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A Thought on the Poor, the Middle Class, and the Safety Net

"Liberals are shocked (shocked!) that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his co-partisans would consider cutting Medicaid, food stamps, Pell grants and other programs that serve the neediest Americans. They have accused Ryan of trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor.

"But long before Ryan unveiled his “Path to Prosperity,” politicians of both parties had been redistributing government spending away from the truly destitute and toward everyone else.

"In the past few decades, the federal social safety net has gotten lusher and, on its face, more generous. Spending on the major safety-net programs nearly quadrupled between 1970 and 2010, and that’s after adjusting for inflation and population growth, according to calculations by Robert A. Moffitt, an economics professor at Johns Hopkins University. He included both “means-tested” programs that are explicitly intended to combat poverty (such as food stamps, Medicaid, housing aid, Head Start, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the earned-income tax credit) and social insurance programs (Medicare, Social Security, disability insurance, workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance).

"There have been, however, winners and losers during that massive expansion.

"Since the mid-1990s, the biggest increases in spending have gone to those who were middle class or hovering around the poverty line. Meanwhile, Americans in deep poverty — that is, with household earnings of less than 50 percent of the official poverty line — saw no change in their benefits in the decade leading up to the housing bubble. In fact . . . ."

~ Catherine Rampell, Opinion Columnist at The Washington Post

HT Her column, published April 7, 2014. Growls readers are encouraged to read Ms. Rampell's entire column, which addresses the question of whether we are "robbing the poor to pay the middle class (and rich)." Kudos to Catherine Rampell!

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