Images shape the debate surrounding poverty. In 1996, then President Bill Clinton signed welfare reform legislation repealing the principal federal program providing monetary assistance to poor families, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). With the president's signature this originally uncontroversial program became the only title of the 1935 Social Security Act to be repealed. The legislation crowned a retrenchment era in welfare policy that began in the early 1980s.<P>Visions of Poverty explores the ways in which shifting images of the poor functioned in policy debates to advantage some positions and disadvantage others. Visions of Poverty demonstrates that any future policy agenda must first come to terms with the vivid, disabling images of poverty that continue to circulate. In debating reforms, participants — whose ranks should include potential recipients — need to imagine poor people anew.
Robert Asen is Professor, Communication Arts Department, and an affiliate at the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2010, he received the National Communication Association Winans-Wichelns Award.
Imagining others in public policy debate — Cross-purposes and divided populations: the historical contradictions of poverty discourse — Reducing welfare — Reorienting welfare — Repealing welfare — Imagining an inclusive political community.
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