The social safety net encourages…?

Mark Thoma responds to the meme that the social safety net encourages bad behavior overall:

The idea that the unemployment problem is due to lack of effort on behalf of the unemployed rather than a lack of demand is convenient for the moralists, but inconsistent with the facts. The problem is lack of demand, not the means through which we smooth the negative consequences of recessions.

But what really irks me is the implicit moralizing, the idea that people deserve to be thrown into poverty. Someone who gets up every day and goes to a job day after day, often a job they don’t like very much, to support their families can suddenly become unemployed in a recession through no fault of their own. They did nothing wrong — it’s not their fault the economy went into a recession and they certainly couldn’t be expected to foresee a recession that experts such as Casey Mulligan missed entirely. They had no reason to believe they had chosen the wrong place to go to work, but unemployment hit them anyway. And since one of the biggest causes of foreclosure is an event like unemployment, it’s entirely possible that this household would lose its home, be forced to declare bankruptcy, etc., and end up in severe poverty if there were no social services to rely upon.

What moral lesson is being taught here?

Comments (5)

  1. Lysistrata

    The moralists must know all that.  But they must deny it, how else could they look at themselves in the mirror.  They know, when the economy does well, the unemployment rate goes down, they know many unemployed do not get any benefits at all, most get very little, not enough to make ends meet and it always is much less than a job would pay, even minimum wage jobs. They must know, unemployment contributes to breaking families.  The talk is always about the $$$ and not the other problems that come with it.

    The moralists also hide behind excuses to not increase taxes on the “job creators”  while they are sitting on trillions, and not to collect from successful people, it would punish success.  It sounds so much better than greed and gluttony.

  2. Lysistrata

    Europeans are much more generous with the social safety net, if the moralists were right, no one in Europe would bother to work.

  3. Kaleberg

    WIthout a social safety net or a system of compulsion, no rational woman would ever have children. They just don’t make economic sense. Unless you want a zero population society or one raised by the likes of Andrea Yates, you want a strong social safety net.

  4. Cb

    They don’t.

  5. Rdan

    LOL…tell it to the Germans Cb.  They are european I think.  Be smarter in comments.

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