The Social Safety Net: A Target of Opportunity

On one hand, Republicans might say they don't want to cut the social safety net, as Ronald Reagan said in a speech about budget cuts he made to the American people in 1983; on the other, Democrats may want to further strengthen the social safety net. But as reported by National Public Radio, the safety net - programs like Social Security Disability benefits that help people who cannot work - is a "target of opportunity" in the current political climate.

Many politicians elected to Congress last year ran on a promise to their constituents to cut government spending; there now seems to be an almost instinctive aversion to "big government." The Tea Party movement, notably, speaks of stanching the flow of government spending, which it generally characterizes as "out of control." This kind of political atmosphere doesn't bode well for social safety net programs. Devout opponents of government spending invariably characterize these programs as nothing more than entitlements and welfare.

Which brings us to the thrust of NPR's argument: when even President Obama makes budget-cutting proposals that would affect the social safety net, when talking about issues affecting low-income people and others facing bad circumstances is "not good politics," and when Ronald Reagan at least said that the social safety net was "exempt from any cuts" (that wasn't entirely true), then we have a situation where everyone is focused on cutting.

If the American people ultimately decide, for example, that the Social Security Disability benefits program is nothing more than an "entitlement" and "welfare," this could spell trouble for those who find themselves disabled and unable to work.

Source: 'Social Safety Net' Less Safe as Cuts Debated

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