Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Safety Net full of Holes

Looks like our safety net has some holes in it and could use some repair:

From this article at the NY Times:
"...across the nation, the government now provides almost $1 in benefits for every $4 in other income. Older people get most of the benefits, primarily through Social Security and Medicare, but aid for the rest of the population has increased about as quickly through programs for the disabled, the unemployed, veterans and children.

The government safety net was created to keep Americans from abject poverty, but the poorest households no longer receive a majority of government benefits. A secondary mission has gradually become primary: maintaining the middle class from childhood through retirement. The share of benefits flowing to the least affluent households, the bottom fifth, has declined from 54 percent in 1979 to 36 percent in 2007, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis published last year.
And from this article also in the NY Times via Yahoo:
"...the new study suggests that the recent recession did not cause any significant increase in the share of benefits flowing to the poor, as might once have been expected.

The study found that older people received slightly more than half of government benefits, while the nonelderly with disabilities received an additional 20 percent. These benefits are not means-tested - indeed, better-paid workers get more in Social Security.

Furthermore, the study notes that politicians have shifted benefits away from the "jobless poor," through reductions in traditional welfare, and increased benefits for working families, for example through tax credits. The government also has steadily expanded eligibility for benefit programs.

"The safety net became much more work-based," wrote Arloc Sherman and his collaborators at the center, a left-leaning research group. "In addition, the U.S. population is aging, which raises the share of benefits going to seniors and people with disabilities."

Our safety net could use some reform and I'm still in favor of a job for everyone who wants one. It would do a lot more for the people its meant to help and for the country as a whole. I think it's a matter of justice and charity that we help the poor, but first of all justice, because we cannot give to the poor what rightfully belongs to them:

Charity goes beyond justice, because to love is to give, to offer what is “mine” to the other; but it never lacks justice, which prompts us to give the other what is “his”, what is due to him by reason of his being or his acting. I cannot “give” what is mine to the other, without first giving him what pertains to him in justice. If we love others with charity, then first of all we are just towards them.--Caritas In Veritate, pp. 6

What is just is a matter of debate, but I think it would be good to start here.

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