"'Our Costly Dilemma’ and welfare revisited, 50 years later" (Ed May) - Buffalo Evening News

"'Our Costly Dilemma’ and welfare revisited, 50 years later" (Ed May) - Buffalo Evening News

by: John McMahon | publication date: June 13, 2010 | Publication: Buffalo Evening News |

“Newburgh, N. Y., June 26 — Right wing activists in this small upstate community moved one step closer to criminalizing the welfare system by passing a 13-point plan which would begin welfare reform by forcing new applicants to undergo a police interrogation complete with fingerprinting. Hence forward, new applicants to welfare in this community will be treated ‘like immigrants.’ ” Is this a news item from the future of the “tea party” movement? It might sound like it. But actually it is a brief synopsis of a story that appeared in 1961. The “relief revolt” helped bring attention to the work of one local reporter who gained national fame for his analysis of the welfare “dilemma.” Fifty years ago, The Buffalo Evening News published the results of a six-month investigation of welfare in Erie County conducted by News reporter Edgar May. May worked undercover as a caseworker for the Erie County Department of Social Welfare in order to gather research for the 14-part series entitled, ”Our Costly Dilemma.” Five decades have passed since the Pulitzer Prize-winning series was published, and yet our “welfare dilemma” appears to be as costly — and divisive — as ever. The year of publication, 1960, seems to have been a high water mark for American optimism, in retrospect. The problem of welfare dependency seemed one that could be contained, if not entirely solved.

A retrospective on the effect of the series, fifty years after it first ran.

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