Document Type

Symposium Article


In 1995, Congress, with the support of the Clinton administration, passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, a sweeping welfare reform designed to appease conservative critics of 1960s War on Poverty programs. In the last decade, conservatives have intensified a comparable campaign to dismantle environmental programs and regulatory agencies established during the 1970s through the efforts of the environmental movement. Conservatives’ calls for market forces to replace governmental environmental protection programs echo the arguments of conservative opponents of welfare. Similarly, contemporary battles over environmental policy are being waged in the mass media arena. Therefore, it behooves environmental advocates to review the public discourse that surrounded the welfare debates of the 1990s. Using frame analysis, this Essay describes the evolution of media discourse in Massachusetts from 1990 through 1994 regarding the role of government and its responsibility in providing public welfare programs. The Essay then draws lessons from welfare reform that are relevant to current environmental debate.