Welfare and the Poverty Trap

February 7, 2012 § 1 Comment

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney recently came under heavy fire when in an interview he let slip, “I’m not concerned about the very poor.” Although he clarified his position, saying that the poor have a “safety net,” the remark still drew criticism. Many critics were quick to point out that the comment revealed his ignorance of the challenges that low-income Americans face, such as a tight job market, limited educational opportunity, declining social cohesion, and international competition.  Not all of Romney’s critics, however, were motivated by an acknowledgement of the depths of American poverty.

In fact, Romney’s presidential rival Newt Gingrich criticized the former Massachusetts governor’s belief in any social safety net at all, attacking it instead as a “spider web.” Former Speaker Gingrich, along with many conservatives in the United States, argued that the social welfare system encourages laziness and dependence. They say that it discourages job-creation and thus perpetuates a cycle of poverty, unemployment, and social exclusion.

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