What's the deal with "the safety net"? The presidential candidates spend a lot of time talking and arguing about it, and the Democratic and Republican party platforms both seem to have pretty different perspectives on the role it should play in our lives.
So what is it? And who needs it? And why's it gotta be such an issue?
In short, the safety net is a general term for the many government-funded social welfare programs intended to keep lower-income citizens from falling through the cracks - things like food stamps and subsidized health care. But the thing is, these programs aren't cheap, and deciding how much of our tax revenue should go to pay for them is always a major point of contention - especially in hard economic times. Liberals often argue that providing necessary public services to society's lower classes is not only the moral path, it's actually good economic policy, in that it helps lift folks out of poverty and into more economically productive roles. Conservatives, though, often contend that the safety net is another example of big government reaching too far into our private lives. It's and inefficient and financially irresponsible system that makes poor use of our hard-earned tax dollars, and creates a cycle of dependency, not independence.
So who's right?