The growing safety net | Arkansas Blog

The growing safety net



There's something for just about everyone in a New York Times examination of the growing safety net cost in the federal government.

I naturally love the anecdote about the Tea Party sympathizer, with his disdain for government spending on the non-productive, who enjoys the earned income tax credit, free breakfasts and lunches for his children and the comfort of Medicare, which has paid for two hip surgeries for an elderly relative.

There's the fact that the poor are no longer the major beneficiaries of the safety net, that the growth comes increasingly in protecting the middle class (whatever that is, exactly).

But there's also the immutable fact of the rising cost, particularly thinks to exploding health care costs, relative to other elements of government.

A person of just about any political philosophy can get exercised. The nut grafs:

Dozens of benefits programs provided an average of $6,583 for each man, woman and child in the county in 2009, a 69 percent increase from 2000 after adjusting for inflation. In Chisago, and 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.

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