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Big Time Conservative Gets it Right, Says Let’s ‘Declare Peace’ on the Social Safety Net

Big Time Conservative Gets it Right, Says Let’s ‘Declare Peace’ on the Social Safety Net

I’m not an optimistic person by nature, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. When I heard that the president of a conservative think tank said that Republicans should “declare peace” on the social safety net, I was skeptical. Weirdly enough, that was an actual thing that happened.

According to Think Progress, Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, spoke at Right To Rise: Education as America’s 21st Century Ticket to Social Mobility. At that event, he said the GOP should stop its assault on the social safety net:

One of the things, in my view, that we get wrong in the free enterprise movement is this war against the social safety net, which is just insane. The government social safety net for the truly indigent is one of the greatest achievements of our society. And we somehow want to zero out food stamps or something, it’s nuts to want to be doing something like that. We have to declare peace on the safety net.

What the what? My brain is going to explode from all the cognitive dissonance!

Oh, but here comes my natural pessimism. Brooks may have said this, but I doubt any actual elected republican officials feel the same way. Or if they do, it seems unlikely that they will act on it. However, if growing the economy is the goal (an assumption I probably shouldn’t make), the GOP should really get on board the welfare train.

Let’s take food stamps, for instance. Republicans have been working really, really hard to cut Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). (Because, look, if your body fails for lack of nutrients, it’s just like a business failing for lack of funds. And we let business go under all the time! Oh, wait…) Back when the Great Recession started in 2008, industry research firm Moody’s Economy.com determined that food stamps are one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus, as reported in CNN Money:

In findings echoed by other economists and studies, [economist Mark Zandi] said the study shows the fastest way to infuse money into the economy is through expanding the food-stamp program. For every dollar spent on that program $1.73 is generated throughout the economy, he said.

“If someone who is literally living paycheck to paycheck gets an extra dollar, it’s very likely that they will spend that dollar immediately on whatever they need – groceries, to pay the telephone bill, to pay the electric bill,” he said.

Incidentally, that same study found that tax breaks for businesses only infused 33 cents per dollar into the economy. But whatevs.

Another example: unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits have a similar economic impact to food stamps. According to a Department of Labor study conducted under the Bush Administration, for every dollar spent on unemployment insurance, two were pumped back into the economy. In addition, unemployment insurance kept over 3 million Americans over the poverty line in 2010. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

Ironically, the American Enterprise Institute seems to be in favor of eliminating funding for these benefits. Hmmmm…

If getting the economy back on track is the goal, which it should be, we should be strengthening the social safety net, not trying to dismantle it. I hope that Brooks’ comments are a sign of a change in tide. I doubt it, but that might just the pessimist in me talking.

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72 comments

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12:15AM PST on Dec 8, 2013

ty for an informative article

5:06PM PST on Nov 8, 2013

Sounds like a compassionate conservative. Ronald Reagan began the dismantling of government controls over Corporate abuses, and exempted CEO's the penalties for breaches of accountability. Then the myth of "trickle down" proved to be a complete myth, and the ultra rich had taxes cut, the middle class regressed and the working poor destitute. An essential safety net under threat by the rabid TParty evangelists. There is more to Mr. Brooks words than meets the ear, me thinks there may be an ulterior motive for these atypical conservative statements?

5:06PM PST on Nov 8, 2013

Sounds like a compassionate conservative. Ronald Reagan began the dismantling of government controls over Corporate abuses, and exempted CEO's the penalties for breaches of accountability. Then the myth of "trickle down" proved to be a complete myth, and the ultra rich had taxes cut, the middle class regressed and the working poor destitute. An essential safety net under threat by the rabid TParty evangelists. There is more to Mr. Brooks words than meets the ear, me thinks there may be an ulterior motive for these atypical conservative statements?

12:35PM PST on Nov 8, 2013

I, too, am a pessimist That weay I am never surprised when I get fraked..

6:56PM PST on Nov 7, 2013

One (!) out of how many....

9:21PM PST on Nov 6, 2013

Baby steps, but at least in the right direction from the people who most need to take them. Putting money into a faultering economy is the way to save it. The government is not bankrupting the country by pumping cash down to where it's needed most. It is bankrolling it.That is not giving hand outs.They create the money. They are supposed to get it into circulation.The tide is turning as more and more people start to really see thru the backwards thinking about economics that we have been brain washed with for decades. The rich and the poor are not as they are by Devine Decree.Free markets may be a good idea, but they are not a reality.And for those of you who want to think sticking with your gloom and doom stories is 'faceing reality', remember, you will only see more and more of what you're focused on and you'll miss everything else that's happening, make yourself miserable, scare little kids and old people, and perpetuate rotton additudes towards a government that could help us all. It's not going away any time soon, so how about really faceing reality ?

2:22PM PST on Nov 6, 2013

Eliminating food stamps for the poor, at a time when 3 people compete for every one job, is wrong. Corporations, like Walmart, and Mcdonalds, making record profits, and paying low wages, so their workers live in poverty, and require food stamps, which we pay for, is wrong. The average corporate CEO made 16 times the average workers salary today. Today, the average corporate CEO makes 365 times the average salary of the minimum wage worker. We need to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour, and index it to inflation, so it adjust each year. Republicans want to eliminate the minimum wage, social security, and medicare, so our poor can die. Republicans only care about the richest 1%.

3:39AM PST on Nov 6, 2013

Does Brooks still have his job? He is employed by the Koch brothers and they are funding the war on the poor and the war on women. Someone should tell him soon.

10:31PM PST on Nov 5, 2013

thanks for the article

10:12PM PST on Nov 5, 2013

Yeah right, since they've almost dismantled most of it.

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