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Old February 16th, 2015, 02:02 PM   #1
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A Gaping Hole In the Safety Net


The safety net helped keep Camille Saunders from falling, but not Charles Constance.

The difference? Ms. Saunders has a job, and Mr. Constance does not. And therein lies a tale of a profound shift in government support for low-income Americans at a time when stagnating wages and unstable schedules have kept many workers living near or below the poverty line.

Assistance to needy Americans has grown at a gallop since the mid-1980s, giving a hand up to the disabled, the working poor and married couples with children. At the same time, though, government aid directed at the nation’s poorest individuals has shrunk.

“Most observers would think that the government should support those who have the lowest incomes the most, and provide less help to those with higher incomes,” Robert A. Moffitt, an economist at Johns Hopkins University, writes in a forthcoming article in the journal Demography. “But that is not the case.”

Mr. Moffitt found that government assistance for families whose incomes flutter just above the poverty line nearly doubled from 1983 to 2004 after taking inflation into account. The numbers look very different for those scraping along at the bottom, generally unemployed single mothers with children. Their benefits declined in real terms by about one-third.

During the Great Recession, assistance to the poorest briefly expanded but has since fallen back, he said, and there is no indication that the long-run trend is shifting.

“There’s been this emphasis on rewarding workers and people like the elderly or disabled who are considered ‘the deserving poor,’ ” said Mr. Moffitt, referring to a revival in recent decades of age-old attitudes toward those at the bottom of the economic ladder. “If you’re not working, the interpretation is that you’re not trying.”

President Obama’s new proposals for a $500 tax credit for working parents with children, an increase in the minimum wage and paid parental leave are just the latest examples of this trend.

The shift reflects not only a more conservative political climate but also a response to broader economic forces, like globalization, advancing technology and workers’ enfeebled bargaining power, all of which have had a role in eliminating millions of traditional middle-class jobs and holding down wages.
Not only is the republican influence here, but their political cult of born again evangelicals which proves they are not a Christian religion. Christians don't turn their back on the truly poor.
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