The welfare state is about security. It is about employment security, income security, and communal stability. It is premised on macro-economic policies designed to mitigate the business cycle and its employment and income effects and to ensure that advancing technologies and productivity do not for long disemploy workers. It was never conceived as a mere “safety net”; it is not about aid to the poor. Quite the contrary: aid to the poor was to disappear along with poverty. Doubt may arise concerning the last statement. But Old Age and Survivor Insurance has nearly done away with poverty among the aged. In Germany, Sweden, Norway, and the United Kingdom, poverty is not permitted to exist among families with young children, in striking contrast to the United States.’ This contrast is unlikely to diminish soon, for our welfare state has fallen on evil times. Its meaning as an agent of social solidarity has ceased to be widely understood, and is frequently derogated. It is increasingly at risk.
The most direct indicator of such risk is the rise of the budgetary deficit as avatar of anti-welfare politics. Welfare state programs in the United States do not account for the budget deficit, but they are inextricably involved in the politics surrounding attempts to overcome it....
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