TYRANNY OF KINDNESS by Theresa Funiciello


Dismantling the Welfare System to End Poverty in America
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 A welfare-mother-turned-activist's cri de coeur for ending poverty in America--by changing our attitudes toward the poor and dismantling the welfare system. Funiciello was on welfare in N.Y.C. for four years during the mid-1970's, having kicked out her abusive common-law husband, the father of her baby. She found that a system designed to help women like herself get back on their feet was too often disdainful of them, giving them more misinformation and red tape than financial help. Funiciello turned to the Downtown Welfare Advocate Center, a struggling advocacy group for welfare mothers: Within a decade, she'd become its director. Moving on to state government as an adviser, the author again saw how the public was blissfully ignorant about welfare and poverty--not realizing, for instance, that the majority of welfare recipients are white, not black, and that more than two-thirds are off welfare within three years. According to Funiciello, this ignorance well serves a social-service system that has become self-perpetuating. Welfare reform and poverty programs are useless, says the author, unless everyone is guaranteed permanent housing and an income adequate for a decent life. Believing that soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and welfare itself are not helping our poor, Funiciello suggests that we overhaul our bloated social-service bureaucracy and give money directly to the poor through the federal tax system. She scolds N.Y.C.-based as well as national figures who've become well-known by supposedly helping to house and feed the poor, but whom she views as misguided: e.g., political- scion/shelter-builder Andrew Cuomo, and Coalition for the Homeless founder Robert Hayes. Funiciello's firsthand knowledge of poverty in America and her common-sense suggestions for dealing with it should open many minds.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-87113-543-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1993