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The Washington Post reported the Pulitzer-nominated Tyranny of Kindness to be one of the most important books on welfare and poverty to be published in the last thirty years. This book, part biography, part expose and part political theory, is an authoritative indictment of the welfare system in the United States. Funiciello's own first-hand experience with the "endless nightmare" of it as it was and in fact, continues to be under so-called "welfare reform" provides the emotional, heartrending backdrop to this powerful book. Acquainting us with the hard day to day realities of living on welfare, Funiciello exposes the absurdities of a system that hurts poor people -- espescially women and their children -- while spending most of its taxpayer dollars on an army of social welfare professionals whose interests are in fact alligned with the system -- not with poor people. Tyranny goes beyond an analysis of the injustices and inefficiencies of the system to offer a humane, sensible, cost-effective alternative.
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Over the past two and a half decades political theorist, journalist, feminist, and welfare rights activist, Theresa Funiciello went from homeless welfare mother to an organizer of other welfare mothers, to a foundation officer, to an establishment insider as a Special Assistant to the Commissioner of New York State's Department of Social Services. She experienced the welfare state and the welfare system close-up and from all sides. Tyranny of Kindness is her story and that of thousands of other women who attempted to insert their point of view into the public dialogue on welfare.From Kirkus Reviews:
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. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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