. 20, 2009  Public-Works Projects
Jul. 25, 1986  New Deal for the Family
Apr. 04, 1973  Future of Social Programs
Nov. 18, 1944  Postwar Public Works
Apr. 12, 1941  Public Works in the Post-Emergency Period
Mar. 08, 1940  Integration of Utility Systems
Feb. 26, 1938  The Permanent Problem of Relief
Jun. 08, 1937  Experiments in Price Control
Jan. 05, 1937  Credit Policy and Control of Recovery
Nov. 27, 1936  New Deal Aims and the Constitution
Oct. 16, 1936  Father Coughlin vs. the Federal Reserve System
Sep. 25, 1936  Roosevelt Policies in Practice
Feb. 11, 1936  Conditional Grants to the States
Dec. 11, 1935  Capital Goods Industries and Recovery
Sep. 25, 1935  Unemployment Relief Under Roosevelt
Jul. 17, 1935  The R.F.C. Under Hoover and Roosevelt
Jul. 03, 1935  Six Months of the Second New Deal Congress
Jun. 04, 1935  The Supreme Court and the New Deal
Mar. 05, 1935  Public Works and Work Relief
Feb. 16, 1935  Organized Labor and the New Deal
Dec. 04, 1934  Rural Electrification and Power Rates
Oct. 26, 1934  Federal Relief Programs and Policies
Jul. 25, 1934  Distribution of Federal Emergency Expenditures
Jul. 17, 1934  Debt, Credit, and Recovery
May 25, 1934  The New Deal in the Courts
Mar. 27, 1934  Construction and Economic Recovery
Mar. 19, 1934  Price Controls Under N.R.A.
Feb. 15, 1934  Federal Promotion of State Unemployment Insurance
Jan. 10, 1934  Government and Business After the Depression
Jan. 02, 1934  The Adjustment of Municipal Debts
Dec. 12, 1933  The Machine and the Recovery Program
Dec. 05, 1933  Winter Relief, 1933–1934
Nov. 11, 1933  Power Policies of the Roosevelt Administration
Oct. 28, 1933  Buying Power under the Recovery Program
Oct. 19, 1933  Land Settlement for the Unemployed
Sep. 20, 1933  The Capital Market and the Securities Act
Jul. 18, 1933  Public Works and National Recovery
Jul. 01, 1933  The Plan for National Industrial Control
May 03, 1933  Economic Readjustments Essential to Prosperity
Apr. 26, 1933  Government Subsidies to Private Industry
Mar. 25, 1933  Rehabilitation of the Unemployed
Feb. 17, 1933  Federal Cooperation in Unemployment Relief
Nov. 16, 1932  Systems of Unemployment Compensation
Nov. 09, 1932  Policies of the New Administration
Aug. 18, 1932  Emergency Relief Construction and Self-Liquidating Projects
Dec. 28, 1931  Relief of Unemployment
Aug. 01, 1931  National Economic Planning
Jul. 20, 1931  Dividends and Wages in Periods of Depression
Feb. 19, 1931  Insurance Against Unemployment
Jan. 19, 1931  Business Failures and Bankruptcy Administration
Jan. 01, 1931  Federal Subsidies to the States
Dec. 08, 1930  Federal Relief of Economic Distress
Sep. 25, 1930  The Extent of Unemployment
May 16, 1930  Politics and Depressions
Dec. 20, 1929  The Federal Public Works Program
Jun. 08, 1929  The Federal Reserve System and Stock Speculation
Apr. 14, 1928  The Federal Reserve System and Price Stabilization
Feb. 25, 1928  The Federal Reserve System and Brokers' Loans