Guest Column

March 2, 2014

Welfare should be a safety net

My last column generated more comments than I thought it warranted, mostly that I was an uncaring, right-wing, neo-fascist, conservative pig worthy of being cast as a heartless villain in a Dickens novel.

No one called me a Yankee fan though, so there must be a line that even vitriolic people won’t cross.

Just for fun, l thought I would expand on the topic of social safety nets.

First, a little about how the term safety net, as it refers to social programs, entered our vocabulary. Credit President Ronald Reagan with having coined the term when he addressed Congress on the controversial federal spending cuts he wanted to make.

The president said, “Now I know that exaggerated and inaccurate stories about these cuts have disturbed many people, and I welcome this opportunity to set things straight.”

He then coined the phrase when he said, “All those with true need may rest assured that the social safety net of programs they depend on are exempt from any cuts.”

He went on to say, “But the government will not continue to subsidize individuals or business interests where real need cannot be demonstrated.”

In two sentences, Reagan created a brilliant metaphor for government assistance and at the same time redefined those who should receive it.

Enough trivia, let’s get back to the issue and the fiscal absurdity of the current system.

According to Census Bureau statistics, the poverty gap in 2012, defined as “the annual income necessary to move an individual or a family out of poverty,” was $178 billion.

In 2012, the Census Bureau reported that 9.5 million families and 12.6 million individuals had incomes below the poverty threshold. The average gap for a family was $9,785 and $6,542 for an individual.

According the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government spent $357 billion on welfare programs in 2012, not including Medicaid.

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