Is the Safety Net Just Masking Tape?

… Two years ago, Mike Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, opened a productive line of inquiry in a blog post called “Are We at the Completion of the Liberal Project?” Konczal described two approaches to the liberal state. In the first, “you would have the government maintaining full employment, empowering workers and giving them more bargaining power.” In the second, “you would have a safety net for those who fell through the cracks.” …

In practice, Konczal writes, the political left has abandoned its quest for deep structural reform — full employment and worker empowerment — and instead has “doubled-down” on the safety net strategy. The result, in his view, is “a kind of pity-charity liberal capitalism.” …

Insofar as Democrats concentrate the bulk of their efforts on means-tested transfer programs (on the extension of long-term unemployment benefits, Medicaid and food stamps, for example), they leave the most needy and vulnerable to the vagaries of public opinion. Survey data find that during hard times people become less altruistic and more inclined to see the poor as undeserving. They turn to the right, not the left, in periods of economic stress. CONT.

Tom Edsall (Columbia U.), New York Times