The winner of this installment of The Century Foundation’s #TCFBest is The Nation’s “This Is What Happens When You Rip a Hole in the Safety Net” by Bryce Covert (@BryceCovert). The article explores how America’s social safety net has recently come under some scrutiny in the media. Chana Joffe-Walt’s NPR piece on the increase in people getting Social Security Disability shocked many listeners and Covert writes that the Wall Street Journal looked at the increase in the use of food stamps, called SNAP. She explores why so many people are now getting disability and food stamp payments. Covert writes that the answer is twofold:
Recent trends give us the first part of the explanation. Yes, as Paletta and Porter note, the economy is recovering and the unemployment rate is falling. But, as they recognize, the poverty rate is also rising. And therein lies the rub: people are getting jobs but staying poor. The available jobs are increasingly low-wage and don’t pay enough to live off of. And the big profits in the private sector haven’t led to an increase in wages.
She also cite’s TCF Fellow Harold Pollack who has stated that the NPR piece is misleading. He explains the economic factors that may make disability the only way for some Americans to get compensation:
To qualify for disability, an applicant must have, as Center on Budget and Policy Priorities puts it, “little or no income and few assets”—which means that if unemployment and poverty rise, more people will fit this description. As Harold Pollack points out, “If you have a bad back, and the only jobs available are manual labor, that’s a real limitation. You’re unable to work. So it very much matters that we’re in a deep recession and a lot of the opportunities people faced are limited.”
You can read more of Pollack’s take here.
We highly recommend that you go read the entire piece in The Nation.
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